The Bill Cosby disintegration

The Cosby Show helped to redefine, for a while, what black people on TV were like.

Kennedy Center Honors winner Bill Cosby (1998)
Kennedy Center Honors winner Bill Cosby (1998)

Mark Evanier was right when he wrote: “You can kind of tell Bill Cosby is in serious trouble because the photos of him have all gone from looking like” the Cosby of thirty or forty years ago “to looking like” the 77-year-old man that he is. “Much the same change has occurred in a lot of minds.”

Bill Cosby was someone I looked to, not just because I found him funny. Though I did find his stories hilarious, especially on his comedy albums of the mid-1960s.

He was, at least as a public figure, a decent person, supportive of education in particular, for which he received a Ph.D. It’d be difficult to overstate the importance of his role on the TV show I Spy. I suggest that he was as significant an entertainer, and specifically a black performer, as Harry Belafonte or Sidney Poitier.

I enjoyed the Bill Cosby Show, where he played a teacher. His role as a doctor, husband, and father with an upwardly mobile family on the Cosby Show helped to redefine, for a while, what black people on TV were like.

While I barely care what the Duggar family, or that Duck Dynasty guy, or someone from Honey Boo Boo, or Kirk Cameron say or do, Bill Cosby engendered a lot of goodwill. Heck, he could sell us Jello pudding.

So these accusations of rape are increasingly credible, with story after story of similar detail.

One can ask why there were hints and allegations going back years, yet no charges were filed, and the statute of limitations has passed. It’s reasonable to assume it was from the horrible embarrassment the women would likely have gone through. As proof, note the verbal abuse the accusers are currently experiencing.

As The Atlantic put it: “Lacking physical evidence, adjudicating rape accusations is a murky business for journalists. But believing Bill Cosby does not require you to take one person’s word over another—it requires you take one person’s word over 15 others.”

Or as Cynthia Tucker put it: “Cliff Huxtable And Bill Cosby Are No Longer The Same Man.” And quite possibly, never were.
Dirty little open secrets: How the Jian Ghomeshi scandal helped turn the tide against Bill Cosby.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

8 thoughts on “The Bill Cosby disintegration”

  1. It will be interesting as this story unfolds to find out what actually happened. Certainly I don’t want to believe it. It would be crushing if it was true. But I’m not sure I’d be surprised given the mindset of celebrity status and entitlement. If true, it won’t negate all the fantastic things he’s done, but it will seriously tarnish an otherwise positive reputation.

  2. It’s sad. I have many of his comedy albums from the 60s. They will never sound quite the same to me again.

    I think this feels especially like a betrayal to people who came up in the 80s watching the Cosby Show….

  3. I was never a big fan of Bill Cosby, but I didn’t dislike him, either. This kind of downfall is always deeply saddening, for many reasons, most of all that his achievements came at a price which was paid by a lot of unfortunate women.

  4. When I was a little kid, I loved Picture Pages and Fat Albert. As a youngster growing into his teenage years, I loved The Cosby Show. In high school, I discovered his comedy albums from the 60s. I used to watch Bill Cosby: Himself all the time on HBO. I read Fatherhood. Bill Cosby has been a part of my life in some way or another since I was a kid. I absolutely do feel betrayed. It’s like finding out your grandpa raped someone.

  5. We, my husband, children amd me, loved to watch the Cosby shows. I am disappointed that he has fallen off his pedestal!

    For now however,I wish you:
    Have a great week.
    Wil, ABCW Team.

  6. This all came out in 2005 when a woman sued him for drugging and raping her, and 11 women came forward with their own stories to support her. But the 11 women were anonymous (scared to be identified?) and the case was settled out of court with one of those unconstitutional gag orders. So we all forgot about it! But this time we didn’t forget about it, and he is going down in the public mind. Why this time and not last time?

  7. I think the climate has changed. Women as victims of rape on campus, in the military, and elsewhere has made these claims more credible.

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