Arts & Culture
JONES | Louis C.K. and the Art/Artist Problem
Over the summer, I had an ongoing debate with a friend at work about whether it is worthwhile, useful or even possible to try to “separate the art from the artist.” It covered the predictable bullet points this argument usually touches: whether art “ascends” to somewhere outside of the human sphere of its creators or whether it always bears the sign of the creator’s human hand; whether or not it is harmful to continue consuming art that was created by (generally) male artists with odious and/or criminal backstories; and whether it is ever useful or informative to apply an artist’s biography to their work. I was firmly in the camp that the art and artist are inextricable, and the Hollywood revelations of the past few weeks have only made me more sure of this. The relationship of biography to art was always impossible to ignore in Louis C.K.’s FX show Louie, and this was the way that C.K. intended it. The show’s main character was a reflection of its creator that never pretended to be much different than the man himself, but with his baggage and misbehavior exaggerated (it seemed). Louie was critically adored for seasons, and often praised as an incisive interrogation of masculinity and gender norms. There were some voices of criticism about the ways it depicted sexual assault and harassment — more than one episode features Louis C.K.’s character enduring some form of sexual assault by a female character, and there is a deeply disturbing scene in which he pushes and drags his “love” interest Pamela around his apartment trying to kiss her, an action which has absolutely no repercussions for their storyline.