The XX Factor

“Louie” Defines His Manhood Through Being a Good Father

In her review of comedian Louie C.K.’s new show on FX, Louie , the New York Times ’ Alessandra Stanley describes C.K.’s protagonist as a “single white male loser.” And while C.K.’s character, a stand-up and divorced father of two (which he is in real life, too), wears the bulky T-shirt-and-sneakers uniform of the manchild that Camille Paglia decried in her NYT op-ed over the weekend, describing C.K. as an immature loser is uncharitable. In fact, Louie offers a new model of masculine self-definition for men whose circumstances are not what they once were decades ago.

As Hanna’s gangbusters Atlantic article pointed out , the old kinds of masculine self-definition, which came from physical and workplace dominance, are no longer applicable for many working class men. Louie doesn’t find his sense of self through his creative work as a comedian; he finds it though his role as caretaker of two little girls.

In the pilot episode, the black-humored Louie (the show is so dark that the theme song contains the lyrics, “Louie, Louie, you’re gonna die.”), goes on a date with a woman who is much younger than he is. He’s fresh from his divorce, and has no idea how to behave. He wears a suit; she’s in jeans and a T-shirt. He tries to take her to a nice restaurant, but she insists on going to pizza, and he accommodates her, though she remains hilariously surly. The disastrous date comes to an end with the pair sparring on a bench next to the Hudson. Louie’s finally had enough, and he says to the woman, “I’ve got two little girls and I’m raising them. That’s me. I’m a real man. What’s your contribution? You’re cute and you’ve got a flat stomach and you’re young? Why aren’t you nervous to be with me?”

It’s a moment where you feel for him-he’s really trying to navigate this new single world the best way that he can. The young woman responds by running as fast as she can to a helicopter that’s conveniently waiting 50 feet away.

Photograph of Louie C.K. by Joe Corrigan/Getty Images.