Louis C.K.’s new movie, I Love You, Daddy, opens next week. The premiere was supposed to be tonight. I say “supposed to be”, because it was abruptly cancelled today, apparently because the New York Times is about to run an expose on C.K., about all those rumors, undoubtedly. He’s also cancelled tomorrow night’s appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. So as the Grey Lady is about to take years of internet rumor and gossip and turn it into real news, C.K. is excluding himself from the narrative. As I said before, choosing not to speak is a form of control and privilege, and it’s one a lot of us can’t abide any longer. People have been speaking out against C.K. rather a lot this year, from peers like Tig Notaro to writers like Katie Hasty, who assessed I Love You, Daddy as a parallel to C.K.’s own increasingly rumor-rife life. It’s not really surprising, then, that the New York Times turned out to be on the case all along.
The question is, what will happen? Will C.K. be forced to finally, on the record, address the harassment allegations against him? Or will he go to ground for a while, and then reemerge? I don’t think he can hide, though skipping press for his new movie is an attempt at that. C.K. may be one of the most famous and revered comedians working, but he is not integrated into Hollywood’s Central Command power structure. His path has been an independent one, releasing comedy albums direct-to-consumer on his website, airing a television show the same way, and making movies independently, often financing projects himself (he self-financed Daddy). There is no studio behind him, no power broker to clean up his mess. Bryan Singer is getting name-checked, but there is clearly someone behind the scenes attempting to keep him out of an official story, like the one about to break on C.K., and Ben Affleck has the Warner Brothers press machine working for him.
This is the wall we’ve run up against. A lot of famous men are losing careers right now—Kevin Spacey has been whole-sale removed from a movie—but Brett Ratner is still at RatPac. The Bryan Singer stuff is still just innuendo, technically, and dismissed lawsuits. Harvey Weinstein’s power had declined steadily for a decade, but those still plugged into Hollywood Central Command seem to be keeping their heads above water (for now, jury’s still out on Ratner).
Without that backing him, though, C.K. is in for a rough news cycle. He’s going to take a hit, just like Weinstein, Spacey, Roy Price, and a handful of agents. He might actually—brace yourself—have to talk on the record about the allegations. (The horror, the humanity—a man might be held accountable!) But the question that haunts me is how far does it go, really? How enduring are these cultural banishments? Louis C.K. is going to have to reckon with years of rumor, and a lot of people are about to be very mad at and disappointed in him. But with Mel Gibson starring in a mainstream family film opening this weekend, does anyone else doubt if any of this is permanent?