We're all Huxtables
November 22, 2014 6:22 AM   Subscribe

Wesley Morris & Rembert Browne over at Grantland have an amazing email discussion on the meaning of the Bill Cosby sexual assault revelations.
posted by jferg (219 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ta-Nehisi Coates on Twitter has been amazing recently.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:32 AM on November 22, 2014 [12 favorites]


So has Jeet Heer.
posted by thecjm at 6:39 AM on November 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


He received a standing ovation at a show in Florida last night. I can't even.
posted by tommasz at 7:04 AM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


> It doesn’t make sense, and then when it begins to make sense, you don’t want it to make sense.
> Because it tramples so much of what you thought you knew.

Please don't let them find out anything horrible about Mr. Rogers.
posted by jfuller at 7:07 AM on November 22, 2014 [32 favorites]


From the Grantland article:

This Cosby shit — this is a story of betrayals of trust. Both his accusers and the public trusted Bill Cosby. To your question of “what should we do?” my only answer is that we have to stop pretending.

!
posted by Fizz at 7:08 AM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


All I can think to say is, thank God. Thank God this is all coming out. Same for what has been happening with sexual assaults on campuses, and on reservations. And with police officers killing unarmed black men. Let the sun shine on it all. I will literally give thanks this year that all this, and more, is coming out at last.
posted by argonauta at 7:20 AM on November 22, 2014 [81 favorites]


This is what Cosby said yesterday, FWIW:

"The thing is, these people are prodding and pushing people and asking people to have a frat house mentality. Now suppose someone brings a weapon or decided to do more foolishness. There will be announcements made and the stations made some disclaimers, but what if people don't listen to what they said and they entice violence. That's not good for anyone.

When you go to a civil rights march or something like that, at least there are meetings and some organization to it and people understand how to behave. There may be people coming to the show that don't know exactly what to do; there is no organization to it all.

"I know people are tired of me not saying anything," he added. "But a guy doesn't have to answer to innuendos. People should fact check. People shouldn't have to go through that and shouldn't answer to innuendos."
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:31 AM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]




Does he stand a chance at a indictment on any of these accusations?
posted by cjorgensen at 7:41 AM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Have never liked Cosby and this does not surprise me in the least. I hated that idiotic TV show in the 80s and he always struck me as patronizing and not funny. He came to my college once to talk - but in the most bizarre way. As I understood it, he basically told the administration he was showing up to talk to the students, and they scrambled to put together an assembly with very little notice. The students all show up in the auditorium -- and then he's late. Like an hour late. And then, when he finally gets there, he gives this rambling talk with no point and nothing interesting to say. But he's the famous Bill Cosby, so everyone is supposed to drop everything and come listen to him on his command! And now this claim that "people should fact check". Hmmm, how convenient that the allegations against him are of crimes perpetrated on drugged women who can barely remember what happened, much less have proof of it. He's vile.
posted by Mallenroh at 7:43 AM on November 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


"People shouldn't have to go through that and shouldn't answer to innuendos."

This isn't innuendo, though, Bill. This is multiple people coming forward and saying 'you drugged and raped me.' Calling it innuendo has a flavor of you making it less than it is right off the bat, and that doesn't sit well.
posted by Mooski at 7:43 AM on November 22, 2014 [16 favorites]


He received a standing ovation at a show in Florida last night. I can't even.

Wait a second. Maybe not you, but a fair few people on MeFi have argued that the behaviour of musicians, artists, and actors is not relevent to their enjoyment of their music, art, or movies.

Yet somehow this time it's different?

I mean, I'm all for boycotting and shunning the shitheels, and have argued that before. I'm just surprised that MeFi's tune is finally changing. I guess the truth will out next time we learn that a MeFi-loved popular recording artist or actor turns out to be a creep.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:00 AM on November 22, 2014 [11 favorites]


Have never liked Cosby and this does not surprise me in the least. I hated that idiotic TV show in the 80s and he always struck me as patronizing and not funny.

Having felt the same way about the Cosby show and his Saturday morning cartoon, I once enjoyed his early standup comedy routines.

Then again, I hadn't encountered to his now-notorious Spanish fly routine, in which he riffs on spiking a woman's drink with the supposed aphrodisiac. With what today seems like the worst irony, he recorded that for an album titled "It's true! It's true!".
posted by Doktor Zed at 8:05 AM on November 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Wait a second. Maybe not you, but a fair few people on MeFi have argued that the behaviour of musicians, artists, and actors is not relevent to their enjoyment of their music, art, or movies.

I'm one of those people. Briefly, I was wrong.

Less briefly, it's possible to enjoy a book, performance, piece of music, etc. independently of the artist until you become aware of the behavior of the artist. I think the metaphor I liked best was enjoying a bowl of soup until you became aware of the largish fly floating in it.
posted by Mooski at 8:06 AM on November 22, 2014 [25 favorites]


I'm just surprised that MeFi's tune is finally changing.

There is no tune; this is not a collective. That is a tiresome comment.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 8:17 AM on November 22, 2014 [128 favorites]


I think it's more complicated than that "this artist is a shit heel, so his art is damaged, or completely unworthy." As pointed out in the e-mail exchange, this isn't someone like Polanski who created art that was separate from him. For a lot of us who grew up in the 1980s, Cosby was part of the fabric of our understanding of the world. Now, mind you, that understanding wasn't entirely accurate (reading more about what actual Black people thought of Cosby's portrayal of Cliff Huxtable has been enlightening on that), but the connection is so strong that it's very hard to reconcile. As pointed out above, Cosby was more like a Mr. Rogers figure to a lot of us than an artist who turns out to be an asshole.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:18 AM on November 22, 2014 [11 favorites]


I always, always wondered why Cliff Huxtable had to be an Ob/Gyn Doctor. I bet it was another layer of his perversion.
posted by Renoroc at 8:22 AM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


> Wait a second. Maybe not you, but a fair few people on MeFi have argued that the behaviour of musicians, artists, and actors is not relevent to their enjoyment of their music, art, or movies.

I'm one of those people. Briefly, I was wrong.


I'm one of those people, too, and I was and am right. Spare us your triumphalist bullshit, fff. What, if we discovered Homer did bad things, the Iliad would suddenly become bad art? Don't use Cosby's awfulness to promote your moralistic nannying.
posted by languagehat at 8:28 AM on November 22, 2014 [71 favorites]


As the standoff continues, you can feel other speakers who have joined the conversation attempting to fulfill Cosby’s wishes. When Cosby says to a second person off camera, referring to the interviewer’s superior, “You need to get on the phone with his person — immediately,” you can already feel Cosby gaining full control of the situation. You can see how he’d executed damage control for years, how he can manipulate his surroundings in such a staggering fashion. And it truly begins to make sense why people stayed silent and the media turned a blind eye. Because Cosby can convince you that he can end you.

This is reminding me a lot of what's been going on in the UK recently, where it's been revealed that a number of prominent celebrities from the 70s/80s were using their status in a similar way to stop word getting out about some pretty horrible things.
posted by eykal at 8:29 AM on November 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


Wait a second. Maybe not you, but a fair few people on MeFi have argued that the behaviour of musicians, artists, and actors is not relevent to their enjoyment of their music, art, or movies.

Yet somehow this time it's different?


Actually, yes, it is different. As Morris and Browne and Ta-Nehisi Coates and many others have pointed out, Cosby has made a name for himself for many years as a browbeating, moralizing blowhard. Regardless of whether or not anyone believes behavior is relevant to enjoyment, there is a direct correlation between Cosby's public persona/actions and what he is being accused of. In retrospect, his "Poundcake speech" was pretty misogynistic, especially towards black women, and it's not hard to see how this worldview contributed to what he is being accused of. It would be as if Allen or Polanski spent the last several decades going to secondary schools lecturing girls on dressing like streetwalkers and telling them to keep their legs closed.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:30 AM on November 22, 2014 [33 favorites]


Huh. I had a similar discussion with my SO about Gomeshi recently. Except instead of the black American experience, I was coming from the first generation Canadian growing up in the 70s and 80s thing.

Tagged for later more serious reading.
posted by clvrmnky at 8:31 AM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


it would be as if Allen or Polanski spent the last several decades going to secondary schools lecturing girls on dressing like streetwalkers and telling them to keep their legs closed.

No, sorry, I don't buy this. Don't conflate politics with sexual assault.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:32 AM on November 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


I grew up with a couple of his early comedy albums. I was a bit young for I Spy, but I watch it now and I'm amazed. I am however old enough to remember his introductions and interstitials in Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.

But in his later career as a national institution who could do no wrong he always seemed really off to me, and I look at these revelations and I think of what Abraham Lincoln said: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a men’s character, give him power.”
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:34 AM on November 22, 2014 [19 favorites]


Spare us your triumphalist bullshit.

Nah, I figure my five bucks is as good as yours.

What, if we discovered Homer did bad things, the Iliad would suddenly become bad art?

Not what I said. It would change the flavor of my experience to know that the iliad was written by a serial rapist.

Don't use Cosby's awfulness to promote your moralistic nannying.

Lighten up, yeah? I'm not nannying anybody.
posted by Mooski at 8:36 AM on November 22, 2014 [11 favorites]


I never understood what his appeal was, honestly.

I have a friend, a comedian, who says the single best live comedy performance he's ever seen was Bill Cosby sitting in a chair onstage talking.
posted by jayder at 8:37 AM on November 22, 2014


What, if we discovered Homer did bad things, the Iliad would suddenly become bad art?

Homer's work is the Iliad, Cosby's work is... Cosby. His personality cannot be left aside the way Homer's can.
posted by Segundus at 8:39 AM on November 22, 2014 [29 favorites]


I used to enjoy BC's humor, but he was never Mr.Rogers.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:41 AM on November 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


> Nah, I figure my five bucks is as good as yours.

languagehat was addressing five fresh fish, as you can see from the part of his comment that you left out:

> Spare us your triumphalist bullshit, fff.
posted by rtha at 8:42 AM on November 22, 2014 [8 favorites]


Consider also the concept of the Moral Event Horizon. [TVTropes] If not this, then what? (I really like Ta-Nehisi Coates' Twitter exchanges, which gleefully evoke Godwin's Law with some twists: "Booth was never convicted of anything! It's really just Mrs. Lincoln's word against his. "
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:45 AM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


languagehat was addressing five fresh fish, as you can see from the part of his comment that you left out:

It's possible I made a mistake, in which case I apologize, but I'm pretty sure the missing bit wasn't there when I quoted it.
posted by Mooski at 8:46 AM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


The idea that you can cleanly sever the product from the producer originates in economic theory--basically, it's the commodity model of art. Homer's a weird example, because there's a lot of debate about just how much any one person could realistically claim authorship of epic poems orally transmitted for hundreds of years. I just recently heard an interview with an Homeric scholar who argued it's best to think of the name "Homer" as a term for a kind of oral literary tradition that persisted for many hundreds of years rather than as a real, flesh and blood author, and the argument was pretty persuasive to me.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:49 AM on November 22, 2014 [9 favorites]


(I mean yes, literary critics have advanced the argument but these were postindustrial era critics and I suspect they were influenced by the more general, industrial oriented zeitgeist.)
posted by saulgoodman at 8:51 AM on November 22, 2014


> It's possible I made a mistake, in which case I apologize, but I'm pretty sure the missing bit wasn't there when I quoted it.

