An Icon Falls

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

At first I was pretty sure that Bill Cosby was going to ride all of this out. Given his age and the leap that so many people would have to make to accept the accounts of his accusers (or more so what accepting those accounts would say about Cosby) vs how much they've seen of Bill over the last several decades, I figured the mainstream media would ultimately let the story die out and that enough people would let things lay at 'well, we don't really know' for it to have any serious ramifications. So color me surprised that he was asked about the rape allegations by NPR and that an upcoming talk show appearance was cancelled, among other things. No, I didn't think he was untouchable but I figured that outside of his accusers and those who have grown to dislike him for other reasons few would consider taking him down a peg or two a worthwhile cause.

Now if you're wondering, I am not defending him. He should have to answer these questions. If the legal aspects of these accusations have been settled, then they're settled. But he is owed no privacy, no benefit of the doubt, and no sympathy here. If these women are lying or exaggerating then he should say so. If he's going to 'no comment' his way through it then he's earned whatever lingering suspicion or assumption of guilt he gets dealt, and whatever career hit his remaining years take as a result. Unless he's willing to fight and prove his accusers wrong, then anyone who wants to assume the worst is justified in my book. I haven't read any of the accounts myself so like most of you I'm relying on my own interpretations of what news becomes widespread, and based on what I've heard/seen I think it's safe to say that he damn sure isn't innocent. At best he didn't do everything he's accused of but I'm willing to bet he did something.

So where does he go from here in our eyes? I don't know. Do we simply dismiss him going forward, do we throw the Cosby Show and Fat Albert into the trash file of our memories, we do nothing at all? We're not exactly bastions of consistency here. People still listen to and buy R. Kelly's music. We were willing to shrug and say Michael Jackson was 'weird' so we could keep bumping Thriller and Off the Wall. People still watch movies directed by Roman Polanski and Woody Allen despite a conviction and accusations, respectively. And most of us lined up to watch Mike Tyson fight after a rape conviction and jail sentence. The likelihood that you avoided all five of those men out of principle is pretty slim; if you did, then kudos to you. I know I'm guilty on the Jackson and Tyson cases.

Right now I don't know how I'm going to ultimately fall here. To pretend the Cosby Show didn't happen is a disservice to all the other actors and actresses who were on the show, and if we're going to start policing things that strictly then a whole lot of you better be ready to toss all your James Brown and Miles Davis music, stop watching any professional sports, and significantly pare down your movie collection. You're free to judge Bill Cosby however you like, and act accordingly. But we all need to own our choices and our inconsistencies here. We're all human and we're all biased for and against certain things and people, after all. Better to admit it than not.

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