Louis C.K. is well known for his brand of humanity ripped-wide-open humor. This week, he used his storytelling abilities to reveal some powerful truths about body image, dating and the way the two interact.
In the May 13 episode of "Louie" titled "So Did The Fat Lady," an overweight woman named Vanessa courts Louie aggressively. She's quick and mordant and perfect for him, but he laughs off her advances like she's a child asking to arm wrestle. It isn't until she gifts him very expensive hockey tickets that he offers her a friendly chat over coffee.
Their platonic meet up is pretty much a perfect date. When Vanessa starts to talk about how tough it is dating in New York as a "fat woman," Louie instinctually replies "You're not fat." Vanessa (played beautifully by Sarah Baker) proceeds to deliver the most incredible, seven-minute truth bomb we've seen on television all year. "Louie, you know what the meanest thing is you can say to a fat girl? 'You're not fat,'" she says. "I mean, come on, buddy. It just sucks. It really really sucks. You have no idea."
As a waitress at the comedy club, Vanessa has watched Louie deliver dozens of self-deprecating monologues. But mocking oneself, especially when it comes to weight and body image, is a distinctly male privilege, she tells Louie:
And the worst part is, I'm not even supposed to do this. Tell anyone how bad it sucks, because it's too much for people. I mean, you, you can talk into the microphone and say you can't get a date, you're overweight. It's adorable. But if I say it, they call the suicide hotline on me.
Vanessa rails against men who see fat women as perfectly reasonable hookups, but not appropriate women to offer genuine affection or commitment:
Have you ever kissed a fat girl? Have you ever wooed a fat girl? Have you ever held hands with a fat girl? Have you ever walked down the street in the light of day, holding hands, with a big girl like me?
Go ahead. Hold my hand. What do you think is going to happen? You think your dick is going to fall off if you hold hands with a fat girl? You know what the sad thing is? It's all I want. I mean, I can get laid. Any woman who is willing can get laid. I don't want that. I don't even need a boyfriend or a husband. All I want is to hold hands with a nice guy, and walk and talk.
Dumbfounded, Louie tells Vanessa she is "beautiful." But Vanessa's goal is not to squeeze herself into Louie's definition of beauty. Instead, she demands he recognize the reality of "fat" women's lives:
Why do you hate us so much? What is is about the basics of human happiness, feeling attractive, feeling loved, having guys chase after us, that's just not in the cards for us? Nope. Not for us.
Vanessa and Louie are both victims of inane beauty standards and the neuroses they produce: Vanessa's body is not seen as beautiful, while Louie loses an opportunity to date a wonderful woman because he will not permit himself to find an "unattractive" woman desirable.
Louis C.K. has employed the average-looking-Joe-scores-hotter-woman trope on his own show for four seasons. But with this monologue, he turns it in on himself. Had these words be written by a woman, they'd represent a confident, plus-size woman demanding her right to love her body and for others to recognize her worth. And we'd be thrilled to hear them. But coming from a white man in his late 40s with two young daughters, who is choosing to acknowledge body image issues that affect nearly everyone, the words are uniquely powerful.
So make sure you watch the clip above in its entirety. And when you've finished, hit play again and again and again until you get it.