A Trailblazer and a Predator

A recent Showtime documentary, “We Need To Talk About Cosby”, has finally addressed the complexities of the way people feel about Bill Cosby. Of course, for many generations, the stand-up comic was one of America’s most beloved figures. Starting out during his time as an athlete at Temple University, the documentary chronicles the actor’s genesis. From making jokes at the bar and idolizing Dick Gregory to starring in one of the most popular shows of all time, there was one constant the whole time — Cosby was allegedly preying on women and slipping them drugs against their will. It is this dichotomy that has upset many former fans of Cosby’s. While many want to celebrate Cosby’s significant contributions to American culture, they often feel conflicted when thinking about the scores of victims whose entire lives were affected by Cosby’s wicked behavior.

“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”

During the course of the program, it is easy to see how Cosby was able to manipulate his power for so long. Many other stand-up comedians, for instance, would often note that the TV star was a notorious philanderer. What they didn’t realize — or did not want to accept — was the fact that much of his philandering was being done without consent from the other parties. The documentary excels at picking out the rare cracks in Cosby’s squeaky-clean image, the odd hints that not all was normal. At the beginning of his career, for instance, Cosby told a Spanish Fly joke that would serve as foreshadowing for all the accusations that would come forth decades later. Along the way, however, it was impossible to ignore the good that Cosby was doing in the world. Some in the documentary opined that perhaps he was outwardly good — getting jobs for the first black stuntmen and donating millions to universities — to cover up what was really going on with him inside.

An Exploration of a Different Time

In the wake of the Me Too movement, many can now understand how Cosby was able to operate the way he did for so long. Although he was combatting racism for much of his career, the comic also benefited from friendships with powerful white men such as Hugh Hefner. It seems likely that those who feel conflicted about Cosby will at least be able to receive some catharsis from this nuanced documentary.