Louis C.K., Parenting, and Boycotts

Louis C.K. tells NPR how he teaches his daughters about his own show, and about obscenity in culture in general:

There are things in the show I’m able to show them. There’s an episode about Halloween that I showed them parts of. There’s a lot of things they’re able to see. They’re just fun stories. And my daughters, I think they really enjoy what I do. There are certainly some things they can’t see in Louie because … the language is grown-up, and is for adults. They know that. They get it. I’ve played them some George Carlin clips that have cursing in them. I explain it to my kids that some people get uncomfortable or their feelings get hurt by certain words, so you want to respect that in regular life, but there is a reason for these words. They’re not just ‘bad.’ So I’m bringing them along. They’ll see this stuff when it’s appropriate to see it.

This is what’s always puzzled me about so-called parents and decency groups which focus more of their work on trying to get programming pulled than giving parents the tools to do their jobs. The idea that parents don’t have a substantial measure of control over what their children consume is ridiculous. Yes, it’s possible that children will stumble across things that are inappropriate or that might make them uncomfortable if they’re at friends’ houses or unsupervised. But for the most part, if you don’t have infinite televisions in your house and have the family computer in a reasonably public place while you have young children, it’s not as if it’s onerous to protect your children from content you don’t want them to consume.


More to the point, while it’s true that some objections go overboard — I don’t think anyone was harmed by seeing Janet Jackson’s nipple at the Super Bowl halftime show, unless you felt for her embarrassment — it’s also true that kids are ready for certain kinds of content at different ages. I wouldn’t show any 10-year-old Shame, both because I don’t think that children should be watching adults have sex, but also because to get what you’re supposed to get out of the movie, you need to go into it prepared to have a conversation about what healthy adult sexuality looks like and why this is not a good example of it. But this is why you need to have graduated conversations with their children, to help them become comfortable with things that will be in their environment as adults — like profanity — and so they can figure out where to draw their own limits along the way.