I’ve seen 1 full episode of The Cosby Show in my lifetime.
It was the episode where Theo bought a $95 Gordon Gartrelle shirt to impress his girl…you know the one with the hidden buttons, flap on the back, and two-toned pockets? But Dr. Huxtable told him he had to return it because it was too expensive. As consolation Heathcliff gave Theo $30 to buy a more affordable replacement instead, and Theo chose to enlist his sister Denise to sew him an identical Gordon Gartrelle knock-off with the money.
You can guess how the rest of the episode goes…instead of a Gordon Gartrelle replica, Theo got a Gordon Garbauge original that looked like a 1962 LSU Tiger Band uniform that an actual LSU tiger ate. But it really didn’t matter because Dr. Huxtable, being the perfect dad that he was, never returned the more expensive but only slightly less terrible Gordon Gartrelle shirt, and ended up letting Theo wear it on his date. I’m not really sure what the lesson was considering Theo wasted an additional $30 just to end up wearing the same shirt that was too expensive to wear in the 1st place, but I guess it made for good wholesome must-see black TV.
Watching The Cosby Show was like an unspoken right of passage in black culture. So for me – a young black boy raised in a middle class family in Phylicia Rashad’s hometown – to not have been a faithful viewer of The Cosby Show was almost sacrilegious. I was more of a TGIF kinda guy. Shows like Family Matters, Full House and Step by Step – so when news broke that Bill Cosby was being accused of sexually assaulting more than 50 women over the span of his career, I didn’t feel some type of way about it other than my normal disgust at patriarchy and misogyny. I think I might be more devastated that the Olson twins are barely 30 something billionaires suffering from Benjamin Buttons Syndrome or that little Judy Winslow went upstairs one episode in season 4 of Family Matters and never came down without any explanation!
Suffice it to say, I didn’t have any emotional connection to Bill because he hadn’t raised me like he’d raised so many of my peers. In retrospect, I’m glad Bill wasn’t my TV dad – it makes it much easier for me to continue to remind us that he’s accused of drugging and molesting more than 50 women. FIFTY! And you know what? I have little doubt in my mind that he did, especially since he’s admitted to as much in his own deposition. But even if I didn’t believe that all of Bill’s accusers were telling the truth, I definitely don’t believe that all of them are lying, and it only takes 1 of them to be true for Bill to be a rapist. Not 50, just 1.
In walks Andrea Constand – the 1 allegation that stuck.
But now that Bill’s back in court standing trial for the only criminal charge of sexual assault brought against him out of more than 50 accusations, his sympathizers – both men and women alike – are also back caping for the embattled comedian and villainizing his accusers.
They’ve been so kind to research and study the testimony of all of Bill’s accusers as to poke holes in their stories, because “if she told police she didn’t speak to him again after the assault, but really spoke to him 53 more times, she must be lying and is just trying to get paid.” And paid she was when Bill settled with Constand over 10 years ago. The question becomes, why continue to pursue criminal charges of sexual assault after you’ve been paid if all you wanted was money?
Other Cosby kids who concede that Bill probably raped somebody at some point are busy reminding us that “I Can’t Control my Woody” Allen still gets to make movies, Donald “Grab’em by the Pussy” Trump gets to be president of the United States, and “Dodged a Rape Case-y” Affleck gets to be celebrated by the Academy as the Top Male Actor in Hollywood – which are all true, but still don’t negate what Cosby is accused of doing – drugging and assaulting more than 50 women.
Listen, I may not have been an avid watcher of The Cosby Show, but I acknowledge its impact on black popular culture and the paradigm shift it created for prime time network television to give way to shows like Blackish. I also appreciate the philanthropy of Bill Cosby the person to Historically Black Colleges and Universities as a product of an HBCU myself. But I do not, and we must not conflate his TV character and the fortune he’s earned from it, with his real character and the misfortune he has allegedly brought to so many women.
Bill wants us to remember the former character – perfect TV dad Dr. Cliff Huxtable – which is why you could find his TV daughter by his side on his first day in court; but please don’t miss who was missing – his real family including his wife of nearly 55 years (she eventually showed in week 2). That’s reflective of the latter character.
The reality is that William Henry Cosby Jr., 79, faces a jury of 6 white men, 4 white women, 1 black man and 1 black women who will decide whether or not he spends his final days behind bars. For the victims, I hope truth is revealed and justice is served. As for Bill, the likelihood that he’s assaulted as many women as I’ve seen Cosby shows is high, and it only takes 1 of them to be true for him to be guilty. For his sake, he should hope the jurors have seen more episodes of The Cosby Show than I have.