Dammit. As soon as I hit "post" I thought "Wait, that reads ambiguously, and Mooski might have thought I was addressing him," so I used the edit function to add "fff" for clarity. Sorry it wasn't quick enough to fulfill its intended function!
posted by languagehat at 8:53 AM on November 22, 2014 [10 favorites]


> Homer's a weird example, because there's a lot of debate about just how much any one person could realistically claim authorship of epic poems orally transmitted for hundreds of years. I just recently heard an interview with an Homeric scholar who argued it's best to think of the name "Homer" as a term for a kind of oral literary tradition that persisted for many hundreds of years rather than as a real, flesh and blood author, and the argument was pretty persuasive to me.

Oh, for god's sake, talk about nitpicking and beanplating. Fine, use Shakespeare, or any other artist about whose life we don't know a whole lot. If you discovered Shakespeare was a rapist, would Hamlet be a bad play?
posted by languagehat at 8:56 AM on November 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Many people are capable of making a distinction between art created by bad people who are now dead (along with their victims, if any) and art created by bad people who are currently alive. One often reads as tacit support of the artist, while the other (typically) does not.
posted by jeather at 8:56 AM on November 22, 2014 [22 favorites]


No one's under obligation to be perfectly consistent in their appreciation or withdrawal of it for artists who have also done terrible things.

For me, regarding Cosby, it's not that his previous work is now somehow bad. But I don't need to give him any money, or give his comedy or sitcom work any more positive attention.
posted by rtha at 8:57 AM on November 22, 2014 [30 favorites]


> Many people are capable of making a distinction between art created by bad people who are now dead (along with their victims, if any) and art created by bad people who are currently alive. One often reads as tacit support of the artist, while the other (typically) does not.

Yes, that's fair enough, and I certainly am not saying that anyone should support Cosby's work. I agree with rtha regarding giving him any more positive attention.
posted by languagehat at 8:58 AM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


I find that it doesn't hurt the art, but it does poison my regard for the creator and makes me not want to experience the art anymore.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:59 AM on November 22, 2014 [11 favorites]


For me, regarding Cosby, it's not that his previous work is now somehow bad. But I don't need to give him any money, or give his comedy or sitcom work any more positive attention.

I totally understand this. On the other hand, Phylicia Rashad's work on The Cosby Show is so brilliant. It would be a crying shame to ignore it from now on.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:00 AM on November 22, 2014 [12 favorites]


If you discovered Shakespeare was a rapist, would Hamlet be a bad play?

No, but if Shakespeare were making money off ticket sales, I would stop going to see it performed.
posted by jaguar at 9:13 AM on November 22, 2014 [33 favorites]


In a related matter, the upcoming Chris Brown concert in St. Louis was just postponed for fears of his safety because, you know, riots.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:15 AM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


A childhood friend recently posted on Facebook that she was at Cosby's stand-up performance, and it really did lower my opinion of her. Horrible people can make wonderful art, but art exists in our current consumerist culture and it's willful ignorance to pretend that consuming that art is a neutral act.

The linked piece developed past it, but I'm still having issues with the general "Oh, how we will we as the public deal with Bill Cosby's betrayal?," as if having watched The Cosby Show puts us on the same level as the women he actually raped. I understand there are gigantic racial issues that are tangled up with The Cosby Show and with Bill Cosby in general, but I wish people writing articles about it would be a bit more careful about how they're positioning the importance of their own feelings about the situation.
posted by jaguar at 9:18 AM on November 22, 2014 [9 favorites]


I understand there are gigantic racial issues that are tangled up with The Cosby Show and with Bill Cosby in general, but I wish people writing articles about it would be a bit more careful about how they're positioning the importance of their own feelings about the situation.

Sorry, that should have been: I understand there are gigantic racial issues that are tangled up with The Cosby Show and with Bill Cosby in general, and those issues are absolutely worth grappling with, but I wish people writing articles about it would be a bit more careful about how they're positioning the importance of their own feelings about the situation.
posted by jaguar at 9:19 AM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


I can't believe that there's a Buzzfeed listicle for this, but there is.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:19 AM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


That Buzzfeed article's "18 Moments That Led To Bill Cosby’s Stunning Downfall" should just be a list of each of the victims.
posted by jaguar at 9:21 AM on November 22, 2014 [22 favorites]


o'donnell is the only woman on the view who isn't in the "wait for the facts" camp.
posted by twist my arm at 9:43 AM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


If you discovered Shakespeare was a rapist, would Hamlet be a bad play?

I think what this misses as a comparison to the Cosby case--beyond the fact that Cosby and his victims are still alive--is that Shakespeare's work doesn't position Shakespeare as an idealized patriarch and family role model. Shakespeare himself is much less visible as an element of his work.

Cosby's position as a funnyman patriarch and role model, one that he has actively cultivated, is everywhere in his work. His character on The Cosby Show is a close reflection of his stand-up persona, which is in first person. He uses this platform to dispense advice and criticize others (sometimes singling out black women's sexual promiscuity). Many of his statements would be a problem even without him being a rapist; with him being a rapist, his whole career is deeply hypocritical and exposes some very dark cracks in the ideal he's tried to portray.

It could still be good art, but to be honest, Cosby isn't Shakespeare. A large part of his appeal was this comforting, funny, wise persona--and once that's gone, there's not as much left.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:52 AM on November 22, 2014 [47 favorites]


" If you discovered Shakespeare was a rapist, would Hamlet be a bad play?"

I think this is a good question and I sincerely think it depends on what you think the purpose of art is. Why do we let people who do not understand compassion try to show us the meaning or depth of life? I think the quality of the acts and deeds of the artists life is as necessary to good art as the happiness of the plants and animals and food producers are to good food. It depends how you define good, if good is TASTY or enjoyable to consume, sure the level of suffering caused to the animals or plants or people creating and growing the food may be irrelevant and disregarding their suffering may even make it easier to produce a nice taste given the lack of constraints on the means of production.

I personally would not call that good food... or good art.

I think it's a subjective question especially when you look at defining something like the word "good" which carries different meanings to different people. I don't like to consume goods or to try to understand the meaning of life from people who don't value human welfare and , compassion. If I learn from them it will be in the "how not to value life"category, which can have it's value- so I don't think it's necessary to erase all works of art or goods drenched in the suffering of the methods of production or the bad karma or those who produced them.

But should they be engaged with differently, or not consumed lightly for the same entertainment purposes? I think so.

I can not watch Cosby pretend to be a good father without thinking of those he harmed. And I don't want to because I would rather have a heart that is alive with love and sees the feelings of people around me-- and values that more than entertainment. I can find the purpose of life myself, I don't need artists who are vile beings to pretend they know for me.
posted by xarnop at 9:55 AM on November 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


I was going to post this as an FPP but I'll plonk it here instead:

"Bill Cosby and the rape accusers: stop looking away and start believing women" by Roxane Gay, Guardian opinion piece:
We should have never ignored the accusations against Bill Cosby (which his lawyer says Cosby "does not intend to dignify"), but it’s difficult to believe something so sinister about a public figure as beloved as Bill Cosby. He gave us Fat Albert, The Cosby Show and A Different World. We ask ourselves, How could a talented comedian – a family man, a philanthropist – also be a serial rapist?

Cosby and other men accused of rape rely on us asking those questions. But those questions are a privilege not accorded rape victims, who have to go to extraordinary lengths to be heard, let alone believed – whether or not the men they are accusing are world-famous and wealthy.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 10:06 AM on November 22, 2014 [42 favorites]


The Minority Report theory or WTF?

Okay, let's say that all those albums and stand-up gigs he did before he raped those women are classic bits of inspiration from a man with a sensitive and nuanced perception of the human condition, and all the stuff he did after he began raping those women are insipid drivel from a craven hypocrite.

Also, you could throw out Lenny Bruce's whole body of work on account of how he became a raving junky.

I'm pretty sure that knowing this about Cosby affects the way I hear him now, but it was before I knew any of this that I heard him then, and I liked his comedy. Okay, the TV shows weren't aimed at me, so forget about them. It's asking a lot to remember how complicated people can be.

I don't suppose that everyone ought to be as wishy-washy as I am in this respect. I don't find it hard to draw lines and pass judgments and I carry memories of blind-spots that were illuminated (to my profound embarrassment) by people with a more balanced perspective. Some things can't be resolved; I knew men that I would trust with my life, but I didn't want them around my family.

Some lines, once crossed, turn you out, not to be redeemed by anyone. J. Dauhmer, for example. Cosby isn't Dauhmer. Everyone draws his own line in the sand. I guess that's how it ought to work.
posted by mule98J at 10:08 AM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Some people thought the lesson of the Catholic abuse scandal was that the Catholic hierarchy was corrupt and abusive of it's power. It was. But the bigger lesson was that you can't allow yourself to trust someone unquestionably even if you look up to them as a moral leader. Some people looked at Penn State as an indictment of football mad college communities that would do anything to protect the team, and they were right, but it was also about the (ongoing) inability of the Penn State community to accept that Joe Paterno was not the saint they wanted him to be. Cosby is another person to add to this list. It was his moral authority as much as his intimidation that let him get away with this over and over.

In those cases, it seems like nobody really believed until the rapists were old men and many, many had been abused. Look around now at some of the people you admire. How many of them do you think could get away with this sort of thing if they wanted? We have to change ourselves, because the public scorn is a major part of why people stay silent for decades. The public disbelief is a major part of why people don't bother to report. We can't stand by the accused just because we think we know they are good people who would never do this. We can't treat people as guilty just for being accused, but I think we can at least downgrade them from saint when there are multiple credible allegations and treat the accusers with respect in any case of any kind.

Supporters should stop taking excuses from people like Julian Assange. It's terrible how Wikileaks, an organization that used to (in my opinion) do good in the world, was hijacked to act as a PR firm to frame him as a political prisoner when the reality is he is abusing his heroic status to evade credible rape charges.

I'm worried about my own admiration for Bill Clinton, who has been accused of rape at least once as far as I am aware. He obviously had a history of being accused of mistreating women and engaged in an affair with messed up power imbalances. If someone pops up to accuse him again during his wife's next campaign, what will my reaction be? What if it's something from back in the day that sounds like it could be credible? Obviously a politically motivated phony tabloid story to try and damage his wife's campaign, but is it? I don't know. All I know is that we should treat any and all accusers with respect, and listen to what they have to say with an open mind.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:12 AM on November 22, 2014 [31 favorites]


I think Segundus has it -- it taints Cosby's art in a way that it wouldn't taint Shakepear's because Cosby's art is to present characters based on himself. Cosby has made that separation impossible.

