Honestly, The Best Discourse on “Faggot” I’ve Ever Seen. Almost.

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So today, a clip from Louis CK’s new show “Louie” is making the rounds. I think Louis CK is hilarious, and I’m excited to see more of his new show. In this scene, the guys are sitting around the poker table and end up playfully interrogating their token gay about a number of gay things. Having extensive experience as a token gay, this scene resonated with me quite a bit. I love when people feel they can ask the tough questions and are willing to hear them out and try to understand.

The conversation goes a bit farther and leads a really serious discussion about the word “faggot.” It was explained perfectly and in a very respectful way, soaring above South Park’s satire Last November. I was enthralled… until the very end. Take a look (transcript below, starting at 5:28):

Louie: Do you think I shouldn’t be using that word on stage?

Rick: I think you should use whatever words you want. When you use it on stage, I can see it’s funny, and I don’t care. But are you interested in what it might mean to gay men?

Louie: Yeah, I am interested.

Rick: Well, the word “faggot” really means a bundle of sticks used for kindling in a fire. Now, in the middle ages, when they used to burn people they thought were witches? They used to burn homosexuals, too. And, they used to burn the witches at a stake, but they thought the homosexuals were too low and disgusting to be given a stake to be burnt on, so they used to just throw them in with the kindling, with the other faggots. So that’s how you get “flaming faggot.”

Louie: So what you’re saying is gay people are a good alternative fuel source.

Nick: That’s where they get the term, “diesel dyke.”

Louie: I’m sorry, go ahead.

Rick: You might wanna know that every gay man in America has probably had that word shouted at them while they’re being beaten up, sometimes many times, sometimes by a lot of people all at once. So, when you say it, it kind of brings that all back up. But, you know, by all means, use it. Get your laughs. But, you know, now you know what it means.

Nick: Okay, thanks faggot. We’ll keep that in mind.

So what’s the message here? To me, it feels like we get this heartfelt monologue that paints a very accurate picture of a history of  discrimination encapsulated in a single word, and then affirmation that it’s okay to use it anyway. I don’t think it’s unfair to expect that people both understand the negative experience of being gay in American and take responsibility for not contributing to it.

Alternative fuel source? That was pretty funny. But I feel so let down by the last remark.

Don’t get me wrong, I think this is good television. I love that it’s going to be on tonight. There’s a lot of good stuff in this clip. But come on, stay on message. If you’re going to try to discourage people from using hateful language, don’t then wink and say, “but it’s okay (and funny) if you still use it.”

Otherwise, you’re just like South Park, and you care more about being able to use the word to get laughs from the audience than you care about its impact on individuals.

God, I love capitalism.

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There are 10 Comments to "Honestly, The Best Discourse on “Faggot” I’ve Ever Seen. Almost."

  • jimstoic says:

    What’s funny about the end is that it reveals Nick was too stupid to get what was being explained.

  • ZackFord says:

    I don’t think that’s totally clear. The laughter suggests they’re laughing with Nick rather than laughing at his stupidity.

  • jimstoic says:

    It’s not totally clear; you’re right. But they are all stupid.

    I can’t watch it streaming (it’s too choppy), so I won’t be able to hear the whole thing until I get home and watch it on the TiVo. I was going by the transcript.

  • david says:

    Is Ann Coulter still calling people “faggot?”

  • jimstoic says:

    I watched the whole episode last night. I also watched the first episode. Some things that may not be evident from watching just the clip:

    1. The tone of the show is extremely negative. Louis is like a blue-collar Woody Allen, always focused on futility. Getting a puppy ultimately leads to sorrow. Dating is pointless because you either end up hating the person or watching her die. Driving a nice car = facilitating starvation.

    2. The guy who says “Thanks, faggot” is an a-hole within the context of the group. It’s clear from his interaction throughout the episode that he’s a jerk. He is not everyman or a role model. And it’s not clear that the show’s “hero,” Louis, laughs at the remark, because the camera isn’t on him.

    I understand the group laughter at the statement in three ways.

    First, Rick’s explanation is futile, because life is futile and people are stupid. Thus, the message didn’t get through. This is consistent with the outlook of the show.

    Second, laughter is a way of releasing tension. (I involuntarily laughed when my sister fell out of the car.) The rest of the group wasn’t laughing  “yeah, that’s funny,” but “that makes me uncomfortable and I’m releasing tension.”

    Third, Rick said it was okay to use the word, and he and Nick are friends (though I don’t know why), so Nick used it. I can certainly imagine some of my straight friends doing the same thing, and since Rick is a comic himself, he would understand the difficulty with letting a potential joke like that go unspoken.

    BTW, the explanation of the etymology of the word faggot is an urban legend.

    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=faggot

  • James Croft says:

    Hi there!
    Great to find your blog, I’m enjoying your posts. One thing I think I should point out regarding this clip is that the etymology of the word “faggot” presented here is highly dubious indeed, since at no point in the history of Briton (whence the word derives) were homosexuals burnt, either at a stake or over a bundle of sticks. It doesn’t take away (much) from the poignancy of the conversation, but I’m a stickler for accuracy 😉
    Best,
    James.

  • J. Ski says:

    The etymology part sets the mood for the more important part about ‘every homosexual hearing this word while being beaten.’

    Still, the reason why Nick calls him a faggot after is because they’re all comedians. Even Rick understands this, which is why he tells Louis to still use it for his act. For comedy to work there can be no boundaries and I think all the men at that table understand that… and it was funny.

  • Jonathan says:

    You guys are really off in your interpretation of the last comment. The show went out of its way to show the gay perspective on the word faggot. It was showing that only in comedy can you have completely open and honest dialogue about taboo subjects such as race, politics and sexual preference. Nick saying faggot at the end was ironically enough his way of signalling that the speech meant something to him. It showed that in comedy there is no hatred, only acceptance, which is why Rick Crom hugs him at the end. For people from such diverse backgrounds to come together and be friends is beautiful.

  • Cyberia says:

    “You guys are really off in your interpretation of the last comment.”

    and who made you the authority on this?

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