One of Louie’s biggest inspirations in his artistic life is Woody Allen. So two things should come as no surprise. One, a fanboyish letter from Allen is his most prized possession. It holds a higher place on the mantel in his heart than any Emmy or Grammy he’s won. Second, after feeling overwhelmed by his editing duties during the second season, he reached out to Susan E. Morse, Woody Allen’s longtime editor. Turns out she was enthusiastic about working on the show, and it fit her schedule.
The results have been splendid. While Louie is a consummate filmmaker—and still directs with youthful exuberance and appreciation for the craft—you can see how Morse has embellished the look of this third season. Whether it’s this week’s opening montage, which economically depicts Louie leaving the airport and settling into his hotel room, or Louie and Ramon’s frolicking about in the water, or my favorite sequence—Ramon dragging Louie through “The real Miami”, each scene has the playful energy while not losing any emotional tug. Plot is thin in “Miami” due to a lot of “taking the scenic route.” We lay back in our beach chairs and watch Louie lose himself. He’s unleashed thanks to Ramon, who rips him from his restrained life.
For 20 years, off and on, he’s been coming to Miami for shows. But he’s never really seen it. Sadly, I can relate. Oftentimes, I feel as a college student living in Boston I don’t explore enough. I’m not one with the city the way someone who’s from here might be. A “Ramon” is a gift. And it’s not unusual to associate a gift of perspective with love and care. However, for Louie, it carries a creepy element when he even suggests the notion that he stayed in Miami for a few extra nights so that he could spend more time with his new tour guide. In my eyes, there was nothing sexual about his attraction to Ramon. It was romantic. And that’s not okay. Wait, why is it not okay again?
I’m gonna say a bad word. Cover your ears, children. Oh yeah, you’re reading this. So, f*ck it then. No, that wasn’t it. The bad word is bromance. It’s a horrendous abuse of my native tongue, for one, but it’s also offensive. I don’t mean that it’s derogatory of a specific group, but conceptually it devalues a conversation we should be having about homophobia. While with “Miami” I was pleased by the relaxing yet profound qualities of Louie’s respite from himself—a cinematic exploration of a city portraying the wonders that await when you don’t limit yourself to experience—this episode entered into another stratosphere of sophisticated commentary with the uncomfortable non-admittance of feelings. That treading into potentially gay waters elevated a “good time” to a teaching moment.
Let’s hit the rewind. The show begins with insecurity. Louie has often spoken on the privilege of being a white straight male. In one of his standup specials, “Chewed Up,” he even confesses that if given the option he would re-up every year. “It’s not that white people are better. It’s that being white, is clearly better. Who could even argue!” But besides power, a major component of white hetero male privilege, there’s the security. Louie can feel relatively safe no matter where he goes. Emotionally however, I would argue that men of his social identity (and also mine) have the most crippling insecurities. I suppose it’s the fear that all this comfort, this ability to go wherever you want without reservation without the inkling that you’re going to be preyed upon could easily be stripped from you. Those at the top are the most paranoid of the fall.
The one identity that keeps Louie oppressed is his size. There’s a less violent prejudice involved with weight, but it’s palpable. The day after his first show (we only get a glimpse, “I know it’s not popular to say, but I hate balloons.”), Louie decides to venture to the beach. He takes one look at a ridiculously good-looking woman and mutters, “This is bullshit.” A gaggle of young people run him over as he is applying sunscreen. “Sorry, didn’t see you.” He gazes at the beautiful slim bodies around him and decides he can’t take his shirt off. It’s just too mortifying. It’s an embarrassment brought on by himself, but internalized oppression is one of the most effective ways that those that have keep taking from those that don’t. So he hatefully returns to his room, orders a burger from room service and eats it in bed until he falls asleep.
At dusk, it’s safe. As if the gorgeous zombies had fled and the village was safe from their haunting, he and a few other older men are free to expose their pudgy, pale figures. He swims out, and notices a guy gathering the beach chairs. He scoops up Louie’s, which has his stuff on it, so Louie waves his arms to grab his attention. A lifeguard interprets this as a poor old sap drowning. He heroically jumps in to “save” him. Once on shore, he tries to convince Ramon that he wasn’t drowning, but he isn’t hearing it. As they both catch their breath, Ramon asks if he is on vacation and Louie mentions that he is a comedian. Ramon responds, “You’re funny? I did a good thing by saving you.” I love the wisdom that this young man possesses. It’s not a tropical, mystical kind either, one that gets abused and exudes a racist vibe in some movies. His knowledge comes not from “tradition,” but from being comfortable in his own skin. Sure, it’s easier to be self-confident when you’re ripped and handsome as he is. But he sort of has a “from the mouths of babes” quality. He’s an innocent, but only because he doesn’t allow himself to become cynical.
Cut to the end of Louie’s set where Ramon has showed up. He showers his new friend with praise for making him laugh. They share a drink and Louie asks if he grew up in Miami. After saying he’s from Cuba, Louie lets slip an ignorant statement about coming by raft. Ramon is not offended. He quotes his uncle, “Dice no sé, entonces aprendes todo.” Basically, if you say you don’t know, then you learn everything. Louie translates this and surprises Ramon. Though he has forgotten most of it, he retains a working handle on Spanish because Louie was born in Mexico. And that’s true. Louis C.K is half Mexican, on his father’s side. He lived south of the border until he was seven. Ramon enthuses, “Mi hermano!” and a bond is formed.