Discovering that Shakespeare was a serial killer wouldn't stop my enjoyment of Hamlet at all. But, umm, suppose it was discovered that Nabokov was a serial abuser of teenage girls?
posted by tyllwin at 10:16 AM on November 22, 2014 [11 favorites]


even though i know it's a spin off, in all these conversations about cosby i forgot to put "a different world" in the cosby works pile. this clip about no means no is still so good (here it is if you want to read it rather than watch it).
posted by nadawi at 10:17 AM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


i admit that i've never really understood people arguing about whether you can separate the art and the artist - it seems like such a personal decision that i feel like no one can really convince someone away from their opinion on it, especially with insults. if there's any use in the conversation i think it can only be stating the reasons why you personally feel the way you do. even that though - surely there are more interesting things to discuss than whether you will or will not be reciting cosby's snowball fight bit at thanksgiving this year.
posted by nadawi at 10:20 AM on November 22, 2014 [16 favorites]


A child molester who paints a beautiful painting has still painted a beautiful painting. If you found the art with no context would you refuse to appreciate it until you knew the psychology of the creator? This seems antithetical to the notion of art to me. This is politics. An odious creator can make wonderful things. God would be a good example of this.
posted by umberto at 10:40 AM on November 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


The thing is, there's enough out there in most disciplines that people can pretty easily substitute their appreciation of great art created by a bad person for great art painted by a person that, at the very least, they don't know to be a bad person. The living/dead distinction mentioned above also matters -- if your money is going to the bad person, that's a different thing than if it's going to their estate or whatever. Everyone has their own equation, but it shouldn't be hard to understand that people have a lot of options in terms of what art to appreciate, and thus can probably "break ties" in favor of the better human being without losing too much.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:45 AM on November 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


An odious creator can make wonderful things.

Sure, but there is no requirement for anyone to appreciate those wonderful things, whether they were created by a saint or Satan, and no requirement that if you once loved a a great thing made by a terrible person you must any great thing made by any other terrible person. To force myself to respond now to (for instance) a Cosby routine exactly the way I did when I was 12 and didn't know any of these terrible things about him is also a political choice.
posted by rtha at 10:49 AM on November 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


I used to be a big fan of Cosby's schtick. Now it's just creepy. To say "what if Shakespeare had been a rapist?" Or "what about Homer?" seems to me to be an absolutely idiotic thing to say. Because they were not. It's a total red herring.

For me anyway Cosby is making me reevaluate what I think about other artists. Hitchcock, for example, while not a sexual predator, was deeply weird when it came to women. Can I now still enjoy his movies knowing that?
posted by Nevin at 10:51 AM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Drinkie Die: I take issue with you here. Assange might be an out and out narcissist but the Swedish charges against him are politically driven and not as clear as you would like.
posted by adamvasco at 10:51 AM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


If you discovered Shakespeare was a rapist, would Hamlet be a bad play?

No. And it doesn't make Cosby's work less brilliant than it was (in places; I rewatched some episodes of The Cosby Show a while back and god, what glurge--except for the wonderful Phylicia Rashad! But 'Noah' and the karate sketch are still side-splittingly funny, not that I'm going to listen to either of them again). But knowing these things changes the context--in the same way that knowing many of the founders of the USA owned slaves changes the context around 'freedom,' for example. And that makes many people, myself included, not want to support them with eyeballs or dollars anymore, not least because in many cases it's the power granted by that celebrity that allows them to continue doing the bad things they do.

So no, finding out that he's a rapist doesn't retroactively make his work bad. But it does call into question some of his 'jokes,' and it does call into question whether or not I at least want to give him any of my time or money.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:51 AM on November 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


Also, you could throw out Lenny Bruce's whole body of work on account of how he became a raving junky.

Oh yes being a 'junk' [sic] is the somewhere in the same realm as being a serial rapist.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:52 AM on November 22, 2014 [38 favorites]


From the article:

"That’s where a lot us of are, made miserable by the possibility of this other truth, severing a cord we thought would endure forever."

When I buried my father a few months ago I learned things I wished I hadn't, and this sentence captures the sensation very well.
posted by mecran01 at 10:54 AM on November 22, 2014 [11 favorites]


If you discovered Shakespeare was a rapist, would Hamlet be a bad play?

No, but it would require a close re-reading of his "The Rape of Lucrece", obviously, as well as Cymbeline, Measure for Measure, and Pericles where rape is threatened or plotted. Knowing that Shakespeare's business affairs included commodity speculation certainly casts a different light on the risky shipping ventures and sharp practices in The Merchant of Venice. One need not be a dedicated disciple of Sainte-Beuve to admit some significance of biography in literary appreciation.

As far as Cosby's work goes, a moralizing dimension emerged in it shortly after his early success with stand-up comedy and I Spy, became significantly sententious in Fat Albert and The Cosby Show, and grew increasingly hectoring as part of his paternal public image. In recent years, Cosby would be invited to make college graduation speeches, mainly on the strength of his role as Cliff Huxtable, M.D. Despite his having flunked out of high school and then dropped out of college, he would regularly lecture the new degree-holders, apparently oblivious to the hypocrisy. In one particularly shameful incident in 1989, he browbeat a graduate who had attended on an athletic scholarship (as he had himself) until he drew tears. The worst part is that his victim's favorite show as a kid had been Fat Albert.

All this is to say that the audience for his "Spanish Fly" bit laughed along when it was recorded, but we now have to ask if some dark part of Cosby's psyche wasn't laughing at them.
posted by Doktor Zed at 10:54 AM on November 22, 2014 [29 favorites]


It feels to me there is a racial politics angle on this that I haven't seen explored much, and I'm tentative to do so, though I feel it bears mentioning.

I think there is a valid observation that a disproportionate number of black celebrities have lived to see their reputations brought down, or at least greatly tarnished. Think Michael Jackson, OJ Simpson, James Brown, Whitney Houston - some important names in twentieth century cultural history. I'm certainly not arguing that Bill Cosby (or indeed those other examples) aren't guilty of any wrongdoings they've been accused of. I guess what I'm saying is, I bet there's a lot of white celebrities who've done similar, or worse, and you never hear about it. And that's the bad thing, that there are still privileged-background clubs, which offer protection for more or less any crime. And despite huge wealth in certain cases, black people have a much harder time entering those clubs.

In a way there's a similar thing going on here in the UK, with the recent BBC/establishment child abuse scandals. It's pretty obvious a lot of elite people would have been involved with various abuses, but so far the names of people successfully "outed" or prosecuted for these crimes have been foreigners (Rolf Harris) and/or of working class roots (Jimmy Savile, various radio DJs and TV personalities). The only establishment figure who's been named is Leon Brittan - and he is Jewish, so not really a full elite British establishment figure, according to the old, ugly class system here.

I wonder if people get so swept up in the awfulness of the (probably true) allegations, that it is hard to focus on the disparity between the backgrounds of the people who are actually named and shamed for such abuses. And what that must say about the cases you never get to hear about.
posted by iotic at 10:56 AM on November 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


iotic--Cosby has evaded those charges for over 4 decades.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:58 AM on November 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Drinkie Die: I take issue with you here. Assange might be an out and out narcissist but the Swedish charges against him are politically driven and not as clear as you would like.

We should not debate the facts of that case here, so just take that as my opinion on the matter.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:05 AM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


nikki giovanni speaks on bill cosby in 2007 - while it doesn't touch on the rape allegations, it does skewer his respectability politics.
posted by nadawi at 11:09 AM on November 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


To say "what if Shakespeare had been a rapist?" Or "what about Homer?" seems to me to be an absolutely idiotic thing to say. Because they were not. It's a total red herring.

Perhaps a derail, but I think you are wrong: By modern standards, a great many men from any culture of the past would qualify as rapists. Obviously the situation is not completely analogous, but knowing this does both influence our reading of their work and not make it automatically worthless.
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:11 AM on November 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


what if a dude who lived 500 years ago was covered in bees???!!! at least can we make it a smidge more contemporary or on topic or something if we're going to keep bludgeoning this dead devil's advocate rapist.
posted by nadawi at 11:22 AM on November 22, 2014 [16 favorites]




The separation of artist from art is as fundamental as the separation of church and state, or separating skin color from human rights, or speech from crime. Those who put Cosby on a pedestal are rightly disappointed in his fall, but it's on them to resolve their mistake with boycotts and hand-wringing. Those who avoided his celebrity worship are in no moral danger of watching his reruns in their nursing home of choice.
posted by Brian B. at 11:25 AM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


iotic--Cosby has evaded those charges for over 4 decades.

I wasn't trying to argue that money buys no privilege at all. I don't think anyone should be unaccountable for crimes.
posted by iotic at 11:32 AM on November 22, 2014


The separation of artist from art is as fundamental as the separation of church and state, or separating skin color from human rights, or speech from crime.

That is a whole lot of assumptions there. Also, it's not, and speech is in fact sometimes a crime, and really the comparison serves no purpose at all.

It's one thing to separate, say, Pollock's alcoholism from his work. The two have no bearing on each other. Much if not most of Cosby's persona is predicated on being Dr Huxtable, Everyman, Paragon of Virtue. When it's discovered that is not at all the case, separating the two is neither possible nor desirable, in the same way it's not possible or desirable to separate a politician's personal life from their public one when e.g. they campaign on reforming tax loopholes and are found to be tax avoiders. (To steer clear of fraught stuff about e.g. sexuality).

The personal is political, as they say, and in Cosby's case the personal is the professional.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:34 AM on November 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


There seems to be a massive difference between continuing to think that the Cosby show was a great show and paying money today to applaud Cosby's live performance. At least to me.
posted by leopard at 11:35 AM on November 22, 2014 [24 favorites]


The separation of artist from art is as fundamental as the separation of church and state, or separating skin color from human rights, or speech from crime.

Utter nonsense. The experiences, attitudes and beliefs of an artist directly shape the context of their work, abd is crucial to a deeper understanding if the piece. You would have us believe that Third of May is just about some people waving their hands in the air, and Uncle Tons Cabin is merely a rollicking adventure. Are we supposed to understand Card's "Empire" as a simple what-if book about a "liberal take-over of America" without understanding Card's political agenda?

More importantly, would you have us ignore their actions when it comes to spending out money? We should be compelled to give money to Card or Cosby or the like, whether or not we object to their politics or actions?
posted by happyroach at 11:36 AM on November 22, 2014 [9 favorites]


i really love woody allen movies. purple rose of cairo used to be one of my favorite rainy day movies. i used to be able to sort of hand wave his utterly inappropriate relationship with his not quite daughter in some sort of separating the artist from the art thing and complicated feelings about how that relationship really does seem to be standing the test of time, and frankly how much i like his work certainly factored in. then i read the dylan farrow piece - and now i, personally, speaking only for me, can't enjoy that work because when i try, i think of her story in the attic. this is a me thing. to say that separating art from artist is as fundamental as separating church and state is a crock of shit. you separate the art from the artist - good for you. don't pretend it's some sort of moral imperative.

also, again just speaking for me - whether the artist is dead or alive matters. john lennon is easier to take than mel gibson. and it's not just art - i can fondly recall a few good memories of my papa now that he's dead without them being completely overwhelmed by his abuse of children, however, i can't even stand to be in the same state as my other pedophile grandfather and those who enabled him all those years ago.
posted by nadawi at 11:38 AM on November 22, 2014 [22 favorites]


I think the quality of the acts and deeds of the artists life is as necessary to good art as the happiness of the plants and animals and food producers are to good food. It depends how you define good, if good is TASTY or enjoyable to consume, sure the level of suffering caused to the animals or plants or people creating and growing the food may be irrelevant and disregarding their suffering may even make it easier to produce a nice taste given the lack of constraints on the means of production.

