My strenuous ambivalence was due to the revelation that Louis C.K. had, over the years, engaged what is euphemistically called "sexual misconduct," but which was, more accurately, "masturbating in front of women who were intimidated by him."
Fast-forward to the end of last month, when a bootleg recording of a recent Louis C.K. performance surfaced. It contained disparaging comments about "kids today" (my cliché, not his), painting them as overly confident, overly demanding, and overly entitled. Specifically, he derided 1) the survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and 2) kids who don't identify as male or female and have the audacity to say so.
I'm not going to talk here about whether this was cruel or tasteless. I'm not going to opine about whether it was funny or not.
I'm just going to say this: The idea that today's teenagers should behave exactly like Louis CK did in the early 1980s is not only fallacious, it's the very definition of anti-progressive. It's no different from crotchety old racists who want to keep abusing black people because that's what they've always done. Progress means recognizing that old does not equal good, and that we always need to work to recognize our shortcomings and mistakes and commit to do better.
So, though the rosy tableau Louis C.K. paints of youths of lore "finger-fucking each other and doing Jello shots" is surely charming, I'm going to point out that It's not the immutable ideal. It's not helpful. It's not good enough.
Progress means realizing that when your friends and siblings are getting gunned down in front of you and adults are doing absolutely nothing to stop it, it's time for you to effect change. Despite Louis C.K.'s declaration to teens that, "You’re young. You should be crazy. You should be unhinged," they can't really afford to indulge themselves like you did, Louie.
Look at Mari Copeny. This child isn't even a teenager yet and she's done more for residents of Flint, Michigan (whose water is still poisoned), than politicians five times her age seem to be able to. She's raised tens of thousands of dollars to provide residents with clean water and to give students backpacks filled with school supplies. I wish this little girl could enjoy a more carefree life. But I deeply respect the fact that she decided she can't afford to. She has a true moral compass. A commitment to positive change. She has optimism and a conscience, and she serves as a shining example for how we can—and should—do better.
Louis C.K. could learn a lot from her.