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by Lizabeth Wesely

Where Louis CK Got it Right

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Where Louis CK Got it Right

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Sarah Baker and Louis CK talk about the experience of being a fat girl – So Did The Fat Lady episode, Louis, FX, Mondays at 10:0pm Eastern

It’s funny how when you’re an activist or an advocate you miss some of the pop culture happening around you because you’re in the weeds with something else.  That’s why it’s great to have a network of people who ping you when they see something that should be on your radar.

My network of friends started pinging and ringing and lighting up as of 10:31 on Monday night after the latest episode of Louis, the FX show written, edited, directed and produced by comedian Louis C.K.When I read that he’d done an episode called So Did the Fat Lady, I knew it would be good, and by that I mean relatively raw emotion.

From my experience watching both his show and his stand up, he pulls few if any punches when calling a jerk a jerk and he’s very adept at sussing out the many layers of personal experience.  With that in mind I sat down to see what all the activity within the body image, size diversity and Fat Activism community was about.

I watched a really good show.  It was good, really.  The characters were interesting, the actors performed well, Louis did an excellent job of spoon feeding the audience examples of how hypocritical we are when it comes to weight bias and our standards for ourselves versus strangers; men versus women; acquaintances versus friends.  He also created a good space for a lengthy monologue in which the female character tries to explain her experiences – the entire community’s experience.

That was a near impossibility, but I give him (and his excellent costar, Sarah Baker) credit for having featured the conversation.  

As a well-worded journey through some nuances of life as a fat girl, it was light yet brutal.  It was a light-handed (as opposed to heavy-handed) summary of what a pretty girl, with confidence and chutzpah might say – that is the best way I can describe it as the character was a privileged, well educated white woman.  And considering the limitations of the platform, how deep can one monologue in a prime time (is 10 prime time? I digress…) show go?  It was front and center; it started conversation, that’s a good thing.

Though that speech was the apex of the episode, for me it wasn’t the words that captured the reality as much as the physical discomfort we watched Louis express while listening to them.  Not to take anything away from Ms. Baker’s performance, it was very good, but Louis, in his shrinking and squirming and visible internal conflict, really nailed it for me.

Why?  Because Sarah can’t speak for all of us.  We have too many hate filled, hurt filled, shame inducing experiences in our collective arsenal.  No one woman in 7 minutes could convey just what our experience is like; but Louis could NOT SPEAK for the rest of our culture.  The silent, bewildered, horrified bystander is representative of almost everyone who has been uncomfortable around a fat person, or a disabled person, or a gay person, or a person who is vulnerable.  Louis played that personal paralysis and he played it well.

His lingering doubts weren’t truly about whether or not he’d lose a beloved (ahem)  appendage if he touched Sarah; his doubts and his fear were about what it meant to touch on a personal level, care for her and treat her well.  What would it mean?  Would he be obligated to do so again?  Would he in turn have to confront his bias with ALL the fat people he encountered forever after?  His unease was in the consideration that he’d have to change his behavior, but his true FRIGHT was in having to acknowledge that he has treated people of size with distain and discrimination, unjustly and unkindly, his whole life.

Discomfort is changing how you act; fear is acknowledging you aren’t as good a person as you thought you were.

Louis was pretty masterful at channeling bias, shame, fear and turmoil – something that fat people experience in others every single day.

So yes, I’m in agreement that it was a good show!  I’d like to see more conversations held that show respect and personal or character development around this issue.  AND I’d like story tellers to remember, it’s important to show not only the struggle of the “fat girl” but that of the biased as well so that they can be prepared for the ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ changes they will encounter as they begin to alter their thoughts and behaviors toward others.

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