That's a slightly off analogy; in the food example, the treatment of the animals is a direct part of the food production process. In the Cosby example, the rapes did not occur as part of the process of making his TV show, that is, they weren't a direct part of the artistic process.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:41 AM on November 22, 2014


Utter nonsense. The experiences, attitudes and beliefs of an artist directly shape the context of their work,

But not in predictable ways, which is why it is art. Bad experiences don't equate to bad art, or necessarily good art, and therefore shouldn't be used to dismiss the art, or even promote the art. Therefore we speak of a separation.
posted by Brian B. at 11:43 AM on November 22, 2014


Nobody here is dismissing Cosby's work. We are saying we have no interest in partaking of it again.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:43 AM on November 22, 2014 [11 favorites]


This is a great, great piece by comic Curtis Cook on Cosby, Pryor and the fall of great comedians:

All My Heroes Are Monsters
Comics are often asked, “What made you want to get into this,” or, “Who are your greatest influences?” For years I was confident with my answer: “I’ve wanted to do this since I was eight and I first heard a Bill Cosby cassette.” And while I know that will always be true, I don’t know if I can say that anymore. I don’t know that I want to look someone in the eyes and tell them that a rapist is the reason I’ve been trying to be funny my entire life, or how to explain everything I’ve ever worked towards while being ashamed to cite my sources. I don’t know what to do with the full realization that the brilliant minds of vile men are what paved the road I’ve spent my whole life trying to walk down.

I don’t expect to be influential or celebrated or recognized. I don’t even expect to be famous. But I know I still want to be a comic, and now more than ever, I want to be a different man than so many of the male comics who came before me.
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:44 AM on November 22, 2014 [13 favorites]


I'm not going to stop watching The Cosby Show. A lot of good work from other people is still there, in that show.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:45 AM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


he actively used his position in the industry to prey on young women - his fame is related to his work, he has even joked about drugging women. i don't know how you can say the rapes didn't occur as part of his work (lets not even delve into his moralizing about lisa bonet and how that is at odds with how he actually acted).

keep partaking of his art. i really do believe that's a personal choice - but at least own up to it fully. "i separate art from the artist so i frankly don't care if this guy is a mass murderer who hid the bodies under the craft services table" is a lot easier to swallow than pretending like his persona which was supported by his work isn't related to how he committed and got away with his crimes for so long.
posted by nadawi at 11:49 AM on November 22, 2014 [21 favorites]


If you found the art with no context would you refuse to appreciate it until you knew the psychology of the creator? This seems antithetical to the notion of art to me. This is politics.

This is as stupid a hypothetical as it was in the last thread. Cosby inserted himself into the political sphere, in part by lecturing women on their sexual behavior. You can't just say "no context," when there's plenty of context there.

The separation of artist from art is as fundamental as the separation of church and state, or separating skin color from human rights, or speech from crime.

He wasn't speaking as an artist when he was telling people what their failings (and society's failings) are, or how they should live their lives. And remember: this is a man who is accused of drugging women and raping them, and who was simultaneously...making money on jokes about drugging women and raping them. Was he just an "artist" then? Should we take that at face value and with no context?
posted by zombieflanders at 11:49 AM on November 22, 2014 [10 favorites]


It's somewhat remarkable that Cosby was basically brought down by someone realizing he could score laughs by contrasting Cosby's moral scolding with the sheer number of rape allegations against him. You reap what you sow... kind of. It's almost random how it all came together.
posted by leopard at 11:55 AM on November 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


I mean, if you accept he is a rapist but appreciate the art anyway, fine, that's a choice you can make. The much bigger problem is being unable to separate the reputation from the reality and remaining blind to who he is. That was pretty much every Cosby fan right up until Hannibal Buress gave everybody a kick in the ass, right? And still a lot of people who are going to these shows simply refuse to believe the allegations. I wouldn't want to be in the crowd right now that is continuing to lend him an air of respectability. Watching at home? Fine, whatever, as long as you're not a Nielsen home I guess.

And Temple, come on now. You're playing with fire.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:57 AM on November 22, 2014


All the folks acting like this just started . . . These accusations about Cosby have been circulating for years and years. What's much more remarkable is how fucking long it took for the wall to crack. What's much more remarkable is how very long he went as a moralizing, money-hauling major league entertainer who was beyond reproach when at least some people (beyond the victims of his assaults) were aware of this stuff all along. That was Hannibal B's point, and it was so right on that it sucked the air right out of the room.

So it's not "why is everyone piling on Cosby now?" so much as "what the fuck took so long?"
posted by spitbull at 12:03 PM on November 22, 2014 [13 favorites]


I wasn't a regular viewer of Cosby's sitcom during the 1980s, but as a kid I bought a number of his early albums and never missed "The Bill Cosby Show," the one in which he played gym teacher Chet Kincaid.

I thought "Spanish Fly" was pretty funny when I first bought the album It's True, It's True, at age 12. Now, not so much.

I wouldn't presume to tell anyone else how to feel about this, but I don't think I'll be revisiting that album, any of his other comedy records, or anything else Cosby-related any time soon.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 12:06 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


temple has been covering for his ass for a very long time. this lipstick alley thread from a few years ago is interesting as a marker for how much was known or rumored long before this current crop of truth telling - but specifically the comments on this page about temple starts a conversation about how places like temple have been a place to find victims and a place that will cover for him.
posted by nadawi at 12:08 PM on November 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


He wasn't speaking as an artist when he was telling people what their failings (and society's failings) are, or how they should live their lives.

Then let's talk about those who confuse art with adoration and fame of the artist instead, seeing a role model where others see a performer. It would be strange if it didn't happen, because art isn't readily understood or even accessible to everyone. Adoration is cultivated from common religious and moral attitudes generally. Unfortunately, it's not benign, since it derives from self-righteousness, and leads to personality cults and despotism, and books and art burned in piles, etc. It's also why they use laugh tracks on TV, just like crutches, when the jokes can stand on their own for people with a sense of humor. This doesn't mean Bill Cosby shouldn't be prosecuted, or shouldn't be banned from campus speeches as a hypocrite, it just means that we can go on watching his ensemble work, because we were never prone to believe it was real, or that the characters were role models in real life. On the contrary, art and performance often derives from deeply disturbing struggles and influences and these should be expected before anyone falls for the manufactured celebrity.
posted by Brian B. at 12:13 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


The separation of artist from art is as fundamental as the separation of church and state, or separating skin color from human rights, or speech from crime.

Since everyone is just throwing out opinions, I'll throw out my opinion that the statement above is one of the dumbest things I've read in a long time -- and I read a lot.
posted by JackFlash at 12:19 PM on November 22, 2014 [18 favorites]


it just means that we can go on watching his ensemble work, because we were never prone to believe it was real, or that the characters were role models in real life.

Who's "we"? Under whose authority are you declaring we "can" do anything? What if part of this "we" no longer finds him funny and doesn't actually want to watch it anymore, because laughing with a rapist is abhorrent to "us"?

Actors use their own bodies to create their art. Cosby turned his body into a weapon. That association between what his body did to hurt people and what his body is doing on a screen has nothing to do with viewers' naivete.
posted by jaguar at 12:20 PM on November 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


Since everyone is just throwing out opinions, I'll throw out my opinion that the statement above is one of the dumbest things I've read in a long time -- and I read a lot.

Then I will assume you disagree with all points of separation.

Under whose authority are you declaring we "can" do anything?

Too funny.
posted by Brian B. at 12:26 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Then I will assume you disagree with all points of separation.

That's ridiculous. Art isn't the same as civil rights, isn't the same as the necessity of a secular state. Apples and oranges, to say the least.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:31 PM on November 22, 2014 [10 favorites]


Then I will assume you disagree with all points of separation.

You can assume whatever you like, but that will often mean your are incorrect, especially in matters where you see your opinion as an unassailable fact.

Peoples' reactions to art and artist are subjective; announcing that they fit in a Logic Box is illogical. Announcing that there is one correct way to react is also illogical.

The "separation of church and state" is law and policy; art - good or bad - as created and reacted to and by human beings is neither. It's a silly comparison.
posted by rtha at 12:35 PM on November 22, 2014 [8 favorites]




I'm actually a big fan of separating art from the state, for what it's worth. And taxing churches.
posted by spitbull at 12:39 PM on November 22, 2014


It's a silly comparison.

It's unavoidable if one believes in the foundation of separation in either case.
posted by Brian B. at 12:39 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


stop trying to make fetch separation happen
posted by nadawi at 12:40 PM on November 22, 2014 [18 favorites]


It's unavoidable if one believes in the foundation of separation in either case.

No, because they are entirely different principles at work. Sure, the word is the same, but the context is incredibly different. It's like trying to compare scoring in basketball and football because they both use balls. The only way to make a comparison is to abstract the notion so far out from what is actually being discussed that it has no relevance.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:43 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Separating church from state means I think church policy should be legal policy. At least, that is one of the ways in which I think about the separation of church and state. Can you discuss how that is similar to separating art from artist?
posted by rtha at 12:48 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's unavoidable if one believes in the foundation of separation in either case.

Sure, like separation of blacks and whites. Like separation of men and women. Like separation of children from their birth parents. All separations are exactly alike!! Because the word separation.
posted by JackFlash at 12:49 PM on November 22, 2014 [10 favorites]


i don't know how you can say the rapes didn't occur as part of his work

My point was perhaps a little nit picky, really just about the accuracy of your analogy. You are absolutely right that "his persona which was supported by his work [is] related to how he committed and got away with his crimes for so long", but that's not quite what I was talking about.

Let's say you're eating a steak, and you find out that the animal that used to be that steak was tortured horribly before it was slaughtered and made its way to your plate. You no longer find that steak edible, because you know that awful actions were involved directly in the process of getting it to your plate. The closest analogy in terms of making a TV show would be if you found out that in order to get a particular performance out of an actor, Bill Cosby had raped them. Yes, his assaults happened in the context of his fame -- he used his celebrity and power to afford him the opportunity to abuse a number of young women. But he didn't abuse them in order to produce his TV show, in the same way that a cow might be tortured in order to make it into food. Does that make sense? I know it's probably a minor point, but maybe it's worth taking into account, if one is debating whether or not it is appropriate to still enjoy his work. In the food example, the violence is inseparable from the production of the final product -- you can't make a steak without killing a cow. In the Cosby example, he certainly could have produced his TV show without being a serial rapist. Maybe that makes it even worse and harder to watch, knowing that something that appears pure is so tainted. Again, I admit, it's a pedantic nit-pick about the accuracy of your analogy, so disregard if you feel it's a pointless derail.

