This post contains spoilers through the July 21 episode of Louie.
I really love the episodes of Louie that focus on Louis C.K. as a father, in part because I view them as part of a vast, charming, and ultimately blinkered experiment. In theory, Louis should be the perfect father. He tries to be fair, to explain things rationally to his daughters in a way that shows respect for them, and he gets dorkily excited about the kind of things that in ten years or so, his daughters are going to think are pretty awesome, like the Who. In practice, like with his attempts to explain to his younger daughter means that justice doesn’t always mean you get the exact same candy as your sister, sometimes that doesn’t work out.
This episode is one of those moments, beginning as it does with the world’s most epic repetition of “I’m bored!” “Why don’t you answer me?” Louis’ youngest daughter finally asks him. And he delivers the kind of answer that parents in television scripts are supposed to use to illuminate their children’s lives. “Because ‘I’m bored’ is a useless thing to say,” he tells her. “You live in a great big vast world that you’ve seen none percent of. And even the inside of your own mind is endless. It goes on forever, inwardly. The fact that you’re alive is amazing. So you don’t get to say ‘I’m bored.’” The thing is, that “great big vast world” sometimes ends up being your dad rocking out to “Who Are You” in the car, a goose by the side of the road, and your racist great aunt.
But the whole scenario gets at why it’s so hard to be a great parent, to be a great literary critic. Being a good person necessarily means holding certain values, but being capable of critical thought, which most of us agree is part of being a good person, means holding a couple of ideas in your head at the time, like the idea that you should respect your 97-year-old great aunt, who says of the place you live that “there’s nothing but niggers, and even worse today, I hear,” while recognizing that calling people niggers is wrong (and calling nuts nigger toes is wrong, too). “How do you try to feel like a good country when you’ve done shitty things as an entire nation?” Louis asks.
The answer, apparently, is gradual progress from generation to generation. Make sure your daughter doesn’t show her penis to a girl with Down syndrome by the dumpster behind Kentucky Fried Chicken, and you’re probably moving things along. And accept that they’re going to spend time with Huckelberry Finn, who is “a dirty little homeless white trash creep.” If your father is this awesome at textual analysis, and this thoughtful about what you read growing up, you’re probably going to turn out okay.