How ‘Louie’ Let Pamela Completely Emasculate Him in ‘Bobby’s House’
The big question everyone has been focusing on following last night’s episode of Louie is this: did Pamela sexually assault Louie? The answer is, obviously, yes. He said no, she aggressively persisted while gently shushing him, an act that felt so intimately real. Louie has treaded similar territory before, in last season’s “Pamela Part 1,” in which the roles were reversed as Louie aggressively forced Pamela to kiss him — it was both emotional and physical assault for Pamela, who resents anything resembling feelings. But in “Bobby’s House,” the tables are turned, as Pamela not only assaults Louie, but thoroughly emasculates him, as well.
Like most episodes of Louie, the episode is framed as an exaggerated anecdote, a longform joke its titular character might tell in a stand-up set. “Bobby’s House” opens with Louie visiting his brother, who’s feeling inferior and emasculated himself, unable to sustain a successful living and comparing himself to his more accomplished brother.
The story involving Pamela that follows is Louie’s own version of events, though that’s a reveal saved for later — a woman beats him up on the street, leaving him completely humiliated. Louie returns home to his daughters and Pamela, who laugh at him for being assaulted by a lady. With his tail between his legs, he asks Pamela to cover his bruises with makeup so he can perform his stand-up set, but she has another idea in mind. She offers him mind-blowing sex if he’ll just allow her to make him up like a pretty lady, and, unable to resist the temptation of the myriad possibilities of what that sex might entail, Louie reluctantly agrees.
It’s another step on the road to total emasculation — Pamela role plays as a man named Steve, encouraging Louie to come up with his own female name (the hilariously exotic “Jornatha”). She proceeds to woo Louie by slow-dancing and lobbing cheesy one-liners at him before they tumble into bed and engage in the sort of gentle love-making you’d never imagine Pamela to enjoy. But just as Louie is reaching climax, Pamela flips him over and anally penetrates him, while Louie clearly protests. His enjoyment is confusing, a mixed message, his body betraying him. This is sexual assault, no question, and not once does it appear that Louis C.K. endorses the act — he’s simply examining the concept of sexual assault within a relationship, the sort of unguarded intimacy that fosters entitlement. No means no, regardless of the situation.
But that’s not really the point of the episode, is it? The point is Louie’s own emasculation — over the course of five seasons now, C.K. has explored his white male privilege, his own sense of entitlement. Reflecting back on “Pamela Part 1,” “Bobby’s House” reads like an answer to that episode rather than mere callback. The inverse of male privilege is the emasculated male, and the episode is a study in robbing Louie of that sense of entitlement.
When Louie tries to put the moves on Pamela while wearing makeup, she stops him. Instead, she grabs a baseball cap and composes herself as a man. She tells Louie “Let me beat you.” There’s something attractive to her about a Louie that’s been stripped of his masculinity. Pamela wants to be the woman on the street, the woman who took violent agency in a manner typically ascribed to men.
Beaten by a woman, made-up like a lady, sexually assaulted by a masculine Pamela — Louie is effectively taking the woman’s role. After the unnerving and incredibly intimate sexual encounter, Louie tries to rationalize and make sense of it, asking Pamela if this means they’re something more, or at least different from the other men she’s sleeping with. That’s when Pamela seizes the opportunity to make his emasculated transformation complete.
It’s a conversation with which so many women are familiar: “I’m no good for you,” she says, and even with her hair down, she’s still taking the role of the man, explaining to Louie that she’s breaking up with him and shutting this whole thing down because that’s what’s best for him. Pamela is mansplaining, white-knighting, taking away Louie’s agency in the relationship because she feels the need to protect his weak feelings. Louie insists he’s okay with their situation, and while the gender reversal is a thoughtful metaphor, there’s also a big nugget of truth to what she’s saying.
And then this happens:
His face still made-up, Louie begins to cry, eyeliner and mascara streaming down his face — it’s the stereotypical image of the sad, crying girl. And yes, there’s something funny about it. Even funnier still as the episode gives way to reveal that Louie’s been telling his brother Bobby this story all along, lending a heightened reality to the proceeding narrative. Just like a joke he might tell during a stand-up set, we infer that Louie’s version of events may have been slightly embellished for the sake of comedy. Misery is comedy, and Louie has painted a more pathetic picture of himself to craft a better narrative.
But we should also consider the very basic concept of what he said, what she said, and what really took place. I’m exceedingly curious about what Pamela’s version of this story might be, and it’s easy to assume that her narrative might read as more victorious, a woman taking agency and claiming dominion over a man through an act so intimate and innately scary to men. Anal penetration carries a certain connotation for men — it is the only way a man can be penetrated, and it implies femininity, submission and weakness.
“Bobby’s House” also calls to mind the recent Broad City episode “Knockoffs,” in which Abbi finally gets her dream date with Brawny Man neighbor Jeremy, only to discover that he’s into pegging. At first she’s taken aback by this reversal, but soon accepts it as a chance to take agency in a way that men have traditionally claimed. It’s an accomplished, victorious moment for both Abbi and her BFF Ilana, basking in the glow of their defiance of biology and gender roles.
Pamela’s version of events on Louie might very well read like that Broad City episode, but this is Louie’s story, his perspective, and so it becomes an uncomfortably funny tale of emasculation — of having his white male privilege effectively hobbled.