Don’t you hate it when icons prove to have feet of clay? I mean, how dare the beloved poop on the positive image we have of them?
Some people turn out to be scummy and it doesn’t come as a complete surprise, but others have built reputation for being paragons of rectitude and decency.
Such a man was Bill Cosby. Good old Cos’ was such a symbolic figure right from the get-go in his long career.
Known as a stand-up comic he, a well-educated man, came to epitomize an era of hope for the black community. He was a man of enlightenment in the era of Martin Luther King and in a time that was racially tempestuous – alas, what time isn’t, considering recent events? But Cos was a herald of the future in terms of race relations. Well, we know how well that played out, but he still had great symbolic impact
To indicate his acceptance by the broader community, witness I Spy, the groundbreaking and excellent TV series he shared with Robert Culp in which the duo, as a couple of tennis bums, ostensibly, strode the world as agents. Groundbreaking series in that nobody questioned the right of this black man to be on equal footing with a white guy. Of course he got the usual ‘Uncle Tom’ bullshit thrown at him, but no less a comic icon, and nobody’s Uncle Tom, Richard Pryor was unabashed in stating he worshipped at the shrine of Cos.
Meanwhile, his comedy albums were hugely popular in the days when such things were important cultural facets, and the good ole’ Jell-o pudding ads. By golly, this man of color was part of everybody’s family regardless of their ethnicities. The frosting on the cake came with The Cosby Show. Everybody loved Dr. Huxtable in his ghastly sweaters, with his beautiful wife and charming, fully functional kids. We all wanted the good doctor to be our dad.
But then, a few years ago, things changed a little. There were allegations of sexual impropriety, even rape. Not Cos! Not Dr. Huxtable! Could not be so. It just didn’t jell. So it was largely forgotten.
Then more recently, more allegations and assertions of drugging, sexually assaulting and all sorts of disagreeable shit came to be leveled at Cos. He, in response, turned mute. And his grim and grizzled stubbly visage has been seen by nearly everybody. A far cry from the lovable fellow smacking his chops over that Jell-o chocolate pudding.
Cosby is different from, for example, Jian Ghomeshi. While people admired certain Ghomeshi talents, a lot of other people had found him to be an arrogant shit for years.
Cos wasn’t an arrogant shit. We loved him. It hurts at the fundament.