After the hilarious moment depicted in the photo up top where a hot blonde pilfers a strawberry from Louie without waiting for an answer as to whether she can have it, Ramon sits down and invites Louie to a big Cuban party that his family is throwing. As usual, Louie is reluctant to step out of his shell, but Ramon insists. Partly not wanting to insult his new companion, and partially because he seems like a fun kid, Louie tags along.
As I mentioned, the following sequence is is expertly edited, and exquisitely shot. Like a dance where your feet seem to never touch the ground, I was whisked off into the unknown, but not frightened. Every person seemed welcoming, all the food was passionately cooked and you didn’t feel like you were strolling through a hood, you were in a community. For an American urbanite, it’s almost a foreign concept. At the party, relatives kiss Louie on the cheek, and seem genuinely happy to accept someone else in their circle. I’ll be frank, white people don’t do that. We’re so protective of our station, we don’t let many others in. Not as a form of discrimination, but protection from shaking up the status quo.
Ramon points to the hotel, and laments about the folks who sit on their balconies alone, never seeing what else is out there. He then switches gears to how Louie got the balls to be a comedian and his memory is jogged. He has a show. In another fun scene, Ramon and his friends drive Louie to the venue while blasting their music and hitting on girls. You know how many people I know who would sneer at that? I don’t understand why we try to downplay other’s happiness. Once again, probably our own insecurity.
After the show, Louie calls up Janet, and I was super weary. He asks whether she can keep the girls for a couple more days since he wants to stay. She immediately assumes he met someone, but imagines it’s a woman. I thought the right note was played by having her be happy for him. I mean, Louie doesn’t put himself out there often. This is an anomaly. This conversation also illustrates a theme so far this season where women figure him out more quickly than he does. He hasn’t quite acknowledged to himself that he is staying to spend time with Ramon, but Janet can smell it on him. He’s in love. Nuh-uh, can’t be. And this is where things get interesting. I’m not suggesting Louie is gay. What I’m suggesting is he is drawn to a man, and neither will be able to reconcile this affection.
Louie walks along the beach, of course stepping on something in the process, and approaches Ramon’s lifeguard chair. Ramon is pleasantly surprised to see him and he recommends they take a dip while he’s on break. They swim out and even toss the pigskin. Moreso than before, it appears to be romantic. Boy, does Louie get a kick out of challenging our expectations. Last week, for those who don’t know, I said that Louie’s chief ambition as a comedian and artist is not to impose a POV on his audience, but to say, “This is who we are, how we treat each other, and how we act. Is that okay with you?”
He isn’t saying a way of being is bad or good, but there’s a reason that this guy makes me squirm. He confronts my most basic fears and neuroses. When Ramon asks him later that night why he stayed, I began to shake and stumble over the words in my own head. I understood Louie. I didn’t think it was weird outside of societal context. Sometimes you meet a dude and you want to spend more time with him. He’s fun to talk to, has interesting things to say, exposes you to new cultures. You don’t want that feeling of momentous experience to go away. But asking a guy to hang out is totally different from saying, “Hey I would miss you if you weren’t around.” It takes a true man to be able to show affection, to give someone their love. Regardless of gender.
Louie can’t even utter the word gay. He broaches it several times and stops short like he’s staring off a cliff. And for him, it would be like falling through the air without anything to latch onto. Neither of these men is hateful, and I would say generally speaking they are accepting. But ironically, Louie would rather have him think he has gay feelings that will never be requited than to say how he truly feels. It’s not being gay that’s wrong, it’s being straight and acting gay. It’s unnatural. So instead of having a tough conversation, instead of sharing feelings with another man, Louie let’s Ramon give him the “All men are brothers, be yourself” speech. Ramon doesn’t want him to feel ashamed, but maybe it’s for the best they go their separate ways. They fumble goodbyes, because it’s just too weird. Three episodes in a row now where Louie’s passivity has gotten him in trouble. It would appear that Louis C.K is either recognizing inauthenticity in himself, or in in those around him. Honesty is so vital to healthy relationships, but because it is so difficult to even be honest with ourselves, we let lovely people fade away because we can’t confront a little storm brewing in our brains. Seriously, how many times have you foregone fun because of some “bad weather?”
It was a little on the nose, but the standup coda summed it up nicely concerning the issue of gay panic within straight men. “Heterosexuals are the only sexual group that doesn’t want to be mistaken for anything else. We’re the only ones that care. It’s a drag for us because there’s a lot of things we could do that would be nice, but we can’t because someone will think we’re gay. We can’t even throw words around. You can’t throw out “wonderful” all that much…’No, that strip club was wonderful!’ Oh how brilliant he is. The last bit, combining hetero-normative action with perceived homosexual speech—it’s a sociologist’s wet dream.
There’s no mistaking what Louie is though. It’s an unflinching, painfully raw portrayal of trying to redefine masculinity and it’s a smaller scale portrait of a man figuring out who he wants to be and be with. “Miami” was rarely laugh out loud save the standup and strawberry bits. That awkward exchange over drinks wasn’t hilarious at all. I felt like I was trying to fight my way out of a bag paper bag and losing. And yet, I laughed. Because it is okay. To be gay, to act “gay,” to make mistakes, to say goodbye, to go on vacation and come back home. Although the man is a slave to routine, Louie is learning to “live,” something this generation (myself included) has strayed away from. Typing furiously and clicking on links isn’t living. You can take more risks, hell even see more than you would on a trip. But where does that leave room for the unexpected, the inexplicable, the “whoops, I didn’t mean for that to happen?” Louie is that space to experiment, to try and fail, and then laugh about it later.