On the other hand, there are examples that do conform pretty exactly to your analogy -- perhaps most famously and most disturbingly, the anal sex scene in Last Tango in Paris, which Brando & Bertolucci planned without telling the actress beforehand. That's pretty much the closest thing to filmed rape on screen that you can get, and it's in a famous, important work of cinematic art featuring one of the most famous actors of all time and a prominent international filmmaker. It's perhaps impossible for many people to watch that film after knowing what went into the making of it, that it directly involved sexual assault (or quasi-sexual assault) in order to produce the final product.

keep partaking of his art. i really do believe that's a personal choice - but at least own up to it fully.

I don't know if that's directed at me, but I never said that I was still partaking of his art. (Perhaps you subsumed my comment with someone else's.) I'm not interested in following his work, and I don't think I ever will again. I'm not a particularly big fan of The Cosby Show anymore (haven't watched it since it was on), but I used to enjoy his stand-up when I was younger, and I even saw him live once, many years ago. It was a great performance. But, I doubt I'll listen to any of it again, at least not until after he's been dead a while.

More complicated examples for me personally would be people like Woody Allen & Roman Polanski, both of whom I think are great filmmakers as well as vile sexual predators. I've come to the decision for myself that I still enjoy their work, but I won't spend any money on them until they are both dead. So, no going to see new films, no buying anything on blu ray, etc. Maybe that's not exactly a grand moral stance, I really don't know. But, given that I do they are significant works of art made by significant artists, that's about all I can do. I mean, I guess I could force myself to dislike their works or advocate for people to never watch them again or something, but I'm not sure what purpose that would serve besides giving myself some false sense of self-righteousness as a moral crusader. I'm not materially supporting them, nor do I try to defend them or their actions, nor would I ever tell anyone else that they should watch anything by Polanski* or Allen or separate their beliefs about the artist from the art. I'm happy to tell someone why I feel that I can still watch their work (again, with the caveat that I won't spend any new money on either of them) and discuss the issue of the relationship between art & artist -- it can be a very profitable discussion when it leads to self-reflection, regardless of whether or not but it isn't my place to tell someone that they have to watch something by someone they find reprehensible, nor is it someone else's place to tell me that I should feel guilty if I enjoy a work of art by a reprehensible person, or vice versa. (There are people whose works, even if they were brilliant, I would have no desire to watch, simply because they themselves are so vile to me that I couldn't separate the art from the artist. The phenomenon varies from person to person.)

*One exception being Polanski's Macbeth, which I have shown (in clips) to students. It is, IMO, a very good and important film adaptation, and I preface it by talking a bit about Polanski's crimes and the problematics of the relationship between art and artist. Given that the audience of Macbeth is placed in the uncomfortable position of sympathizing (perhaps) with a murderer and usurper, it serves as a fairly useful launchpad for discussing the play.
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:55 PM on November 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


All separations are exactly alike!!

I only mentioned four, comparing them as fundamental, whatever that means to you, but I see you take it to include all those things.
posted by Brian B. at 12:57 PM on November 22, 2014


Disorganized thinking as a rhetorical technique--all meaningful distinctions are irrelevant to some people. Art, policy, editing, censorship--they're all just the same thing, like everything else.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:59 PM on November 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Once again, time for Jill Sobule's thoughts.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:59 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


There seems to be a massive difference between continuing to think that the Cosby show was a great show and paying money today to applaud Cosby's live performance. At least to me.

To me, this gets towards the heart of the matter. Everyone is flawed, so all great (and not great) art is made by flawed people. I don't think we are duty bound to shun all tainted art. On the flip-side, I think it is pretty reasonable to shun people who have done things that are morally unacceptable to us.

Even putting money aside, I wouldn't want to be in a room with or applaud Bill Cosby the person.

I can like art that was created by people who have done bad things.

I don't think there is really a conflict between the two. I think people can make morally-informed choices, but nothing is perfect (artist/company/etc) and you can't boycott everything.
posted by snofoam at 1:00 PM on November 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yes, his assaults happened in the context of his fame -- he used his celebrity and power to afford him the opportunity to abuse a number of young women. But he didn't abuse them in order to produce his TV show, in the same way that a cow might be tortured in order to make it into food.

Cows are not generally tortured in order to make them into food; the torture and pain are generally incidental, the result of not considering cows as important or autonomous enough for their experience and suffering to matter.

Did you read the article nadawi linked to, which says that cosby groomed victims who were stand-ins during filming of the cosby show? No, he didn't abuse them in order to make the show, but their abuse was incidental to the process. They weren't important enough for their experience to matter.
posted by Lexica at 1:06 PM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


But he didn't abuse them in order to produce his TV show

he conducted his "acting exercises" with the cosby show stand-ins during breaks in filming. he didn't separate his art from his actions. the boss raped at least one of his employees - that's connected to his work.
posted by nadawi at 1:09 PM on November 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


Cows are not generally tortured in order to make them into food
Well, the forced feeding of various farm animals, etc., which goes into raising them for slaughter could certainly be considered "torture in order to make them into food."

But anyway, you're both absolutely right about Cosby's work being directly connected to his abuses, and yes I did read nadawi's article. It definitely casts a different light on the making of the show itself. As I said, my original comment was something of an admittedly pedantic nitpick about the usefulness/accuracy of a comparison between someone liking the Cosby Show (or not) and someone eating a food product (or not), and thus not necessarily all that significant within the larger context of a question like "is the Cosby Show still watchable or not?" Nor was it meant to be a stance one way or another on the question itself. So, like I said above, feel free to disregard it.
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:20 PM on November 22, 2014


The Florida thing is not only predictable, but inevitable in this backlash-of-automatic-support world. Think Chik-Fil-A and the Duck Dynasty guy. There's probably money to be made in Bill Cosby t-shirts and bumper stickers right now.
posted by ctmf at 1:24 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


read just about any comment section or board on the wider internet and you will find a depressing number of out and out cosby supporters (who mostly don't have a good handle of the accusations) saying that this is a witch hunt to discredit a prominent black man for trying to get young men to pull up their pants. he will have crowds of supporters lifting him up and eager to give him money for the rest of his life.
posted by nadawi at 1:29 PM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


it can be a very profitable discussion when it leads to self-reflection, regardless of whether or not but it isn't my place to tell someone that they have to watch something by someone they find reprehensible,

Whoops, that was supposed to be "regardless of whether or not someone decides to definitively change their opinion about a particular work of art, artist, but it isn't my place ..."
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:32 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


nadawi: And worse, many will be thinly veiled (or not so thinly veiled) expressions of sexism about "gold-digging sluts" and the like. Very gross.
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:33 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, for god's sake, talk about nitpicking and beanplating. Fine, use Shakespeare, or any other artist about whose life we don't know a whole lot. If you discovered Shakespeare was a rapist, would Hamlet be a bad play?

There is some irony with this because just this morning I was grappling with my growing belief that Shakespeare meant Hamlet to be an implied rapist - who got Ophelia pregnant, directly led to her attempt at abortion and subsequent suicide, murdered her father, and then pushed her brother aside with his self-involved grief - and I've been grappling what this different perspective on the play has given me on the profound selfishness expressed by Hamlet in the play, and the damage it wrought.

For me, it would alter what I thought he might be trying to say. One thing I've found with other similar situations (Ender's Game comes to mind - where the lesson I learned from it and love it for was exactly opposite the message Card was trying to send) is that knowing more about the perspectives and prejudices of the writer gives me a different perspective on their creation and what it evoked in me - and I consider that art doing what it is meant to, which is spark discovery in individuals and cultures.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:33 PM on November 22, 2014 [9 favorites]


Shakespeare meant Hamlet to be an implied rapist

Eh, there are all sorts of interpretations like this that claim to have found the "secret and true" meaning of the play -- Claudius is really Hamlet's father! Hamlet hates Polonius because P. helped Claudius to push H. aside and take the kingship! Gertrude helped murder Old Hamlet! Ophelia was sexually abused by her father and brother! Hamlet and Horatio were secret lovers! Certainly, there's enough material there to use any one of them as a possible baseline for a production, but to argue that one is the meaning that Shakespeare "intended" ignores the fact that these are plays to be brought to life anew each time, not mystery novels with clever puzzles to be solved. Every performance is a new interpretation, and there are an infinite number of good interpretations to be drawn from the text (that's not to say that every interpretation is good). Hell, we have three very different versions of the text to draw from, and even the so-called "Bad Quarto" (the first of the 3 to be published) has in recent years been reconsidered as a valid textual source, despite its many, many departures from the text that most of us know. ("To be or not to be? Ay, there's the rub") So, yes, there's certainly a way to read Hamlet as a rapist, or at least as a sexual aggressor, and certainly the man seems to have some "issues" related to sexuality, to say the least, but it's not "the meaning" of the play.
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:48 PM on November 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


One thing I've found with other similar situations (Ender's Game comes to mind - where the lesson I learned from it and love it for was exactly opposite the message Card was trying to send)

Good point. I would add that Card cannot best determine the meaning or interpretation of his fiction, for reasons related to his own subconscious mind and the fact that art is determined by consumers and their own subconscious minds.
posted by Brian B. at 2:09 PM on November 22, 2014


This news about Bill Cosby is really depressing because he meant so much to me as a child. But as a girl in the 1960s/70s, I had an early warning system for men I idolized: many of them were associated with the "Playboy Philosophy" and were happy hanging around the Playboy mansion with Hef and bunnies. I recognized that Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, Jack Douglas and many other men I watched on TV or whose books I read would not be interested in my hopes and dreams in life.
posted by acrasis at 2:20 PM on November 22, 2014 [19 favorites]


I also feel like I probably got the exact opposite meaning from Ender's Game than what Card had in mind. That said, while I'd kind of like to read the rest of the books in the series, I'm only going to do so if I buy them used, because he seems like an awful person, and I don't want to give him any royalties. But I think there's something rather empowering about reading a work against the grain, against "authorial intent" etc. There's lots of interesting stuff being done in feminist and post-colonial biblical scholarship that's just of this sort, reading texts that express fairly abhorrent ideas (from our perspective) in ways that challenge the explicit content.
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:35 PM on November 22, 2014


My dilemma is this: I am unsure if I should play my old Cosby standup LP's for my now 7 year old daughter. Because those albums - removed from the current Cosby context - are brilliantly funny observations of life that I would love to share with her.
Thoughts?
posted by drinkmaildave at 2:36 PM on November 22, 2014


i am not now, nor have i ever been, a huxtable.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 2:42 PM on November 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


Does he stand a chance at a indictment on any of these accusations?

No, the statute of limitations has long passed. I suppose if he has assaulted someone in the last few years (which is of course plausible) he could face indictment there, but all of the allegations I'm familiar with are from longer ago than that.
posted by Justinian at 2:50 PM on November 22, 2014


drinkmaildave, those routines were the things that made me love Cosby: it was so obvious to me at the age of eight that black and white people were the same, and I owe that to Cosby and his stories of him and his brother. On the other hand, maybe those routines will seem really "quaint" now, and your daughter won't feel the same things I did.
posted by acrasis at 2:51 PM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


My dilemma is this: I am unsure if I should play my old Cosby standup LP's for my now 7 year old daughter. Because those albums - removed from the current Cosby context - are brilliantly funny observations of life that I would love to share with her.

