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The Big Story: Who determines when the #MeToo men are forgiven, and how?

LOUIS C.K.-LIVE FROM THE COMEDY STORE, Louis C.K. (aired January 27, 2015). ©FX/courtesy Everett Collection

'I feel like you know it's enough time when you see it. When it feels like enough time'

It’s comeback season for disgraced showbiz stars. So how are we going to handle it?

On Sunday night, comedian Louis CK returned to his roots at a standup club in New York City for his first live set since he apologized for misconduct with several women (he got a standing ovation).

In the past couple of weeks, Kevin Spacey’s movie hit theatres (his reception was extremely chilly), Matt Lauer reportedly assured some fans, “Don’t worry, I’ll be back on TV,” and #MeToo implicated stars Mario Batali, Jeremy Piven and Charlie Rose have all started plotting their next moves as well.

Ten months ago, #MeToo had problematic men in the entertainment industry exiting stage right under clouds of outrage and shame-some vowing to do better in the future, some just running for the door. Now it appears many of them feel their time in the corner is over. Why? You could ask them, but most of them aren’t talking. They’d prefer to just get back to work. Should their industries welcome them back? Which ones? Why some and not others? What does a sincere apology even look like these days?

FLARE.com’s Stacy Lee Kong has covered #MeToo as both a reporter and editor since the movement took the entertainment industry by storm last fall. She joins “The Big Story” podcast to discuss how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.


You can hear the full episode and subscribe to The Big Story podcast on iTunes or Google Play.

You can also hear it online at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

She said working at women’s magazine, she and her co-workers become “annoyed” when they hear Spacey has a new movie coming out or Louis C.K. is performing stand-up comedy.

“Sometimes there’s not a ton to talk about, in terms of what that means or what it says about society. Often, that’s what I want to know about our stories. But as there’s been this critical mass of men coming forward and starting to revitalize their careers, then it becomes a bigger story. You start thinking about ‘What does it mean?’ or ‘What does it matter?'”

Spacey’s latest film tanked at the box office, pulling in a record-breaking low of just $126 on its opening night in U.S. theatres. Meanwhile, Louis C.K.’s performance was well-received and the audience welcomed him back.

Kong can’t say what the difference is.

“You look at the way these two cases played out, they’re very similar. Kevin Spacey allegedly used his position of power to manipulate and abuse young men over what seems like a long period of time. Louis C.K. has admitted to using his power and using his influence in the comedy world to manipulate and abuse women.”

She compared the two celebrities to Harvey Weinstein. “Does Kevin Spacey’s alleged crimes feel less bad than Weinstein’s, when you’re looking at it on that scale? Louis C.K. is still really well-loved in the comedy world.”

‘You know it’s enough time… when it feels like enough time’

“There’s a lot of men who have gone on Twitter and who are progressive and have talked about, ‘Is there a way to move forward? How do we come to terms with what happened during #MeToo?’ and ‘What’s next?’ I think when those guys are asking about what’s next, what that means is ‘How do we welcome our friends back into the fold? They did something wrong, but they’ve gone away. Can they come back now?’ When I’m thinking about what’s next, that is not what I’m thinking.”

For Kong, it should take more for a celebrity to be welcomed back.

“If there aren’t legal repercussions for your actions, if the statute of limitations has ended or maybe the person who has come forward just doesn’t want to press charges. That’s fine, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. There are other things that you should be doing.”

She thinks therapy should be one of those things. “I’m not a doctor, but I think some introspection might be a good thing in this case. You should certainly be doing some visible things. Are you donating to charities that help abused women? Are you actually, actively apologizing?”

Louis C.K. did admit to wrongdoing.

“I would argue that it was not the best apology,” said Kong.

“As a woman, it’s really difficult to hear those stories… about a man who uses his power to not just take advantage of women but to make them think that they are crazy when they try to speak out about it. So, an apology — even a half-hearted one — is absolutely a good first-step. But it can’t be the only step.”

Is it possible to determine some kind of policy to say when someone has been in “exile” long enough?

“I don’t know if it’s possible,” said Kong. “You know that saying about art? How you know it when you see it? I almost feel like you know it’s enough time when you see it. When it feels like enough time.”