There are topics we all avoid talking about. Not that we all avoid the same topics, but we all have topics we avoid. The topic of Bill Cosby is one I have been avoiding for a good while now. And, maybe, I wouldn't feel like I have to avoid it if I hadn't mentioned him on my "Of significance..." page, but he's there, and what we know about him now doesn't change the impact he had on me when I was younger. It does make me feel squiggly about having him listed there, though, but it seems worse to me to try to pretend that he did not impact my childhood at all.
I was introduced to Bill Cosby by my cousin, Sam, when I was probably around seven. Okay, that's not exactly true; actually, I was introduced to Cosby through Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids,
But, when I was seven or so, my cousin shared with me his collection of vinyl Cosby records. We would sit in his room and listen to them for hours and laugh and laugh and laugh. My cousin had memorized all of the Noah skits and would spontaneously break into the routines anywhere he thought it was going to get him some attention and some laughs. Incidentally, it was while listening to those records that the Fat Albert thing clicked into place, and the stand up routines on the records were so much better than the cartoon. I never really watched it again after that.
The big moment was when I was in middle school and Bill Cosby: Himself aired on HBO. It was a Saturday morning the first time I saw it, I was the only one up, and, actually, I have no idea why I was watching that instead of cartoons. I got up early on Saturdays for the sole purpose of watching cartoons, but, for whatever reason, that morning I did not; I watched Himself.
I laughed so hard at the part about going to the dentist that I woke my parents up and my mother thought I was dying. At least, that's what she said. The show was brilliant. I own it on VHS. Hmm... yeah, I still own it because, as I said, I've been avoiding the topic.
A few years ago, I pulled it out and showed it to my kids for the first time. It was one of those here's-something-I-loved-as-a-kid things, and I want to share it with you. They, of course, loved it. "The beatings will now commence" was heard around the house for weeks, and there are still mentions of the chocolate cake for breakfast.
And, now... Now, I just wish I had never shown it to them at all, which makes me sad in ways that I can't express.
Fortunately, I never really watched The Cosby Show. I had already quit watching TV by the time it was on the air. Sure, I'd stop and watch a few minutes of it if it happened to be on when I was walking through a room, but it wasn't a thing I did. My high school years were largely devoid of TV. Small mercies, that.
When the rape allegations came out, the best description of what I did was holding my breath, just hoping that they weren't true. It's one of those things where you know the opposite of what you want is going to be the reality, but there's no proof, yet, so you just hope. And hope...
Of course, now, we know that he admitted to all of this years ago. He admitted it, and no one did anything. No one did anything. No one did anything about it at all. Not for the women he'd already raped and nothing to stop him from doing it again. Excuse me, but what the fuck? And, probably, although there's little chance he'll be able to get away with doing this again the future, nothing is going to happen to him now. Okay, yeah, his reputation is ruined, which might be the worst punishment he could have, but it's probably not the justice his victims want. Or most of us.
For me, the worst thing is that, at some point (soon), I have to sit down with my kids and have a conversation about this. Probably with that VHS tape sitting on the table right before we throw it away.
But I can't erase the impact he had on younger me and, unfortunately, it doesn't make his comedy not funny. It's one of those places where you have to separate the art from the artist, to some extent, and just cope the best you can. The worst part is that he did actually do a lot of positive things, especially for education in the black community and, to a large extent, this completely undoes all of that.
I don't really have a conclusion to this beyond what I just said. It's just that the fact that I have Cosby listed as one of my influences as been gnawing at me, so I felt like I needed to say something. I'm not going to remove him from my list -- that would a lie -- but I will add a link to this post for any future readers.
To say that I am mad would not be inaccurate, but, mostly, I'm just sad. And confused. I mean, assuming it's the truth (which I doubt since he also did stuff to hide his expenses in regards to the women from his wife) that he and his wife had an understanding, why would he need to resort to drugs and rape? He was Bill Cosby! I'm sure he didn't need to force himself on women. That he did is just... unfathomable to me.