Memorize the bits word for word and present them to her as your own creation; it's ok: a good parent can plagiarize brilliant stuff.
posted by Renoroc at 3:07 PM on November 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


My dilemma is this: I am unsure if I should play my old Cosby standup LP's for my now 7 year old daughter. Because those albums - removed from the current Cosby context - are brilliantly funny observations of life that I would love to share with her.

Do you want to also explain to her that the person who is making her laugh raped women? I mean, if you want to use it as some sort of lesson that even people whom your parents like and who are charming can also be sexual predators, then I could see that, though it seems like a rather involved lesson for a seven-year-old.

I'm not trying to be sarcastic here. It seems like you're either going to have to explain the context now, which is a bit much given her age, or you're going to have to explain it later, at which point you're also going to have to explain why you not only didn't explain it at first but why you chose to expose her without explaining it, or you're going to not explain and have to deal with her learning about it later, at which point you're still going to have to explain why you not only never explained it but why you chose to expose her without explaining it.
posted by jaguar at 3:09 PM on November 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


According to The Wrap, the accusers "carry the faint aroma of deceit, selective memory, and blind ambition". Pack it up, everyone. There's a faint aroma.
posted by brundlefly at 3:16 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


No, the statute of limitations has long passed. I suppose if he has assaulted someone in the last few years (which is of course plausible) he could face indictment there, but all of the allegations I'm familiar with are from longer ago than that.

According to a link in the University of Virgina gang rape fpp, Virginia has no statute of limitations on felonies, so if Cosby ever raped anyone in Virginia, and she (or they, now that we know he's done this a lot) decides to press charges...
posted by rtha at 3:16 PM on November 22, 2014


Because, I mean, you know now. You know he's a serial rapist. You can't pretend you don't have that knowledge.
posted by jaguar at 3:17 PM on November 22, 2014


drinkmaildave, my answer to your question is "no." Young children learn automatically by creating webs of context, even when we do not deliberately intend them to form certain associations. That's how they learn language even if their parents are crappy communicators. That's how they do what we do and not what we say. And so, my feeling is, if you're playing Cosby's comedy with admiration or pleasure, then at least part of your daughter's psyche is going to interpret that as legitimizing him as a person, impressing upon her without words that what he did was not so bad. Even if you try to explain it to her, using this as a lesson that the person does not equal the art, in my opinion a seven year old is not nearly emotionally mature enough to make that distinction, and it could just create a kind of cognitive dissonance within her that she's not prepared to deal with.

I get the concept of separating the artist from the art, but I don't believe it applies here. Cosby is still alive. He's not an historical artifact of a flawed hero. He's a living breathing sex predator who has not atoned in any way for his crimes, and may never be brought to justice. Not to mention, he was raping while he was making all that "art." His art actively facilitated his rape because he used his fame and reputation as a way to disarm his victims' natural defenses, and as a way to secure their silence. As Michelle Hurd informs us, he himself didn't separate his art from his crimes, so why should we? Someone brought up Shakespeare. Imagine if it turned out that Shakespeare was using the Globe Theater as a rape den, that his magnificent playwriting was all designed to attract beautiful young men as his actors, later to treat them in unspeakable ways. That's what this is like, except that even at his best, Cosby is no Shakespeare.

And so, we can't prosecute him, but what we can do is make him a social pariah, take away from him any pride he has left by dishonoring his past accomplishments. That's one thing #CosbyMeme worked towards.

Parenthetically, many people on social media seem to be upset that he's not defending himself. Why? My feeling is, yes, please, shut the hell up. The only words I ever want to hear come out of his mouth are, "I confess."
posted by xigxag at 3:19 PM on November 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


According to The Wrap, the accusers "carry the faint aroma of deceit, selective memory, and blind ambition".

an article that was linked in the ghomeshi thread that i think pertains here as well - what kind of woman won't report sexual assault. it's telling and predictable that cosby drank with (maybe smoked weed with) and drugged his victims - it not only gets them off guard, seemingly fulfills some kind of fetish, and renders their memories hazy - it also acts as protection against them going to the cops because as women we all know that getting inebriated in any way with someone who later rapes us renders our lack of consent unimportant in the eyes of society. he was/is horrifyingly skilled at finding victims people won't believe or care about.
posted by nadawi at 3:27 PM on November 22, 2014 [15 favorites]


The CBC's Day 6 covered this in their most recent episode with both an interview with Barbara Bowman, one of the victims, but also spending a fair amount of time discussing media ethics with Kelly McBride from Poynter.

I'm not sure that's the first time I've heard a full, open discussion in the news about just how strongly our culture is biased towards finding excuses to dismiss or blame rape victims but it was depressing to realize how surprised I was when the conversation didn't stop before that point.
posted by adamsc at 3:42 PM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


At a ripe old age, I was raped by a Cosby-like person in my community.
One strange thing to me was the use of drugs: after the fact, I was really confused that I didn't remember stuff. Yes, I had had more than one beer, but nothing I wasn't used to. At first, I only blamed myself, but piles of evidence emerged, not least from the bar we were at, and I realized I had been drugged and raped.
I did not report this to the police, because the rapist was really famous, and I liked his work, and it seemed at the time that everyone found it OK (I later discovered that the barkeepers were angry and worried and would have helped me).
posted by mumimor at 3:51 PM on November 22, 2014 [10 favorites]


That Buzzfeed article's "18 Moments That Led To Bill Cosby’s Stunning Downfall" should just be a list of each of the victims.

Buzzfeed has you covered on that, too: Here Are All The Women Who Have Accused Bill Cosby of Sexual Assault
posted by jonp72 at 4:06 PM on November 22, 2014


//Perhaps a derail, but I think you are wrong: By modern standards, a great many men from any culture of the past would qualify as rapists. Obviously the situation is not completely analogous, but knowing this does both influence our reading of their work and not make it automatically worthless.Perhaps a derail, but I think you are wrong: By modern standards, a great many men from any culture of the past would qualify as rapists. Obviously the situation is not completely analogous, but knowing this does both influence our reading of their work and not make it automatically worthless.

Who do you have in mind? Ezra Pound? PG Wodehouse?
posted by Nevin at 4:13 PM on November 22, 2014


The unique (ish) thing about the Cosby case is that the fact that his fame enabled his crimes basically makes us all unwittingly aiders and abetters.

Hypothesizing Shakespeare or Homer or some other dead artist as a rapist doesn't completely line up, although I think it's useful to talk about how much the artist (or his public persona) informs the art. A painter could paint a pretty picture just the same as a comedian could craft a good joke, and the work could stand on its own independent of who the painter or comedian is or was.

But when the execution of the art (the act of painting, or the act of telling the joke) depends on who the artist is, the situation changes. Monet's waterlilies wouldn't be the same had he not been losing his eyesight during the process of painting them, and there are Cosby bits that just wouldn't work if it had been some other comedian telling the joke. Once your perception of the artist affects the appreciation of the piece of art, then having that perception drastically altered (from lovable paternal figure to serial rapist) obviously changes the experience. I just don't see how you can argue that it shouldn't; though I do agree there exist cases where it shouldn't, this isn't one of them.
posted by axiom at 4:15 PM on November 22, 2014


I wonder if this will cause people to also revisit their attitudes towards other cases of serial abuse-gone-mostly-ignored, such as Michael Jackson.
posted by stp123 at 4:29 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think people in general really need to get it in their heads that people with fame and power (likability and charm) are 1) more likely to get vulnerable people alone and 2) people will defend based on the public persona. It is a shield and a extremely effective one. We have seen it with priests, we see it in other churches, movie stars, sports stars and whatnot even down local level. Their abilities to wow, calm or comfort people allow them a way to commit crimes undetected.

People who have good qualities can make a blanket of protection through personal experiences with others that were not bad.

Just like parental abusers of children can educate them and give them cars on their 16th birthday.

It is horrifing. It rattles trust within community relationships. Ultimately Cosby or Cliff is a guy most of us would have defended at somepoint. But now and maybe part of it is his fame that even allowed victims to connect with each other do we have a clear picture. People in local communities may never be able to rally around to accuse the people we trust because they are the PTA leader or the teenage football star or a teacher, coach or fireman of the year.
posted by AlexiaSky at 4:51 PM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


That whole "public persona" thing is quite problematic where popular celebrities are concerned. It's tough to avoid persona building because people seem to expect it from artists now. It'd be nice if artists could just be regular people, too, wouldn't it?
posted by saulgoodman at 4:57 PM on November 22, 2014


That sounds good but even when artists or celebrities appear to be regular folks they are accused of a calculated and cynical use of a "regular folks" persona.
posted by Justinian at 5:01 PM on November 22, 2014


I'm not sure that I'd say that the allegations around Michael Jackson went "mostly ignored." He was accused in 1993, again in 2003, (and apparently, another posthumous lawsuit just started this year!), extensively investigated by numerous legal agencies, and went to trial. And unlike in Cosby's situation, where the rumors were basically squashed for decades and pretty much completely unknown to the mainstream until now, Jackson was the butt of jokes and accusations all throughout the popular media for almost 20 years. Now, I'm not saying the guy was innocent -- honestly, the cases are so muddy and fucked up that I think it's impossible to ever know exactly what happened. But I think that regardless of his guilt or innocence, MJ's situation was very, very different from what we're seeing with Cosby. And personally, I'm way more comfortable listening to MJ's music and still considering him a genius as a perform -- even if he were to be definitively proven a child molester -- than I am with continuing to listen to or watch Cosby. Perhaps that's because as a musician, Jackson's personality is not as integrally tied to his work as Cosby's is, in my humble opinion.
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:06 PM on November 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


To say "what if Shakespeare had been a rapist?" Or "what about Homer?" seems to me to be an absolutely idiotic thing to say.

i'm not sure about rapists, but there's a long list of writers whose work is considered worthy, but whose beliefs or actions are pretty damned awful

ezra pound - fascist, anti-semite and some of his work expresses that

celine - fascist, anti-semite and some of his work expresses that

jack kerouac - irresponsible jerk who disowned his own daughter, and, from the evidence of his own books, could be awfully unconcerned about people and act awfully much like a frat-boy jock

william s burroughs - he shot his wife and skipped mexico to avoid prosecution

by the way, i'm not so sure i agree with the statement that separating the artist from his work is an act of commoditization of the works of the artist - no, it's a commoditization of the artist, who becomes a star, a celebrity, a persona - and when it happens to someone like woody allen, or michael jackson, or bill cosby, and then we discover nasty things about them, it creates cognitive dissonance - how can #great artist who did these great things be also #big asshole who rapes?

the problem isn't the art, it's the pedestal
posted by pyramid termite at 5:11 PM on November 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


I think there is a valid observation that a disproportionate number of black celebrities have lived to see their reputations brought down, or at least greatly tarnished. Think Michael Jackson, OJ Simpson, James Brown, Whitney Houston - some important names in twentieth century cultural history.

