By now, I am sure everyone has heard of the news that Bill Cosby was arrested and criminally charged for a 2004 sex abuse case. I’ve written in the past about the challenge with enjoying an entertainer’s work while shunning their actions. But with the exception of one article (which I didn’t even write), I haven’t written about Cosby. And I think that is for the simple reason that this case is really hard for me.
Please don’t get me wrong. I believe he is guilty. But this Cosby situation has so many external social layers. And for me, there are actual memories that are tarnished by this. As a person who was sexually abused by a parent, there’s a duality of memories. Of course I have some awful memories that some days I wish I could forget. But then there are other memories I have when my father was just being a dad. These are memories I cherish. They create a sense of childhood normalcy, and these memories with him are few and far between. We went fishing sometimes. We went camping. We worked on cars and delivered newspapers overnight. I loved these times. And frequently we would sit and watch the stand up comedy special Bill Cosby, Himself. It was our favorite. I knew all the jokes, all the faces, and everything in between, and it never got less funny to me.
Even as an adult, I was able to watch this special and enjoy it as I did when I was a kid. I am able to separate the good memories from the painful ones, and this was one I specifically enjoyed, as I was able to revisit it by watching Cosby’s comedy. All this doesn’t even begin to cover it though. I remember renting Ghost Dad with my mom and watching it as many times as we could before the VHS tape had to be returned 3 or 5 days later. I remember seeing the (otherwise terrible) movie Meteor Man in theaters with my mom as well, and being excited when Bill Cosby had a cameo.
And then of course, there was the beloved Cliff Huxtable. What family didn’t love The Cosby Show? I watched it all growing up and into my adulthood. For me, that show was entertainment. Great entertainment, but that’s all it was. For many others though, Bill Cosby was much more. Not only did he pave the way for many, many African-American comedians and actors, but he was a great role model for black children who grew up watching his show. The Huxtables were lovable, successful, and provided years of laughs.
It’s really, really difficult to have all those experiences from growing up watching a literal comedic icon and have them amount to what we see today. While I don’t subscribe to the mentality that he’s innocent, I can see why it’s hard accept. The whole thing just makes me sad. Sad for the 50+ women. Sad for the people who are and were fans of Bill Cosby. And sad for myself, and the fact that the positive things I do remember about my experiences with my father are dwindling. Celebrities can seem to become larger than life, and it happens to many. Cosby was one of them. He was more than a person to so many…he was a brand. An idea. A pioneer of modern comedy and entertainment. But at the end of the day, no matter how big they seem, they are still people. And this person, I believe, is a serial rapist.
I said before that I believe you can support someone’s work without supporting their actions. I still believe that in theory. But in practice, I don’t see myself opening up my Bill Cosby, Himself DVD for a long, long time.