This is a sad situation. I grew up on Cosby. Fat Albert, some other kid show he was on (I just remember big fat markers with sound effects), The Cosby Show, his standup, etc. All of it. Even his damn pudding pop commercials. He broke a lot of hearts. Worse, he victimized a lot of women. I haven't introduced my kids to him, so I don't have that worry. But it's hard to undo all those years of that fondness. I've even seen his standup live at the Pikes Peak Center.ReplyDelete
I did not know, however, that he had previously admitted to all this years ago and not been punished. I've been avoiding stories about him. I can't handle how elderly and pathetic he looks in the face of all this.
And, of course, he didn't rape women because he needed sex. He raped women because he enjoyed the power he had over them. Likely, he not only got to enjoy the power of having them completely pliant and right where he wanted them, but I suspect that knowing they had no way to get back at him or make sure he was punished was another form of power. He could do what he wanted without having to pay for it.
Shannon: You know, I understand that that's a thing, the power thing. I understand it in my head, but I don't understand it. I just don't get it.Delete
I believed in The Cos until the end, until the deposition became public. Growing up in PA I was very aware of what he did for Temple University and the impact he had on center city Philadelphia youth. Of course I watched Fat Albert and the Cosby Show religiously. He was a hero in my eyes. I have so many emotions about the whole thing, but mostly I just feel betrayed. That sounds kind of weird but I think it's because the vision I had of him is not reality.ReplyDelete
JKIR,F!: I hoped until the end. He did so much good for education and all of that. It's so horrible that he was destroying everything all along.Delete
I can't listen to Bill Cosby anymore, and I won't. I had his CD of "Himself" and I deleted it.ReplyDelete
The hard part I think is knowing when something is too far, and how involved the person has to be before you have a moral or ethical obligation to stop. I think OJ Simpson should be taken out of the Hall of Fame, but I still watch "The Naked Gun," which he's a major part of.
I can't/won't listen to Louis CK anymore, either. Sweetie had a Penn State shirt that she threw out when the child molestation cover-up came out.
I like a Michael Jackson song, but I can't believe they let Michael Vick still play football. And so on.
I guess it's a moral judgment each person has to make. Because I do think that knowing something terrible about a person and continuing to support them in any way is to be somewhat complicit in those terrible things. So if I listen to Bill Cosby and tell others about him, I am at the least excusing some small part of what he did and allowing him to reap the benefits of fame despite terrible behavior.
I don't know where I draw the line but I know there is a line.
Briane: I can't either. In fact, I really wish that I could "unhear" him. And I actually hate that I introduced my kids to his material.Delete
I don't know anything about the Louis CK thing. I don't follow him, although I've liked his material in the past. I'll have to look up and see what you're talking about.
Sad is the best way to describe it. I still remember listening to his skits about the Chicken Heart and Go-Kart Races. He's been such a proponent for black men doing the right thing and speaking out against ebonics. And now... yeah, it's just sad.ReplyDelete
Alex: I loved "Chicken Heart." I used to do that one back when I did drama stuff in high school and college.Delete
I can put up with a certain level of crappiness from artists if their art is good (this is why I don't read up on the personal lives/views of my favorite writers/musicians), but with Cosby, he just jumped ship into an uncharted level of s***iness. His comedy is still funny, sure, but I can't watch any of his routines and laugh like I once did, knowing what the man did. It just ruins all of the comedy for me.ReplyDelete
ABftS: There's a difference between liking the art of someone who is just an asshole and contributing to the career of a rapist. So, yeah, Orson Scott Card is an asshole, but he's a good writer. I don't even know what to say about Cosby, right now.Delete
I've never actually seen anything Cosby's done--I'm a little to young to have watched any of his shows--so I'm not a fan. But still, I'm creeped out by the fact that what he did has been ignored for so long. Apparently in some of his old routines, he actually joked about drugging women, which is just fucked to the up. It'll be hard to explain to your kids just how awful some people can be...ReplyDelete
Jeanne: I've never heard any routines about drugging women, but I haven't seen much other than Himself.Delete
I'm appalled that people knew this was happening and helped him cover it up.