I can't necessarily speak for James Brown, but for at least three out of the four African-American celebrities you have named (Michael Jackson, OJ Simpson, Whitney Houston), they had a public facade that was covering up a deep dark secret. For Michael Jackson, he was almost definitely beaten by his father Joe Jackson, and it's likely he was sexually molested by either his father or someone else as a child. Add to this that Michael Jackson became hugely famous by the time he was only 11 years old, singing mildly suggestive songs about "Teacher's gonna show you/how to get an A," and things that looked really innocent in 1969 or 1970 could take on more ominous overtones now. For OJ Simpson, I remember how he was viewed by white people in the 1970s and 1980s as extremely affable and nonthreatening, but as it turned out, this public persona was hiding a long history as a domestic abuser. As for Whitney Houston, most of the coverage of her death focused on her abuse of alcohol and drugs, but there's a very credible theory that her alcohol and drug abuse was her way of coping with being in the closet as a lesbian, especially given that her gospel singer mother Cissy Houston would have disapproved. In other words, what you have is a long line of black celebrities being rewarded tremendously for putting up a facade of respectability before the world, but suffering painfully behind that facade.
posted by jonp72 at 5:17 PM on November 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


by the way, i was more into the bundys than the huxtables
posted by pyramid termite at 5:17 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


i am very uncomfortable with a conversation that equates drug addiction with the abuse of women and children.
posted by nadawi at 5:24 PM on November 22, 2014 [18 favorites]


I find that it doesn't hurt the art, but it does poison my regard for the creator and makes me not want to experience the art anymore.

Yeah, this. People aren't saying that Cosby's art is no longer valid (at least that's not what I feel); it's that one's feeling when experiencing his art is different; it's difficult to enjoy. It's not a moralistic judgment but a personal one. The fact that he was "America's dad", had a family show, and frequently talked about the importance of family and certain values only adds to that.

I don't feel any different about his talent. But currently seeing his face makes me a bit nauseated, and I'd rather not. I also wouldn't want to give him any more money by supporting his shows, etc.

Yes, it would be easier to enjoy Shakespeare's or Homer's art if I found out today that they were horrible people, because I am very much removed from their lives and times. It's also no longer possible to support them as they are no longer alive. But as a kid who group up in the 80's, Bill Cosby was very much a part of my childhood and I can't just separate his work from him.
posted by bearette at 5:25 PM on November 22, 2014


nadawi: to what are you referring?
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:28 PM on November 22, 2014


Everyone has a public persona. If it use it to hide and protect from accusations is a different story. But regular folks can and do use a public persona to gain support and dismiss allegations of crimes.

What Cosby did, being a funny family man who had strong community values but does terrible things in secret, is something played across America and other places every day.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:32 PM on November 22, 2014


i'm referring to any suggestion that houston's addiction issues can be discussed in the same breath as abusers like oj simpson and bill cosby - especially gross with her own history as a victim of abuse.
posted by nadawi at 5:33 PM on November 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


Yep, Justinian--that's the rub. Hell, I'd argue people are more prone to that kind of skepticism among their own social peers now even.

Celebrity culture greatly expands/reinforces the power of persona-making.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:34 PM on November 22, 2014


Carla Ferrigno! Psychotherapist and personal trainer and wife of one of the iconic Hollywood strongmen - about as emotionally and physically strong and secure and credible a woman as you'll ever meet - and even she was afraid to come forward until now.

I think hearing her story sent me from "But I love Fat Albert and Picture Pages, I'm conflicted..." to "Well, to hell with that guy." I'm also in awe of her strength and determination in dealing with the creep. Bravo!
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:35 PM on November 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


nadawi: I don't think he was comparing them in the sense of equating her drug addiction on a moral level to the actions of Simpson and Cosby. I think the point was that, like Cosby and Simpson (and Michael Jackson), Houston had a public persona that did not match the dark reality of her life. For Cosby and Simpson (and perhaps Jackson), the public persona hid horrible abuse and violence of others; in Houston's case (and definitely also Jackson's), it hid her own trauma and suffering.
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:41 PM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


i don't need you to explain the first or second comment to me. i'm able to read them. i think in any way equating the "dark reality" of being a victim who has never been accused of abuse to the "dark reality" of horrible abuses against women and children is fucked up and it makes me uncomfortable. people can choose who to use for their examples. maybe in death in a place as progressive as metafilter we can skip the "no angel" treatment of whitney houston and not line her up next to abusive men as if the slipping of their personas are at all on par with each other.
posted by nadawi at 5:53 PM on November 22, 2014 [18 favorites]


i'm referring to any suggestion that houston's addiction issues can be discussed in the same breath as abusers like oj simpson and bill cosby - especially gross with her own history as a victim of abuse.

I am not equating addiction with rape. What I am doing, however, is talking about how the insistence on putting up a false facade of respectability can do tremendous psychological damage, regardless of whether somebody was more in a victim role (Whitney Houston) or a victimizer (Bill Cosby, OJ Simspon). Bear in mind also that Bill Cosby was beaten repeatedly by his alcoholic father and that he has used his comedy routines to normalize corporal punishment. In addition, a high percentage of serial rapists have been abused themselves. One can be both hiding a deep dark secret of victimization, while being a victimizer yourself.
posted by jonp72 at 6:08 PM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


No. Being abused does not excuse abuse, and equating victims with perpetrators is not ok.

Some things are worse than others. Adults who hurt other people have more moral culpability than adults who hurt themselves. Lumping them all together is a way of refusing to hold abusers accountable. Stop it.
posted by jaguar at 6:10 PM on November 22, 2014 [9 favorites]


i also don't need the cycle of abuse explained to me. as a survivor of sexual assault in a family full of abusers who were likely also abused - i think there needs to a big bright light between people who react to abuse by abusing others and those who don't. whatever your intentions were, i remain uncomfortable with the comparison.
posted by nadawi at 6:11 PM on November 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


I agree with nadawi. Whitney Houston does not belong in any list that also includes Bill Cosby and O.J. Simpson.
posted by orange swan at 6:15 PM on November 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


That Buzzfeed article's "18 Moments That Led To Bill Cosby’s Stunning Downfall" should just be a list of each of the victims.

>>Buzzfeed has you covered on that, too: Here Are All The Women Who Have Accused Bill Cosby of Sexual Assault


That kind of goes back to my point about erasing the victims, or of making the entire situation more about Cosby's fans than the women he raped. The "moments that led to his downfall" were not those created by journalists uncovering stories; they were when he chose to rape his victims.
posted by jaguar at 6:28 PM on November 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Uh, ok sorry nadawi. Didn't mean to set you off, wasn't trying to imply you were stupid. I thought we were engaged in a discussion, I was merely trying to continue that, no need to bite my head off.
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:36 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


This makes me kind of sad.

The linked post is about how we, as a culture, are to react or process the idea that someone who was held up as some sort of paragon, especially for those of us who grew up with The Cosby Show specifically, can do or be the polar opposite of whatever that paragon was supposed to be.

It's strange, alienating and disappointing to realize that approaching the world with anything less than complete cynicism is a fool's gambit. That even as an adult, the safest bet is to believe in no one and nothing. That's what I think the post was about.

I'm no huge fan of Bill Cosby. But I do know that once my parents moved us to rural America my most frequent exposure to black people was The Cosby Show and A Different World. The Cosby Show, not Bill Cosby, but the show itself laid a lot of the groundwork that turned me away from the casual and very present racism that I grew up with. So, Bill Cosby, or at least an image of him, is very much linked with one of the factors which make me believe that I am, fundamentally, a good person.

So what does it say about me that my idea of myself as a good person is linked with someone who allegedly rapes women? I have no idea. It's not a plus. It's not one for the win column.

What starts to emerge from the discussion is a series of coping strategies for reconciling that dissonance. An artist is not their art or vice versa. What led to this behavior? How does this relate to racial politics?

People start discussing the topic in the means most readily available to them. That's how people process. And in this forum where people are free to indulge their separate processing methods, the only consensus is that everyone else is processing it wrong. And that makes me really sad.

Metafilter: We put the Meta back into everything. And the narcissism is astounding.
posted by SinisterPurpose at 6:41 PM on November 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


It can be helpful in these discussions to remember that there are generally a great many survivors of abuse in the discussion, and that such discussions are not merely academic exercises.
posted by jaguar at 6:43 PM on November 22, 2014 [10 favorites]


(My comment was a response to Saxon Kane, not SinisterPurpose. That's what I get for being too lazy to copy and paste the comment to which I was responding.)
posted by jaguar at 6:44 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm not exactly sure what I said that was so offensive to anyone who may be a survivor of abuse. I offered my interpretation of jonp72's comment, an interpretation that I thought would diffuse a potentially upsetting misreading (misreading in my opinion, that is) of it. I thought I did it in a fairly non-offensive way, prefacing my reading of the comment with "I think" -- I wasn't trying to "explain" it to anyone, just contribute to the conversation in a positive way by fostering understanding between all participants by providing an alternate perspective. (And incidentally, I'm not entirely sure why you feel like you can assume that for me the discussion is a "merely academic exercise" when you don't know anything about my personal experience, and I haven't said anything about it.) I feel like, as far as I can tell, nadawi, jonp72, and myself are all basically on the same side of this issue, and nobody is trying to excuse any crimes by any abusers -- again, at least as far as I can tell -- but rather just bring up other fairly important subjects related to the issue at hand. Obviously it touched a nerve, so I guess I fucked up and misspoke. Since that's the case, I'll just apologize for any offense and politely bow out of the thread.
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:07 PM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


replace "may be a survivor of abuse" with "is a survivor of abuse"
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:09 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


OK, last comment for reals: my apologies for getting defensive about nadawi's comment to me. It just struck me initially as a bit, I don't know, snarky I guess, so I responded with "don't bite my head off." So, sorry about that. Good night and good luck to all.
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:11 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


What starts to emerge from the discussion is a series of coping strategies for reconciling that dissonance. An artist is not their art or vice versa.

The dissonance doesn't exist for people who don't fawn over artists and needlessly elevate them, but who instead judge the art itself. This idea would be impossible to understand if someone can't separate the artist, because they are admitting they don't judge art from taste, but consume it from the imagined stature of the artist. That's how Cosby became famous. He's the narcissist. Likewise, bad art doesn't automatically come from bad people, etc. More evidence of this is the impulse to punish dozens of writers, directors and actors who performed with him from a boycott, because people somehow think it was only Cosby doing it. Adoring the artist is the source of the cognitive dissonance that would deny his guilt, or his art.
posted by Brian B. at 7:16 PM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Whether Roman Polanski's crimes should influence your appreciation of Rosemary's Baby seems like a very different subject than whether Bill Cosby's crimes should affect the way he is treated as a public figure and the opportunities he's offered within his profession from now on. That seems like a pretty easy one to me! It's not even quite the same as whether you should go see new Polanski movies, because Roman Polanski's public role these days is pretty much just a guy who makes movies, whereas Cosby's is a lot more than that. As far as his past work goes - well there's no dismissing his influence and there are routines that I will find funny forever but as people are saying, there's a lot that relies on a persona that's directly undermined by the apparent reality.
posted by atoxyl at 7:21 PM on November 22, 2014


Their abilities to wow, calm or comfort people allow them a way to commit crimes undetected.

