Bill Cosby and Our One-Way Relationship with Celebrity

So Cliff Huxtable has gotten himself into a little hot water. We all know what for.

Predictably, Cosby’s supporters and fans, (and a certain subset of people who just don’t like women complaining about sexual abuse), have jumped to his defense, describing the accusations as baseless and a grab for money or exposure.  Many people are trying to frame the scandal as simply being an example of he said, she said, and are very, very concerned about the principle of innocent until proven guilty.

If it was one woman, fine, hold your judgment. If it was two, er, okay. But it’s not, everybody. It’s over a dozen at this point. From totally different backgrounds. Is Janice Dickenson doing it because she “Wants money like the rest of them?” She certainly doesn’t need it. Have any of them asked for money?

No, they’ve come out and exposed themselves to public scrutiny and all of the fear and risks that go along with confronting a man with as much power and prestige as Bill Cosby holds in Hollywood and the larger culture. Some of them have been making the same claims for decades, but we all ignored them because we didn’t want to believe America’s surrogate father, was capable of such abuse.

Many of us still don’t want to believe it. A peculiar thing about celebrity, especially one as prodigious and long-lasting as Bill Cosby is the audience develops a one-way relationship with the entertainer, to the point they see them not as a character, or a comedian, but as a real person (which they obviously are) who they know at a personal, even intimate level (which they obviously don’t).

I’m not saying that performers don’t have a relationship with their audience. The best ones, the most popular and enduring ones certainly do all they can to cultivate and maintain their image and interact with their fans so that we will continue to invite them into the privacy and safety of our homes. The mistake so many make is believing that the persona celebrities wear in public, while they’re “on the clock” so to speak, is the real person. It may be a part, but it’s never the whole story. This is why so many of us believe we know Bill Cosby. He’s been a part of our lives for decades. And we know Bill couldn’t have done these terrible things.

But c’mon guys. These women are too numerous to ignore any longer. It’s not one man’s word against one woman, it’s one man who has enjoyed many, many years of a position of considerable power and influence against a dozen, maybe as many as twenty women. It requires believing these women, each and every one of them, are willing to not only manufacture stories about a beloved entertainer, but to put themselves and their families through the harsh spotlight of media scrutiny and exactly the sorts of ridiculous public judgments and character-assassinating accusations certain corners of social media have been flinging . And for what? Some remote chance of a future settlement? Out of spite?

Right. Maybe that’s true of one or two of these women, but ALL of them? Don’t be fools.

Obviously, Mr. Cosby is due a full and fair trial before any decision of guilt or punishment is passed in a court of law. But in the court of public opinion? Sorry, but I think we’re past the point where we can ignore these accusations any longer. A long way past.

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