I’m pretty sure Bill Cosby is guilty, a friend says to me, but can we still like the Huxtables? In a word - no.
The Cosby Show was the only show about African-Americans on television for a while when I was a kid. I thought Lisa Bonet was the essence of bohemian cool and wanted to be just like her when I grew up. I had a crush on Malcolm-Jamal Warner, as did every other girl in my class. So, I used to understand when people asked me this question. Years ago, before the number of victims began to rise, topping out at 60 last I counted. Before I discovered a news story from the 1980’s, where Cosby’s own daughter was sexually assaulted by a well-known public figure and Cosby advocated on the perpetrator's behalf, negotiating a deal to get her attacker psychological therapy instead of jail time. By all accounts, he attended one session. I’m sure he’s reformed. Cosby’s daughter was going through a dark time that year and she and her father were estranged. Her father seemed to blame her, at least partially, for the assault, based on his statements.
The Cosby Show was Cosby’s baby. The concept, the writing, not to mention the casting. There are episodes of this show that I once loved. The one where Theo gets the earring? Classic! The family lipsyncing on the stairs to James Brown? I danced and sang along every time it aired. I’ll never watch those moments again. And though they brought me joy at the time, I will not miss them. Every episode reeks with Cosby's twisted version of morality.
All the women, even the daughters when their characters were rebellious teenagers, were ladylike and refined, taking the lead of their mother, the well-educated and beautiful Clair, who managed to juggle a demanding career and be home to cook dinner every night for her family without breaking a sweat. These are real women in Cosby’s eyes. Women who went to college, or who are on track to attend college, women from good families, women who cook dinner for their families every night, and lecture their daughters about how to conduct themselves around boys. Good girls. Good girls don’t get end up in a hotel room with a man they barely know. Women who do...well...he’s relieved of any responsibility to treat them with respect. They are beneath him.
Can we still like Camille Cosby? Nope. She sat idly by, enjoying the trappings of her husband’s fame, at his side with a smug smile while he gave speech after speech, interview after interview, judging lower-class black people for being poor. She released a statement after Cosby’s sexual assault trial ended in a mistrial, eviscerating the judge, the district attorney and her husband’s accusers. She’s a woman that doesn’t appear to support other women unless they meet her dubious standards of morality. She’s nearly as despicable as her husband, minus the sweaty fistful of pills. She is not just the wife of a man who happens to be evil; she is complicit in the evil. She turned a blind eye while her husband indulged his depravity. I could almost forgive that, dismissing her as merely naïve and stupid, if she hadn’t shown up at his side during the trial or released that vile statement. It’s clear how she feels - the accusers are beneath her. Trash.
Can we still like the actors who worked on The Cosby Show? Much like the jury that sat in on Cosby’s trial, I’m undecided. Some have spoken out in support of him or decided to remain neutral. One even showed up on his arm to his trial, which surely helped his defense. One has denounced him. Still, others have remained silent. I don’t judge the silence. I’m sure they have their reasons. I just fear what those reasons may be.
I know many former fans of The Cosby Show are worried about what the loss of Bill Cosby’s legacy will do to our community, but they shouldn’t worry so much. He’s not so important. We only thought so because he told us he was.