November 7, 2012

TV For Thought: Louie’s Life Lessons for Kids

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I used to think the worst of Louis C.K. I thought he was unnecessarily vulgar and crass, which takes a lot since I am not usually fazed by crude comedy. But I have a desperate need to understand why people love, or love to hate, the newest fad. That’s why this weekend I went through two seasons of F/X’s Louie.

The show follows a fictionalized version of Louis C.K. living in Manhattan from vignettes of fatherhood, interpersonal relationships and aging to snippets of stand-up at the Comedy Cellar and Carolines in lower Manhattan. The show is hauntingly and hilariously realistic, steering away from the overused sitcom formulas that plague the airwaves. Apart from the painful honesty with which Louis C.K. handles his personal life and views, the tender moments he shares when it comes to fatherhood (one of two things that he is proud to say he does well) have made me appreciate Louis C.K. more.

One of these poignant moments surrounds one incident with a mango pop in the second season. It is also the episode for which Louis won an Emmy this year; it was probably because of this brilliant scene. As Louie prepares dinner for himself and his daughters, he makes a mango pop for the eldest, Lilly. The mango pop is simply a mango seed, the best part in my humble opinion, on a fork. Nothing special. However, Jane, the little one, has quite a bone to pick with her father for the unfairness of it all. Louie takes this time to teach young Jane a very important lesson that most people try to keep away from young children: LIFE IS NOT FAIR.

As children, especially with siblings, we tend to be brought up with the notion that if one gets something, everyone deserves something of equal value. It is one thing to be taught the concept of sharing, and another to be taught the notion that you inherently deserve the same things as another. This is what perplexes Louie when his daughter says that she should get a mango pop as well. As a mature adult, he understands that myth taught as a child does not uphold in real life.

And beyond the simple argument that she should get a mango pop if her sister gets one, is the nature of “getting” something. Louie points this out to Jane as well. He reveals to her that you do not just “get” things in life. Nothing is handed to you. Being just as quick-witted as her dad, Jane points out that Lilly just “got” the mango pop, to which Louie responds, “Well, she’s lucky then.” Although this could have been a “gotcha” moment, he still manages to turn this into a lesson. Sometimes luck does factor into what you have. Windfalls do occur, but not all the time to all people. It sucks, but you have to make do.

But the most interesting lesson Louie teaches Jane at this juncture is not simply about the fallibility in coveting under the guise of equality; he takes this moment to explain charity as well. His metaphor about items in a bowl is quite genius in all its simplicity. He tells Jane, “The only time you look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure they have enough.” This is the lesson that kids should really be taught, rather than having them grow up with the entitlement they have become accustomed to. It is one thing to be naïve and idealistic as a young child about how the world works; it is another to believe there is equality on a material level at every turn. Also, it is important to instill a sense of social responsibility to make sure that everyone has their basic needs met. This lesson is especially striking in light of the recent disaster of Sandy along the east coast. Their bowls have now been left empty or lacking at the very least, calling upon the rest of society to pitch in to help in human solidarity.

Unfortunately, despite Louie’s attempt to instill these nuggets of truth into his daughter’s life, she fails to grasp it. Exasperated and defeated in arguing with a stubborn five-year-old, he concedes and gives Jane a chocolate calcium chew to pay dividends. And while he’s at it, he has her make sure she gives one to her sister as well. Oh Louie, you were so close! Your brutally honest parenting moment almost made it through. Hopefully, all was not lost and a little snippet sticks with Jane as she grows up. But then again, some lessons are better learned through experience.

Natalia Fallas is a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences. She can be reached at nmf28@cornell.edu. TV for Thought appears alternate Thursdays.

Original Author: Natalia Fallas

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