Friday, August 7, 2015

Overreaction? Of Course

Now that Bill Cosby has been exposed as the sexual predator that he was for decades, what should we do about it? 

Most if not all of his recent and upcoming appearances have been cancelled and I think that is a correct response. I don't think he will ever be invited to appear on another talk show or perform on TV or in a movie. I guess it is possible for Barbara Walters to come out of retirement or for Oprah, Diane Sawyer or Charlie Rose to do an "exclusive" interview with Cosby sometime in the future. It would be a highly promoted prime time special. 

Can any comedian now do a Cosby impression? Sometimes a Fat Albert or Jello commercial takeoff is just perfect for the occasion.Can any of us ever wear an ugly sweater again. 

Cosby's current mess is really not the point of this post. I'm wondering what we should do about all the work he did in the past. Whether you liked Cosby and his humor, you have to admit that he was one of the major stars of the late twentieth century. He was also still extremely popular in recent years. The guy could be damn funny. Maybe not in his actions in private, but on the stage, TV or movies. Besides being funny, he was also the first Black costar of a prime time network TV series in I Spy. He created and produced educational children's programming. Of course he also was the driving force behind one of the most popular and influential TV series, The Cosby Show.

So what do we do with the Cosby catalog of work? It includes books, albums, movies, concert videos, TV shows and who knows what else. Do we wipe all of them from history and pretend Cosby and his work never existed?  Do we punish all the innocent people that worked with Cosby over the years? TV Land has pulled The Cosby Show from its lineup. I understand that reaction, but I also realize that the others involved in that project will no longer receive residual payments. The company that syndicates those episodes receives no rental income. And yes, Bill Cosby will not be getting any new income either but he doesn't need the money. Some supporting or guest actors, a writer, a lighting director or dozens of others might need the extra income.

We can not simply erase the past just because new facts with a newer perspective come to light that make the old viewl less than acceptable or politically incorrect. Hitler happened, slavery happened, Native Americans were screwed by the whites, Jim Crow laws disenfranchised Blacks for decades, homosexuals were persecuted, the infirm and mentally challenged were imprisoned or left on their own, we invaded Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq and an ever bigger number of other actions that no longer meet the standards of current thinking.

I suggest we separate the work from the man in the Cosby case. His career work has been outstanding, his private behavior has been criminal. His award winning comedy albums and TV programs should be widely available to us and future generations because many of them are brilliant. Maybe you'd feel better if reruns of his performances and TV shows were proceeded with a disclaimer stating that the star/creator/writer/producer of the following presentation was a serial rapist. 

We have to realize that morals and behavior of 1776 are different from 1876 that are different for 1976 and now 2015. Many of our founding fathers owned slaves but we don't demand the removal of Washington's or Jefferson's pictures from the $1 and $2 bills. Hitler was pretty much evil incarnated but we can still buy his book, Mein Kampf, or see his speeches on History Channel. Many politicians, movie stars and other powerful people were philanderers. Some still are. 

Many great people did terrible things and many terrible people did great things. Most of us are somewhere in the middle. It is all part of who we are and what makes up our world.

I am no Bill Cosby apologist and to be honest I thought much of his comedy and many of his performances were far less than great. I never watched The Cosby Show. Still, his body of work is far better than 99% of his peers and was enjoyed by millions. Condemn the man, not his work and the other people were part of that work. 


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