W. Kamau Bell
Over the span of 50 years, Bill Cosby became one of the most recognizable Black celebrities in America. With a career that included an astronomical rise on television in the mid-1960s; work in children’s programming and education; legendary stand-up performances and albums; and an epoch-defining hit sitcom, The Cosby Show, Cosby was a model of Black excellence for millions of Americans. But now, thanks to the brave and painful testimonies of dozens of women, we know there was a sinister reality to the man once extolled as “America’s Dad.”
Well, how can I even contribute to this conversation? Honestly, how? I never watched Cosby. I always thought he was cheesy. In fact, the first encounter really came from Family Guy more than anything. I was perplexed as to why this man was held in such high esteem from my parents. To be fair, I was raised in Rawlins, Wyoming so I wouldn’t say I was in fertile ground for being exposed to The Cosby Show.
Going into this, I wasn’t sure what I could take away that wasn’t already known about his personal life and the horrifying accounts of women who were assaulted by him. Without question, whatever reputation he had is now destroyed by his own actions. But where does that leave all of his work, the people who were inspired by him, and the mark he left on the culture? That’s the line of questions that director W. Kamau Bell is wanting to discuss. What happens to the work of a genius that turned into a monster? What is our individual responsibility here, and what happens to the people that separate the art from the artist?
It’s a question I don’t think can be answered simply with a tweet or social post. The documentary does a good job of showing the amount of work and admiration Bill Cosby had gained with his work. More importantly, we learned about the horrors behind the scenes with many brave victims coming forward and telling their truth. Hearing the accounts, and having that alongside learning about how he changed the world is a dynamic that could be very difficult to go between but W. Kamau Bell does it well.
Overall, this is a rough watch and a reminder that just because Cosby is walking around free now, doesn’t mean he’s innocent by any means. It’s alway interesting to see the perspectives of the lives he’s affected good and bad with his presence. I don’t feel like there is any resolution to the questions posed in the series, but this is still something I recommend everyone see and have the conversation yourselves.