“There are very few people that have gone through what they have, losing everything in a day.”
That’s Norm Macdonald speaking to The Hollywood Reporter. He apparently urged the disgraced Louis C.K. to call Roseanne Barr after a racist tweet resulted in her losing her job (and the respect of many of her fans). Macdonald felt the two would have a lot to talk about.
“They both said they had a good conversation and were just giving any advice you could give to each other. There would be no way for me to even understand that advice, because who has ever gone through such a thing? All their work in their entire life being wiped out in a single day, a moment,” he said.
Macdonald also thinks the road to forgiveness for people like C.K. and Barr is broken. It “used to be admit wrongdoing, show complete contrition, and then we give you a second chance,” he said. “Now it’s admit wrongdoing and you’re finished. And so the only way to survive is to deny, deny, deny. That’s not healthy — that there is no forgiveness.”
Let’s pump the brakes for a moment.
C.K.’s very public fall from grace came after multiple individuals stepped forward to out him as a sexual predator. The comedian’s sexual proclivities had been the subject of private conversations for a number of years. Finally, thanks in large part to #MeToo inspiring courageous women everywhere to step up and share their stories, the truth came out.
The statement the comedian released in connection to the revelations ended with this: “I have spent my long and lucky career talking and saying anything I want. I will now step back and take a long time to listen.” (He didn’t actually take a step back for all that long, but that’s a story for another day.)
No one sued him, or arrested him, or took anything tangible away from him. He’s still a property owner as far as anyone knows. He still has money, a home, a family, and — perhaps eventually — a bankable name. Not exactly destitute, Norm.
Then there’s Barr. The biggest surprise about that incident was that anyone was actually surprised. She has a long history of sharing provocative imagery and questionable views on social media. She’s espoused conspiracy theories and once dressed up as Adolf Hitler for a magazine spread. (That was a whole thing.)
Despite all that history, Barr still managed to get her old sitcom, Roseanne, revived by ABC. It took an openly racist remark, and a huge social media uproar, for the universe to finally teach her that bad behavior comes with consequences.
And yet. Barr still has her money. She still has her husband and family. She owns more property than you can probably imagine. She lost her job because she was openly and publicly racist. That’s a just punishment, and one that most of us would face in similar circumstances. But Barr has definitely not lost “everything.”
There’s nothing wrong with Macdonald looking out for his friends. But this bullshit sob story, where we’re supposed to feel bad that these people lost a tiny portion of their livelihoods because they both acted like scumbags, is astonishingly tone-deaf.
As far as forgiveness goes: In relative terms, these two very public disgraces just happened. C.K.’s story came out in late 2017. Barr’s happened in May. All of this occurred in a state of tremendous cultural upheaval, when significant, world-shifting change is playing out in real time.
Maybe that’s not the best moment to stand up and try to make us feel bad for the sexual predator who lost his job and the racist who lost hers.
Then again, it may be asking too much of Macdonald to dial it down, given where he stands on #MeToo. As he told THR:
“I’m happy the #MeToo movement has slowed down a little bit. It used to be, ‘One hundred women can’t be lying.’ And then it became, ‘One woman can’t lie.’ And that became, ‘I believe all women.’ And then you’re like, ‘What?’ Like, that Chris Hardwick guy I really thought got the blunt end of the stick there.”
For the record, #MeToo hasn’t slowed down in the slightest. Also, just so we’re all clear: “Believe all women” doesn’t mean that every accusation of sexual misconduct is automatically true. It means that when such accusations surface, we need to listen, investigate, and get to the truth of the matter instead of sweeping them under the rug with some shitty justification, as has been the norm for too long.
So keep that noise to yourself, Norm. Comfort your friends all you want, but let’s be clear: They got what they deserved. Not even close to it, some would argue.