Though Glen defends Leslie earlier on — “You shouldn’t say stuff like that about someone you just hear stories about,” he tells China. “His private life is nobody’s business.” — he starts to unravel when it is his own daughter in the stories. This culminates in a scene between Glen and the actress he’s sleeping with (Byrne), in which C.K. writes himself as the defensive father the audience sides with — he thinks Leslie’s grooming of young girls is wrong — while Byrne’s character, Grace, launches into a defense of age being just a number, that women’s sexuality should not be policed and reveals that when she was 15, she was involved with a 50-year-old.
“I’m sorry, Grace, but you were raped,” Glen tells her, which she takes offense to. The scene is played in gray, a morally complicated question that actually isn’t all that complicated. As the Kevin Spacey fallout should be a clear reminder, 14 and 15 year olds are not adults, despite what they themselves may think, that within the industry or not, the power imbalance between an adult and teenager is clear.
Instead, Leslie is painted as creepy and inappropriate, but clearly charming. “He’s kind of gross, but he’s hilarious,” China says. Any advances are shrugged off as that of an “old pervert” in an “aw, shucks” way, and as far as accusations of pedophilia go, Leslie is asked, “Hey, did you really f**k that kid like everyone says you did?” He laughs it off, as C.K. either isn’t willing to or interested in saying.
C.K. never seems to know what to feel about the character he’s written. He asks a lot of questions in I Love You Daddy — about consent, about power, about separating the art from the artist — but doesn’t come to many conclusions. In a post-Weinstein, post-Spacey, post-Ratner, post-Toback climate, I Love You, Daddy doesn’t add much to the conversation, in the end. (But C.K. sure does get to say “retard” a lot on the way.)
Perhaps that’s because he knew eventually these would be questions we would be asking of him. In one scene late in the movie, after rallying against Leslie, Glen sits down with China’s 17-year-old best friend, Zasha (Ebonee Noel) and Zasha argues that “China’s the real pervert,” and in fact, “We’re all perverts.” When she reveals that she had a crush on Glen when she was 14, he makes a pass at her. I’m not better than this, you could read the scene as saying. As much as I may say otherwise, we really are all perverts.
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