Bill Cosby: Can creator and creation be separate?

Like so many Americans, I grew up loving Bill Cosby and The Cosby Show. I listened to an old record of his stand-up on my stepfather's record player and watched the Huxtables and all their spinoffs religiously. Rudy. Theo. Denise. Dwayne. Whitley. I loved them all. 

I remember first reading about the rape accusations against Bill Cosby many years ago - long after The Cosby Show had gone off the air. My memory is murky but I recall reading there were around seven women who told very similar stories of drugging and sexual assault. The stories stuck with me. 

This was around the same time as Cosby's support of respectability politics gained increasing attention. Obviously, I have no firsthand experience with being black in America, but Cosby's scolding of black Americans from a position of privilege always sat very, very wrong with me.

As a result, I began opting out of any Cosby worship. Oprah featured him many times over my years of viewing and I never watched. It's one of the few areas I consciously parted ways with Oprah. He just seemed OFF to me.

Now, after decades of being ignored by the public and silenced by Cosby's legal and public relations team, the internet has successfully revived the stories of those who accuse Cosby of sexual assault. 

And there are a lot of them. 

Seventeen women have come forward publicly and told stories of Cosby exploiting his position of power to get them alone, offer them drugs, and then sexually assault them.


The stories include incidents beginning in the 1960s and continuing until as recent as 2004 and were recently corroborated by an ex-employee who claims Cosby paid him stand guard outside his dressing room

Now, as I argued with Woody Allen and the accusations made against him by Dylan Farrow, no one who choses to accuse a public figure in the court of public opinion should expect to be believed without question or criticism. For better or for worse, that is not the world we live in and I can only assume is also the reason many of the woman have chosen to remain anonymous.

However, neither should Cosby. The fact that he refuses to address the accusations and has attempted to shame reporters who even dare ask the questions speaks to the same egotistical (and delusionary) belief in one's own power that would also lead one to sexually assault women.

And make no mistake - if even a tiny percentage of what these women are saying is true - this is about power not sex. If Bill Cosby wanted to have sex outside his marriage, I can only assume that there were plenty of women willing to have consensual sex with him. And really I don't care. That's between him and his wife and those women and wouldn't have affected my opinion of him in the slightest. 

There are plenty of men - famous men - with sexual appetites exist far outside my own personal ethics whose creative work I still enjoy. I have a friend who attended University of Texas and personally witnessed Matthew McConaughey's dogged sexual pursuit of anything that moved. More power to you Matthew! Still loved you in Texas Buyer's Club!

Rod Stewart. Adam Levine. Leonardo DiCaprio. And - yes - Bill Clinton. All with sexual appetites that would be a huge problem were I married to them but luckily I am not. Human beings and sexuality are COMPLICATED and, if you're waiting for all your favorite stars or artists or politicians, to align with a perfect vision of human sexual conduct well then ... enjoy all those Paul Newman movies!

I'm also not arguing one must reject all of Bill Cosby's work. Drawing a strict line between creator and creation is not always that simple. This scene is perfection. Nothing can change that. However, when the work is so closely tied to the personality of the artist, I find it difficult to leave what I know about the artist behind. This is not Roman Polanski tucked safely behind a camera. This is Bill Cosby, who created an entire show inspired by his family, stars in every episode, and named the show after himself. 

Roxane Gay eloquently summed it up it in her recent essay on Cosby, "His art does not absolve him. Art is nothing compared to humanity, nothing at all."

So, I've lost my taste for all things Cosby. Pure and simple. 

I won't be showing my children reruns of The Cosby Show - even if I could.  

What about you? What do you think about Cosby and the rape allegations?