The occasion for Vulture’s interview with Pamela Adlon is the end of “Californication,” but the most salient takeaways are her remarks on “Louie,” especially the controversial attempted rape in season 4’s “Pamela (Part 1).” In response to Jenna Marotta’s question about how much of that scene’s tension came from the script and how much from the decisions she and Louis C.K. made on set, Adlon says:
That’s something that Louis came up with on his own, and when I read it I was dying laughing, because in the script he said, “Louie approaches her closing off the ring” — which is like a boxing terminology — and then he said, “and she’s holding on to the walls and furniture like a cartoon cat.” So when I read it, it read hilariously. Then on the day that we were shooting it, I was like, “Let’s really get into it,” and I grabbed the dresser and all of that. And then at a certain point, I looked at him and I said, “Somebody might get mad.” [Laughs.] But, you know, people are saying that he forced the kiss on me at the end in the doorway, but actually, I’m standing there and he said, “We’re romantic and I know you want to do something with me so I’m going to kiss you now.” And I’m sitting there and I go, “Okay, maybe.” But — I don’t know. I certainly am an advocate for women’s rights and everything. I have three daughters.
Like most TV creators, especially those inclined to think of themselves as artists, C.K. is apparently ambivalent about the role of “recap culture.” (He’s also come down firmly on the side of letting his work speak for itself, which is why we have to get his thoughts on the subject secondhand.)
I love the conversation — I think it’s wonderful — I just think people are premature-ejaculating their opinions. I liken it to reading a book, and you’re halfway through and you put it down, and you say, “This is what happened in the book so far, and you know what? If this doesn’t happen I’m going to be so upset.” Or being halfway through a movie and doing half a review. And the fact people were talking about, Did Louie try to rape Pamela? Was that a rape? Or calling it rape straight-out, which was nuts, because I never saw it like that, because they had this kind of over-the-edge connection and relationship. They do a push-me/pull-me thing. I know that one thing that motivates Louis and drives him is characters that don’t explain why they do what they do. You just see things happen and play out, and you don’t get a neat little button at the end of it. Pamela and Louie are both as flawed as the next person, it’s not cut and dry.
Adlon, who is also a producer on “Louie,” as well as the only person on whom C.K. has ever bestowed a co-writing credit, says that the show’s aim, more than “going for a laugh,” is to make its audience feel: ” If we come up with something and we both go, Oh my God, that’s amazing, we know that we’re making a feeling that people are going to respond to and really like.” That’s not to say C.K. is, as Vulture’s Matt Zoller Seitz put, “trolling the Internet“; as Adlon says, “The notion that we’re being careless and putting some kind of dangerous message out is offensive to me.” But it does reveal the extent to which C.K. has moved beyond thinking of himself, at least in the context of his TV show, as a comedian, although the extent to which he’s reinvented or merely overextended himself is a subject of ongoing debate.