Talking Cosby: Women, Society, Art
Written by Natalie Davis on July 9, 2015
First things first: Regarding the Bill Cosby story, I’m with The Nightly Show host Larry Wilmore.
More than 20 women insist that they were the victims of sexual inappropriateness or rape — many reportedly after having been drugged — by the legendary comic and actor. I believe the women. A great many people do not, even after this week’s unsealing of 2005 court records in which Cosby admitted to obtaining drugs for the purpose of having sex with women. These loyalists go to great lengths to attack or ignore the accusers while defending the showbiz star they probably still consider America’s Dad.
It’s a complicated mix of issues, regardless of where one stands. Max S. Gordon, on the site the New Civil Rights Movement, offers a really thorough examination of Bill Cosby’s story and the difficulty of dealing with an almost universally revered cultural icon’s fall from grace. Along the way, he ponders reaction to the comedian’s fall and what this says about society and its views toward women, about those the mainstream labels as “black,” and about whose art is acceptable.
A tiny excerpt from Bill Cosby, Himself: Fame, Narcissism and Sexual Violence:
Regardless of whether we are “for” or “against” him, I’ve assumed that there was one thing we could all agree on: if he is guilty, he should pay for what he did. I was wrong in that assumption. Not everyone feels he should be punished, even if the allegations are true.
Yet for those who believe Cosby is guilty, wanting justice doesn’t necessarily address the emotional turmoil we feel about him and our relationship to his art, our bewilderment over the loss of an icon. For some, it is the pain and horror of watching a black man “eviscerated” in the media. People use the word “lynching” and even “rape” to describe what they feel is being done to Bill Cosby. Some feel they have lost a best friend, while others protect Bill unreservedly, rabidly loyal as if to a family member.
In fact, there is so much talk about what Cosby is going through, that the real issues at hand become obfuscated or dismissed. What is happening in our conversation about Bill Cosby isn’t just about his downfall, although that is an important part of it. It’s about our attitudes towards women, rape, victimization, and sexual violence. It’s about a group of women who claim they were violated by a man, a man among many men in our culture who rape women every day, and who just also happens to be a comedy legend.
Bill Cosby is a man who has achieved greatness in his lifetime. Those in the public eye who soar to such heights become archetypal, mythological gods in their relationship to us. While their achievements can inspire us to reach great heights, they may also reveal a great shadow, which can inspire us in a different way; to look at ourselves, our beliefs, our assumptions.
Seriously, this is a must-read, whatever you think about the man who gave us Fat Albert and Cliff Huxtable. Peruse and share your thoughts about it.