Lance Burson thinks hypocrisy and misguided celebrity worship are the real lessons of Bill Cosby.
After decades of celebrity scandals compounded by the internet age tearing down the famous in record time, you’d think no one would be surprised by the allegations against Bill Cosby and retreat into denial. Maybe his impact as a social satirist with Fat Albert in the 1970s and his cross cultural reach as the sweater wearing professional dad on The Cosby Show were so profound that he elicits shock and awe from the general populace at accusations he drugged, raped and possibly paid off as many as 15 women ranging from the late 1960s till the mid 2000s. Behind the unique gestures, goofy faces, preposterously funny vocal delivery, there seemed to be a well-intentioned, good man. That was comforting. The word “was” needs to be emphasized. Whatever the reason, Bill Cosby, always a lecturer, is teaching us lessons, sans sweater and Must See TV primetime slot, lessons that we don’t want to learn, at least not right now.
Last month, Hannibal Buress, a promising, talented Black comedian in his early 30s heavily influenced by Bill Cosby, strode to the stage at a comedy club in Cosby’s hometown of Philadelphia and performed a bit he’d been doing for over six months.
“It’s even worse because Bill Cosby has the f**kin’ smuggest old Black man persona that I hate, ”He gets on TV, ‘Pull your pants up Black people, I was on TV in the 80s! I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom!’ Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches. I don’t curse on stage! Yeah but you’re a rapist!”
Someone recorded it with their phone, uploaded it to YouTube, and sparked enough Google searches and Twitter activity that the mainstream finally paid attention to a some harsh truths about a beloved American icon.
Since Cosby has never been convicted of rape, a serious look at the facts needs to happen. In 2006, a former Temple University employee, Andrea Constand, settled a civil lawsuit with Cosby. Her initial complaint that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her at his home outside Philadelphia, was not prosecuted by the then Philadelphia assistant district attorney, Bruce Castor. During the civil suit discovery motions, decades-old allegations from as many as 13 women were found and Constand’s attorney prepared to investigate them. The suit was settled soon after. This, combined with Cosby’s admission in 1997 that he fathered a daughter, Autumn Jackson, who had tried to extort money from the legendary entertainer, chipped away at the Teflon image Hannibal Buress joked about recently.
At best, Bill Cosby is a serial womanizer. There are at least 15 women telling the same story Andrea Constand did in 2006. Cosby used his stand up comedy and television shows, especially the landmark The Cosby Show which ran from 1984-1992, to preach social sermons on morality and personal responsibility. There is an obvious sheen of hypocrisy over Bill Cosby, who enters his 78th year on Earth being denied work by NBC and a string of appearances on talk shows and the lecture circuit, canceled.
Bill Cosby the man is, or I should change that to was, as important as Bill Cosby the entertainer. His public image over the past two decades took on a “do as I say not as I do” quality we see with certain politicians and talk show hosts. Somewhere along the way Bill Cosby turned into the same guy as our own dads, uncles, grandfathers or pious old guy who tells us to do one thing while they do another, as they cheat on their significant others while driving in their cars listening to men who pontificate against cultural changes while being on their 4th wives or addicted to drugs or possibly drugging and raping women.
No matter how many times celebrities fail us, there seem to be exceptions that make people deny facts and question obvious truths. Hypocrisy and misguided celebrity worship are the real lessons of Bill Cosby, even if he’s innocent of everything he’s accused. He’s teaching us these but we aren’t ready to learn them.
AP Photo: Matt Rourke