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What Some Of The Men Felled By The #MeToo Movement Are Doing Now

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

These stories are true. That's what comedian Louis C.K. said in a statement to The New York Times in late 2017 after facing allegations of sexual misconduct. By the end of 2018, he was back performing in a show lamenting how much money he lost over the scandal and taking shots at everyone from nongender-conforming (ph) kids to the teen survivors of the Parkland shooting.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LOUIS C.K.: You're not interesting because you went to a high school where kids got shot. Why does that mean I have to listen to you?

(LAUGHTER)

C.K.: How does that make you interesting? You didn't get shot. You pushed some fat kid in the way. And then...

(LAUGHTER)

C.K.: Now I got to listen to you talking?

(LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE)

CORNISH: Comedian Aziz Ansari, rebuked after a viral essay by a woman who accused him of inconsiderate sexual behavior on a bad date, is also touring again. He, too, is reportedly criticizing political correctness. Washington Post columnist Monica Hesse has written a lot about the #MeToo movement and these men.

Monica Hesse, welcome to the program.

MONICA HESSE: Hi. Thanks for having me.

CORNISH: So I want to start with Louis C.K. and Aziz Ansari. We mentioned that they appeared on stages again. How have they acknowledged their scandals, if at all?

HESSE: They really haven't. And that, I think, is part of the problem for the people who are upset by these returns. Louis C.K., when he was accused of sexual misconduct last year, issued what some people thought was one of the more heartfelt apologies. He really seemed to understand that he had done something wrong. And he said at the time, I'm going to step away and self-reflect and think about this. And instead, he's come back filled with a lot of vitriol and a sense that he's the one who's been wronged. So I think it's a really disappointing moment for people that, rather than take an opportunity for self-reflection, he's on the attack in a really bizarre way.

CORNISH: Ansari and Louis C.K. are also men who, in the past, spoke about sexual politics, dynamics in their work. And they were appreciated by some feminists for doing so. How does that affect how they're looked at now and how their non-apologies are looked at?

HESSE: Well, I think that we have to remember that all comedians are going onstage with a persona where the stories they tell might not be true to their lives. But they're true to how we see them. Louis C.K. and Aziz Ansari had an onstage persona of being feminist allies. And so I think that that's what made accusations against them really disappointing to a lot of people. And it's also what's made Louis C.K., in particular - what's made his recent set so disappointing to a lot of people because it just seems to say everything you thought about him was a lie.

CORNISH: But in that leaked audio we heard, there were plenty of people who are attending this show. And they are laughing. These men have an audience. Right?

HESSE: They do. I think that what is so surprising and jarring to people is that these jokes are very different than the kind of self-effacing, self-aware cultural takes that Louis C.K. became popular for having. He knew to poke fun of people with privilege. He knew to always punch up. And so when you hear people laughing now, you wonder if he's just going after a completely different audience, if he'll become sort of a bannerman for the men who think that this has all gone too far. They have a hero now in Louis C.K.

CORNISH: There was this wave of accusations and then a wave of people having to step back from public life. What is the trend as we see people try to emerge? What is the theme that's emerging in sort of how these men are approaching the public again?

HESSE: Well, I think that in the examples that we've been discussing today, the trend that we're seeing is that the men who have, so far, tried to come back aren't doing so in a contrite sort of I'm-trying-to-learn-from-my-behavior kind of way. They're doing it in a combative way. I think it's probably too soon to know whether that's the trend and that's the way forward or whether it's the way that these particular men have approached things. But I do think it's interesting that there hasn't been a careful tiptoe back into the public light after periods of self-reflection. There's just been a plopping right back where they came from and saying, I'm back, and it was your fault that you made me leave to begin with.

CORNISH: That's Monica Hesse. She's a columnist for The Washington Post.

Thank you for speaking with us.

HESSE: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF ASH BLACK BUFFLO'S "BUHO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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