This is probably the most difficult post I’ve ever tried to write on this blog. I’ve literally been planning to write this everyday for the past two weeks but I kept putting it off, because I wasn’t sure what to say. And, I guess, part of me was hoping that “it” would just go away and then I just wouldn’t need to say anything. But that doesn’t appear to be happening. So I’m going to try.
First, let me just state for the record that I am not completely unbiased here. Point blank: I’ve loved Bill Cosby for almost as far back as I can remember. Starting as a wee lad when one of my favorite cartoon shows was Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids.
It was such a fun show. And appropriate for kids (with the harshest language being sayings like “You’re like school on Saturday: no class”) while also presenting a nice moral message in each episode, but without being preachy. Even back then, Cosby new the importance of using entertainment for education.
And then, of course, there was The Cosby Show.
Man, this show was such a breakthrough. A sitcom with a happy stable Black family. People forget that it actually received some criticism from some Black activists, who were unhappy that the show didn’t deal with “racial issues,” and very rarely even discussed race. But what Cosby was doing with this show was pretty brilliant. He was sending a message by having the Huxtables be just like any other family, people of all races could watch and identify with it, thereby showing that deep down we’re all the same. Sometimes the best way to send a message is with subtlety. For those first 5 or 6 seasons The Cosby Show was appointment television for me and my friends. It lost some of its steam in later seasons, becoming a show you just watched of habit, but it ended on a high note. I’ve often marveled at how the show came full circle. In the first episode we had this famous scene between Cliff and Theo.
And then 8 years later, on the series finale, everyone was getting ready to attend Theo’s college graduation ceremony. A perfect ending.
And there were other things I liked, like his iconic comedy special HIMSELF, and I read a couple of his books. But just as important as his entertainment were his examples of real-life activism. The millions of dollars he’s given to historically Black colleges, and his speeches stressing the important of education. Some years back he started speaking more forcefully on the problems within the Black community, and the need for more personal responsibility. And, predictably, he got denounced by some Blacks as playing “respectability politics”, as if saying pull up your pants, speak proper English, and get an education are such horrible things. But I was totally on his side.
Okay, so his reputation was slightly tainted back in the 90’s when we learned about his past extramarital affair and the woman who claimed to be his illegitimate daughter. And coming so soon after his only son was murdered, it was a tragedy. But, well, I hate to be flippant about adultery, because I don’t approve of it, but he’s hardly the first man to cheat on his wife. Many “great” men in history have done the same. It sucks, but I can overlook that.
But now all these other allegations have surfaced, dating back decades. I’m not going to link to any of them because if you’re reading this I’m sure you’ve already aware of what I’m talking about. It’s hard to even wrap my mind around it. It’s just so the polar opposite of the public image that I’m dumbstruck. THIS can’t really be Bill Cosby, can it? God, it’s sad. I mean, he’s not the first iconic figure to be accused of horrible things, and generally I’m a innocent until proven guilty kinda a guy. I still listen to Michael Jackson music and watch Woody Allen movies, and I’ve had friends argue with me about THEM. But I can just say, I wasn’t there, so I don’t know what happened, and nothing’s been proven in court. Technically, that’s the same situation here, and I’m generally not a believer in the Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire, adage. But, dang, there’s a LOT OF EFFIN’ SMOKE here!
I’ve been hearing about 13 or 14 women in the past, and now more and more women are coming forward. Sure, not all of them may be credible, but enough of them sure seem to be. There’s women who would appear to have nothing to gain and no reason to lie, like Lou Ferrigno’s wife, coming forward. It’s just…I can’t compute…
Y’know, when I first started thinking about writing this before, I was going to end with a plea that I would hope that he would simply retire now. He’s 77. No more performing, no more interviews, just live the rest of the days out of sight, and perhaps we could, y’know, call it even? So we can just remember the good things. But it’s beyond that now. This isn’t just a history of “bad behavior”, we’re talking about a possible serial rapist. I can’t overlook that now (and perhaps it was wrong of me to even consider it, I admit), this taints everything he’s ever done. I hate it, but it does.
I thought of sub-titling this post The Danger of Having Heroes, because it does illustrate a problem with putting people on a pedestal, and looking up to them, for whatever reason. Sometimes the truth of who someone is can let you down.