Do you believe in second chances? Most parts of western society operate on the principle that all but the most reprehensible offenders can be rehabilitated. If they didn’t, all jail terms would be for life and that’d be that. Lock ‘em up and throw away the key. Of course, not everyone believes this, and the court of public opinion is more unforgiving than most. It was heartening to see the momentum gained by #MeToo and the way it tore through the seedier parts of showbiz, exposing those men who had used their positions of power to abuse and harass others as if it was their God-given right.
The courts of law will hopefully find Harvey Weinstein guilty of his crimes, he’ll serve his time and be released, likewise Kevin Spacey. No doubt they’ll eventually attempt second comings, reciting pre-prepared statements of contrition on the chat show circuit, but regardless of the law decreeing rehabilitation, and even with #MeToo fading from the headlines, it’s hard to imagine the people shelling out to see Spacey or a Weinstein film on the big screen. I was raised Catholic, the romance of redemption repeatedly drilled into my brain, and I still can’t fathom it.
Louis CK probably won’t face any criminal proceedings. He admitted culpability, took his fall with a half-arsed apology (one that never managed to actually apologise) and disappeared. Baskets and Better Things moved on without him and any mention of a sixth season of his own FX show Louie faded away. Done and done. Or so it seemed, until this week when FX boss John Landgraf said he missed both CK and his award-winning show and was eager for them both to return, pending satisfactory reconciliation between CK and his accusers.
The truth is, this isn’t really about forgiveness. Jeffrey Tambor is already back on our screens in Arrested Development – despite his own incidents of sexual harassment and emotional abuse – without ever really going away or reconciling with anyone, so why shouldn’t CK be allowed to come back? Louis CK’s accusers may find it in their hearts to forgive him for what he did and there’s every chance he has already learned his lesson, but this is about whether or not we can accept him back on our screens as if nothing has happened.
I was a big fan of CK’s work, from his stand-up to every one of Louie’s five seasons, each shot through with hilarity, pathos and creative flair. But the issue with CK is the blurred line between art and artist. I don’t buy into the general argument that the two can’t be separated (there’d be a real dearth of paintings in our galleries if we only valued the ones created by decent folk), but this is much trickier. So much of CK’s material finds humour in his sexual issues, ranging from unsettling awkwardness to outward creepiness. With full knowledge of the truth behind that material, it’s impossible to imagine being able to laugh at it again. I hope there’s reconciliation, mainly so the women who came forward can find closure, but I’m not so sure that clears the way for a comeback.