Late again to the party: “Louie” and the fat girl

7 June 2014

1400112890484.cachedThis episode aired weeks ago, but I only caught up with it last night. And my mind is still reeling.

The TV series Louie (2010-present) does a better job of showing us the uncomfortable, complicated aspects of dating (that amazing episode in which he sort of falls for the guy in Miami!) than almost anything else I’ve seen. But no matter Louis CK’s shlubbyness, he dates women who look like Parker Posey:

a_560x375So consider me interested in this episode, “So Did the Fat Lady,” when a funny fat woman flirts with him and asks him out, and Louis turns her down. Nota bene: he spent the first part of the episode with a buddy on a “bang-bang” — that is, they ate a full meal together at one restaurant, then departed to another restaurant for another full meal. It is the nadir of self-destructiveness by a couple of fat guys; they hardly speak as they eat themselves stupid during this bang-bang; they’re not doing it for “fun.”

Yet when Louis and Vanessa (Sarah Baker) walk along the riverfront and he offers her a half-hearted, “You’re not fat …”, she lights into him.

“On behalf of all the fat girls, I’m making you represent all the guys,” Vanessa says. “Why do you hate us so much?” And for an amazing seven minutes, she lets him have it. You should watch the full episode for the whole setup, but the scene is available here.


Louie loves to make its viewers uncomfortable; the whole series puts its protagonist in the middle of the strangest, most cringe-making scenes it can cook up. This one is no exception. Vanessa doesn’t let up, phrasing her complaints in a way that make us confrontation-averse types watch our sympathies ricochet between her and Louie. She lets him have it, but not without forcing you to see her perspective. It’s a genius rant.

One could complain (and they have) that the show’s creator, Louis CK, wrote the whole thing. But I’m not sure that line of attack is worthwhile. In fact, I have an abiding fascination with other moments in history when male writers recount amazing moments when they found themselves absolutely bawled out by a woman. One of my favorites is Captain John Smith’s account of meeting Pocahontas in London in 1617 and having her rip him a new one for failing to observe the rules of kinship cemented during their time in Virginia. Smith recounts her speech in full, which ends condemning the English for their propensity to lie.

ac3ea7190c324be4cbd4338c53e097ebI’m still not sure how I feel about the end of the scene, as the two defuse the tension. But what an amazing thing to see on TV. What did you think?


4 Responses to “Late again to the party: “Louie” and the fat girl”

  1. For some interesting further reading, here’s two articles praising and critiquing the scene respectively:

    I liked the scene originally, and still think it’s a positive step considering how fat girls are usually portrayed in popular culture. But the critique, written by someone who auditioned for the woman’s part, is very eye-opening (and convincing). Like she says:

    They specifically asked for a woman who was “comfortable in their own skin.”

    When what they really wanted — was a woman who hated it.

    • Servetus Says:

      Thanks for that second link.

    • Didion Says:

      I loved reading this, but I’m not sure I agree with the author in the end. Louie is not the kind of show in which people behave like normal people. (In the first episode of the season, Louis CK is awakened by the sound of noisy garbage workers outside, who get progressively more aggressive with their banging of cans, etc. until they actually come inside his bedroom and drive him out. He always pushes at the edges of humor, strongly breaking into the realm of what makes us uncomfortable. Can we really criticize the show because its characters don’t behave the way a normal person would? By that measure we would never, ever watch most forms of media ever again.

      Also, this author would have it that Sarah Baker — the actress who portrays Vanessa onscreen — is someone who hates being in her own skin, and that’s most certainly not the case. She did a gorgeous job in this role.

      I think what they wanted to do on this episode of Louie was to get Louis CK into a position in which he is absolutely bawled out by a woman, and that the woman would say things that are painfully true about both Louis and herself. I agree that the “holding her hand” thing at the end might seem needy or pathetic. But isn’t that what she was going for — to point out that he might f*ck a fat woman, but not date her or allow himself to be seen with her? The episode articulated something important.

      So it’s beautifully written and deeply thought-provoking, but I’m not sure her critique is always fair.

  2. Hattie Says:

    I watched the first episode and thought the theme was setting up impossible situations and escaping them in implausible ways involving money (limousines, a helicopter). Louie has money. I haven’t watched any other episodes, so I don’t know if this theme gets carried through other episodes.

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