It is normal to take solace in the words of characters we admire. These are people we relate to and turn to for comfort, understanding and truths about the world. Yet sometimes we fall in love with a human character portrayal without knowing the person behind the mask of wholesome humanity: a person who is ultimately a stranger to us all.
The biting reality of the allegations of sexual assault and rape against comedian Bill Cosby has shocked the world. Over two dozen women have come out accusing Cosby of sexual misconduct and Cosby himself has admitted to using drugs such as Quaaludes for the purpose of forced sexual encounters.
As more facts continue to come to light however, people’s responses vary and it seems hard to believe the facts. This is because a man we know so well and grew up with, Dr Huxtable, the leading patriarch of The Cosby Show, was a man we trusted and loved. Cosby has undeniably made invaluable contributions to the entertainment world, with his natural comedic talent, his unique heart-warming style and homey popularity. We shouldn’t have to feel guilty for liking a talented performer but we must separate the man from the art. We can appreciate Dr Huxtable, but it is time to recognise the criminal acts of Bill Cosby and not pretend to be blind in an attempt to make ourselves feel more comfortable.
In accordance with the statute of limitations in several American states, it is unlikely that Cosby’s accusers will have the chance to take him to court. Therefore, as ABC News legal analyst, Daniel Abrams put it, the main recourse of justice available to these women is the court of public opinion. We can’t let our want for the image of an untainted and moral fatherly character cloud our view of reality. This doesn’t mean we’re not allowed to laugh and enjoy Cosby Show re-runs and smile at Dr Huxtable’s curious jokes and funny scatting delivery, which is truly entertaining. We simply must admit to ourselves that we don’t know Bill Cosby, and that this multitude of courageous women, who have come forward and told their traumatic experiences with a world-famous and socially powerful man, deserve to be listened to.
It’s okay to like the comedy but it’s not okay to ignore the facts, because every character portrayal involves a very real and fallible human being.