It still often happens that I have to remind myself of what to expect from Louie. I get that I should expect the unexpected, but it can still be difficult for me to recognize that this isn’t really a television show, but more accurately a series of short films of varying lengths. And that each short film isn’t necessarily going to have any connection to the one that came before it, not just in terms of story, but even in terms of tone.
Like “Model” before it, “So Did the Fat Lady” follows one core plot with both mostly focused around Louie having a woman come onto him. But “Model” was deeply into mocking Louie and showcasing his awkwardness. Further, odd shot composition and Yvonne Strahovski’s generally weird character meant the episode occupied a very surreal space.
“So Did the Fat Lady” plays more like a slice-of-life indie movie. Louie feels more authentically like a person; he’s still awkward, sure, but he’s not a consistent irritant to the majority of those he comes into contact with. There are none of the detached, faraway shots of “Model,” either. We’re allowed to get closer to the characters and therefore feel like we’re more able to relate to and get to know them. Furthermore, unlike Yvonne Strahovski’s tight-lipped Blake, the character of Vanessa (Sarah Baker) is very open, telling us exactly what’s on her mind. And I mean she really, really tells us what’s on her mind.
Out of the first four episodes released to critics, this is (unsurprisingly) the one readily cited as blowing everyone away. I do get why and I do think most of the praise is deserved, but I can’t say that I’m on board with everything presented here.
The reason the episode deserves praise is that it confronts and explores a societal issue in a very frank manner, namely the issue of how we treat fat girls. The premise is that Vanessa, an overweight waitress at the comedy club, keeps asking Louie out, but he keeps turning her down because, well, she’s fat. There are loads of double-standards addressed here: Why is it okay for a fat guy to think he deserves a thin girl but not the other way around? Why can a fat guy say he’s fat, but if a girl says it everyone rushes to tell her it’s not the case? And probably the most cutting, simple question (delivered to Louie by Vanessa as part of a lengthy monologue): “Why do you hate us so much?”
My problems with “So Did the Fat Lady” are that, one, we’re clearly supposed to find Vanessa awesome and hilarious from frame one. She’s meant to be clever and snarky and good at cracking jokes, so that we understand that it’s only a prejudice toward fat women that’s keeping Louie from going out with her. But, er, well, I wasn’t all that into her sense of humor. It wasn’t really until she and Louie actually went out together that I saw how they worked as a couple and that she got lines I actually found funny, like when Louie, sharing some history about himself, says that he used to play street hockey and Vanessa replies: “I got my period when I was 9.”
Another problem is that, though she behaves far more normally than most of the women Louie runs into on this show, she’s still coming onto him overtly, which has happened at least thrice at this point (though those other times it was presented like it might all possibly be taking place in a dream or a less real version of reality, at least). And even if Louie’s the one who asks a woman out (as with Parker Posey’s Liz), they still kind of end up feeling like the aggressors.
I don’t know; it’s not that I think Louie shouldn’t be able to get girls. I just find the way so many women forcibly get him involved with them to be getting a bit rote. I can’t quite tell if it’s the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope happening here because the girl usually ends up being less of a life-changing wonderful person and more genuinely problematically messed up, but it still feels like this kind of thing has happened on the series several times before. It’s not exactly the same, of course. Vanessa is a very different and much more grounded character compared to the women of Louie who have come before her (except maybe Pamela), but the way she forces herself into Louie’s life feels a bit predictable.
Finally, my other issue is that her nearly 7-minute monologue at the end of the episode occasionally stretches believability, just because of Louie’s behavior during it. Louis C.K. occasionally writes these parts for people that just call for him to stand there, watch them, and make awkward faces. I guess one could argue that’s how his character is, but when anyone monologues in anything ever, it runs the risk of feeling like the writer just working something out on paper. Because conversations are rarely this one-sided in life and also, well, truly, that’s what this is. Sarah Baker may be doing a bang-up job delivering this monologue, but it was penned by C.K. and I couldn’t stop myself entirely from imagining this as just him wrestling with his demons through his writing.
All that said, however, the monologue does, as mentioned, touch on some very important stuff and Louie does occasionally make interjections during it. On a second watch, the scene landed better for me. And, on the whole, the stuff I mentioned notwithstanding, I believed in Vanessa as a person and Louie as a person and that this was a time in these people’s lives where they had a bit of connection and Louie acted kind of like a dick, but ended up learning something from her. It was a solid Louie short film.