Throughout this season of Louie, we’ve seen how prejudice can serve as a comedic tool.
In the opener, it was Louie playing the part of the stereotypical ‘girlfriend’ who’s insecure and can’t bring herself to break up with her counterpart. Then in the second episode we saw traditional gender role reversal with the strong Laurie opposing weak Louie.
And, finally, in last week’s show, we got to witness how Louie was prejudice against the city of Miami and how the lifeguard he befriended thought Louie was gay for wanting to hang out with him so much.
On "Daddy's Girflriend (Part 1)," Louie took his foot off the gas pedal a bit. Right off the bat, we knew this episode would deal with prejudice, but we weren’t sure how far Louie was going to take it. Would it be racial, cultural or otherwise controversial? Though not as hard-hitting or cringe-inducing as previous episodes, this prejudice was just as noteworthy.
What amazes me about the show is how much the daughters drive the storyline. Louie’s interactions with them might appear to be just filler to pass the time to the untrained eye, but they have a very profound effect on him on deep levels.
One of his daughters asks a fairly innocuous question or statement and he’ll handle it as such, but you can see the gears begin to turn until he realizes that he can’t make any more sense of the world he’s in than his daughters. No one can say that Louie’s a shitty father – look at how much emotionally invests in his daughters’ opinions.
They wonder why he doesn’t have a girlfriend, so Louie makes it his MISSION to get one. You begin to wonder if Louie embarks on this journey for himself or to please his offspring?
Take the scene at the restaurant. He and the elder daughter discuss the pronunciation of ‘tyranny’ vs. ‘tyrant.' Most would describe the parent-child dynamic as a tyranny (we’ve all heard a parent scream, ‘THIS IS NOT A DEMOCRACY’) but Louie wants us to know he doesn’t rule with an iron fist because he accepts her incorrect pronunciation. Yet, he still wants to invoke power and show them that he’s not some pushover, so he steals his other daughter’s fries under the pretense that it’s a ‘tax’ for not letting her die. If you’re a historian, that should sound familiar.
It reeks of the relationship our forefathers had with England and just like they revolted, Louie’s youngest protests. Then we see how the subservient (oppressed) get their revenge – weaken the head of state by tearing down his grand façade. They chip away at his vulnerabilities – namely his ex-wife dating a ‘pretty funny’ guy who seems to be popular with his daughters and the impetus for this episode, Louie’s lack of a girlfriend.
Cue comedian Maria Bamford winning over Louie on-stage. One wonders how Louie would process her set had he not just had that demoralizing, ego-crushing convo with his daughters. His laughs seem forced, as if he’s trying to convince himself that she’s the one. Even her bit about hopeless romantics requesting love songs on the radio is reminiscent of the scene in which Louie is hungover at the coffee shop. It’s fate.
After her set, we quickly learn Maria is no more than a friend with benefits when she asks Louie to “meet her at the corner." Back at her place, she and Louie watch cheesy reality TV in bed, which weaved nicely into the show’s theme. Most reality TV characters are lumped into stereotypical categories – the jock, the nerd, the gay guy, the dumb slut. The success of that series depends on and/or preys on our prejudices.
In a “friends with benefits” scenario, we’re programmed to assume the man is afraid of commitment and the woman hopes it turns into something more. Here, with Maria and Louie, it’s the opposite. Normally, the guy wants round 2 of no-strings sex right away, but here Maria wants another go and Louie’s the one stalling.
I also can’t shake the connection between the shirtless jock’s confession that he never knew his parents to Maria’s request to have sex again. We know from her stand up that she has a religious mother – was the mere mention of not knowing one’s parents the match that lit the fuse? Likewise can be said for the scene where the overweight gay guy stabs the girl he hates in the chest where we commonly associate placement of the heart.
It’s a foreshadowing of things to come for Louie. He invites Maria over to dinner (“like a date?”) with kids and Maria disgusted response is the knife to Louie’s chest.
At his daughter’s school, Louie plays with our prejudices again. We’ve seen enough movies and TV shows to know that slow-motion camera pans up and down a woman’s body set to a soundtrack of romantic music means that woman will fall in love with her admirer. The choice of old-timey, sock hop music when Louie eyeballs his daughter’s teacher is commentary in and of itself – it’s a cue to the audience that the sexual inferences from those variables are outdated.
It’s like Louie’s trying to break down our prejudices. We see that teacher’s not interested at all. Louie runs through that ‘love at first sight’ motif with increasingly less attractive teachers at the school as he goes window shopping from class to class, throwing in a black and white fantasy cutaway with the final teacher. Here, the prejudice is ALL TEACHERS WOULD MAKE EXCELLENT GIRLFRIENDS, WIVES, AND MOTHERS because they’re caring and nurturing.
But even his own prejudices get the best of him – without knowing the overweight teacher, he guesses that she’d prefer her sex doggystyle. A prejudice within a prejudice.
This leads us to a bookstore where Louie eyes up a cute female clerk, who upon first glance reminds the audience of Maria Bamford. Unlike the blonde Maria, the clerk is a brunette. This is a subtle visual cue that this woman’s different. From there, Louie maneuvers his way into a conversation with the cute clerk about a book for his daughter in which the clerk goes above and beyond what most would assume is her role.
Why would she put forth such an effort unless there is something there? After all these years, Louie is still unsure of himself.
He acknowledges this on stage during stand up and admits that all guys give a self-assuring fist pump akin to a tennis player or a golfer. He notes men do that because ‘we’re alone.' Interesting take, but it’s a reflection of Louie’s current state. He’s alone. He doesn’t have that male best friend to high five like a baseball player can. This pervasive feeling of solitude is further reinforced when he comes off stage and sees Maria whose dirty look forces Louie to exit the other way.
Another trip to the bookstore fuels Louie’s prejudices. This time, the female clerk seeks him out and acts genuinely interested. This time, she commends him for showing interest in his daughters and coming into a real bookstore, not just perusing Amazon. A compliment! Cue the old-timey love song and B&W cutaway as she reveals intimate details about herself, but as they relate to Louie’s eldest daughter.
She moves closer as her hair is already down – physical cues that she’s relaxed around Louie then she takes off her glasses – she’s revealing the REAL her. This combination preys on our (straight male’s) prejudices that she HAS to be into him – all the signs are there… according to magazines, movies, TV, etc.
The clerk’s description of what Louie’s daughter is going through is passionate, insightful, and seductive. When she says, “it will be like a really wrongful thrill for her” every straight man hearing that can’t help but get turned on. “You are helping me so much right now” = “You are turning me on so much right now."
Louie’s prejudices and the prejudices he’s observed in others do battle in his brain. He shaves to make himself more appealing with the hopes of asking out the clerk (a judgment that she wants him to ask her out despite not knowing that) then gives himself a pathetic defeatist look (judging himself for having that prejudice and that she’ll say no - mistaking a nice woman who’s passionate for her work instead of passionate for him). If your head’s spinning at this point, mission accomplished. You’re now in Louie’s mindset.
These prejudices swirl through his conscience as he returns to the bookstore to deliver his question. This time, the clerk has the glasses on and hair up – HORRIBLE signs that she really is all business, again based on our prejudices. All the pre-conceived notions come bursting out Louie’s mouth in what most would assert is verbal diarrhea.
However, this is his love song. These are his lyrics. We’ll have to wait ‘til next week for side B.