This is what I'm choosing to take away from all of this - a desire to not let people get away with crimes due to their status, and a dedication to verbalizing that even very important people should be held responsible for abusing other people. Added into that is a need to myself try to be completely aboveboard when I am the person in power, and to validate and support people who have been disempowered.

Conflating people who have been disempowered and used culturally judged coping mechanisms with people who abuse other people really doesn't help with addressing issues of crimes and violence against others, as well. There is a marked difference between people who are judged for behavior that largely only harms themselves, and people who are judged for abusing others, and that should be made very clear when addressing these problems.

There are patterns to how powerful people use their power to turn other people into objects they can use and abuse. Those patterns need to be identified and disrupted.
posted by Deoridhe at 7:23 PM on November 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


The dissonance doesn't exist for people who don't fawn over artists and needlessly elevate them, but who instead judge the art itself. This idea would be impossible to understand if someone can't separate the artist, because they are admitting they don't judge art from taste, but consume it from the imagined stature of the artist.

This is an incredibly condescending thing to say. Why do you get to decide how people value art and artists?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:23 PM on November 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


This idea would be impossible to understand if someone can't separate the artist, because they are admitting they don't judge art from taste, but consume it from the imagined stature of the artist.

Form my perspective, separating the artist from the art is a denial of reality as one creates the other, and thus they are inexorably linked.
posted by Deoridhe at 7:26 PM on November 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


separating the artist from the art is a denial of reality as one creates the other,

Then if Cosby was somehow a great artist to some, this could lead them to deny the reality of his crimes.

Why do you get to decide how people value art and artists?

I get to decide for myself anything I choose to decide for myself.
posted by Brian B. at 7:33 PM on November 22, 2014


This idea would be impossible to understand if someone can't separate the artist, because they are admitting they don't judge art from taste, but consume it from the imagined stature of the artist.

Yeah, no. If you could stop with the "I am the only person who can properly judge art because I am objective" thing that would be great. Context matters, and one cannot divorce the creation from the creator because it is one's very personality that one pours into one's art. I do judge art from taste, whatever that means; there are things I like and things I don't and the stature of the artist in question is pretty much only relevant inasmuch as what is like to end up in front of my eyeballs, and "I have/n't liked them in the past, so I stand a good chance of (not) liking them now."

Then if Cosby was somehow a great artist to some, this could lead them to deny the reality of his crimes.

You mean like people are already doing.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:41 PM on November 22, 2014


Context matters, and one cannot divorce the creation from the creator because it is one's very personality that one pours into one's art.

It would be easier to judge someone's children for the sins of the parent with such reasoning. And if the guy who discovered antibiotics was a molester, only a fool would suffer the infections as a result of avoiding them. I think the analogy applies to anything produced for good, because if we're suppressing any good, we can't credit it as good. And to explain Cosby's influence, what if he did and said everything as an inner way to redeem himself, to publicly compensate for his private horrors? It doesn't excuse any crime, but it can't convict him either. The shows he created were, as so many point out, not related to the criminal side of his personality, and theories that insist otherwise are merely giving evidence of his innocence.
posted by Brian B. at 7:51 PM on November 22, 2014


It would be easier to judge someone's children for the sins of the parent with such reasoning.

Umm.. no. By definition, art is personal. I can't write the sonnet you would write because I am not you. I might be able to do a fair approximation, but no.

And if the guy who discovered antibiotics was a molester, only a fool would suffer the infections as a result of avoiding them.

Antibiotics are necessary--and if you really want to go there, a lot of what we know about e.g. hypothermia came directly from the Nazi camps--whereas standup comedy is not.

Context matters, no matter how much you may claim it doesn't. Could you please stop with the "therefore you are wrong and what you are saying proves you wrong" nonsense? It's poisonous to discussion. The shows he created provided him with easy access to victims, access which his celebrity status helped with. Insisting on that is the exact opposite of giving evidence of his innocence. (There isn't any evidence of his innocence, FYI. There is lots of evidence for his guilt. Something tells me you don't think he's guilty.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:59 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Bill Cosby’s legacy, recast: Accusers speak in detail about sexual-assault allegations
Sixteen women have publicly stated that Cosby, now 77, sexually assaulted them, with 12 saying he drugged them first and another saying he tried to drug her. The Washington Post has interviewed five of those women, including a former Playboy Playmate who has never spoken publicly about her allegations. The women agreed to speak on the record and to have their identities revealed. The Post also has reviewed court records that shed light on the accusations of a former director of women’s basketball operations at Temple University who assembled 13 “Jane Doe” accusers in 2005 to testify on her behalf about their allegations against Cosby.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:11 PM on November 22, 2014 [9 favorites]


Brian B.: " It would be easier to judge someone's children for the sins of the parent with such reasoning. And if the guy who discovered antibiotics was a molester, only a fool would suffer the infections as a result of avoiding them. I think the analogy applies to anything produced for good, because if we're suppressing any good, we can't credit it as good. And to explain Cosby's influence, what if he did and said everything as an inner way to redeem himself, to publicly compensate for his private horrors? It doesn't excuse any crime, but it can't convict him either. The shows he created were, as so many point out, not related to the criminal side of his personality, and theories that insist otherwise are merely giving evidence of his innocence."

This is almost completely incoherent.
posted by Lexica at 9:03 PM on November 22, 2014 [12 favorites]


I have done this thing before, where I wrestle with whether I can appreciate the art of a profoundly flawed person, and I have come down on varying sides in the past.

From here on out, I know I will not be able to watch The Cosby Show, or listen to any of Cosby’s old albums, and I can’t articulate a reason why, except to say it will creep me out. No doubt I’ll end up drawing the opposite conclusion with someone else who is later revealed to be a horrible person, and if that means I’m a hypocrite, then so be it. We humans appreciate works of art in such personal ways that I feel it would be fruitless to distill this sort of thing into flowchart logic.

Put another way, if you want to keep your Cosby Show DVDs, that’s fine. I won’t make you explain your decision if you won’t make me explain mine.
posted by savetheclocktower at 9:21 PM on November 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


"william s burroughs - he shot his wife and skipped mexico to avoid prosecution"

no. She was killed in Mexico and he fled to many countries. It was a horrible mistake. Like how bill used to score Dex for a pregnant Joan.

I wonder what bill would thought of this...on second thought, no.
posted by clavdivs at 10:13 PM on November 22, 2014


I'll never be able to watch any of Cosby's work again. It's sad. And I'm sad for how this will, I assume, cost all the good people involved in those shows. If they receive any money for reruns, this will have a huge effect on their earning power. But I will still boycott to keep Cosby out of view.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:22 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


He received a standing ovation at a show in Florida last night. I can't even.
Wait a second. Maybe not you, but a fair few people on MeFi have argued that the behaviour of musicians, artists, and actors is not relevent to their enjoyment of their music, art, or movies.

Yet somehow this time it's different?


Personally, I see a distinction between being a marginal consumer of one more copy of something that already exists in a fixed form (e.g., a book, movie, album, or painting) vs. attending a live performance. And an even bigger difference between consuming a copy of a preexisting work vs. applauding the creator at a live performance.

For me, there are some people whose work I can enjoy on its own merits even if I don't like them personally -- but that doesn't mean that I ever want to be in the same room as them.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:01 AM on November 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


Cosby directly benefits when one purchases a Cosby product. A Cosby purchase is a purchase that supports a rapist. It communicates to Cosby, "Hey, it's cool. Your behaviour is less important than my entertainment."
posted by five fresh fish at 3:53 AM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


According to The Wrap, the accusers "carry the faint aroma of deceit, selective memory, and blind ambition"

The author of that article has the kind of moustache that carries the strong aroma of 1970s rape culture.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:57 AM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


The notion that art can be separated from artist is a structuralist, aestheticist philosophy, and I can appreciate it from that angle. Cosby's standup routines are aesthetic works of comedy unto themselves, and their value holds regardless of outside influence. From a structuralist standpoint, you could argue that his jokes, his routines, are objects in and of themselves, which can be evaluated regardless of what their creator is outside the realm of the joke.

The flaw, I think, in that line of argumentation is that Cosby's work draws from outside material — his routines are about his life, his childhood, his relationship to people he knows, and a part of their aesthetic is to create either a sense of nostalgia or a portrait of contemporary society. This draws upon Cosby's own life and his perspective on these things, and you can't separate them quite as easily from the man himself. You can still do it, but it's not as black-and-white as it would be if, say, Shakespeare were a rapist.

Let me take the example of Orson Scott Card, another (far less) problematic artist, whose works I know exceedingly well. Though Card's notions of morality are derived from the Mormon church that raised him, I would argue that many of his works can be read and appreciated despite his political weirdness. However, there are points at which Card attempts to create a persuasive argument about human nature that are so reflective of his political worldview that, once you know about his ugliness, those arguments both lose all merit and become actively unpleasant to deal with.

The extent to which that happens varies. In one of the last two books in the Ender quartet, a character makes an argument that monogamous heterosexual relationships are the proven best way to ensure that society remains stable. Okay, whatever: it's a character perspective, and maybe it's wrong, but it's a throwaway line and it's not the creepiest thing ever. In the companion Bean quartet, however, one character is a gay scientist who marries a wife and has kids because he is completely convinced that having biological children is the only way for a life to have meaning — and he's both a geneticist and only gay character in the book, so his perspective is being presented as somewhat incontrovertible. The chapters in which he appears get creepier and creepier when you know what Card was writing in newspaper columns at the time.

By the time you get to a character like Rebecca in Enchanted, a cardboard cutout of an Evil Feminist who wants to emasculate her fiancé and deprive him of happiness because her college professors taught her that this is what men deserve — holy Jesus, I wish that I was making that descriptor up — you have an instance of writing which, okay, maybe if you knew nothing about Card, you could convince yourself that this was some deeper character study that just happened to look like a bad reading of feminism on one level. But once you know? There's no way to think of her character as anything but an ugly, ugly political attack, plain and simple. It's really a shame, because Enchantment is one of my favorite Card works, but it's so mired in his weird sexual politics that the couple of Rebecca chapters alone essentially ruin the rest of the novel. So screw you, Card.

I don't think that Card's shittiness as a human being entirely negates his value as a writer — he wrote some brilliant works, in my opinion, some of which escape being tarred by his own life's brush entirely (again in my opinion). But at times it definitely does. And all that guy's been is a homophobic, sexist prick! Bill Cosby is a rapist. WAY different scale of awfulness and depravity. I can easily see why, for some people, his being a rapist would be a one-way ticket to "nope nuh-uh never again". To make things even trickier, a good deal of his routines rely upon Cosby as a character, and if you believe that the character itself has been damaged beyond repair, then welp! That's all, folks!

I am still figuring out where I stand on Cosby's works. He was my favorite stand-up comic, bar none, till I was ten or so. His routines on tonsils, Noah, and go-karts remain among my favorite bits of comedy of all time. To what extent does his being a rapist modify how I feel about his retellings of Bible stories, or his tales of childhood shenanigans? I have no idea. More than I wish, from a purely greedy standpoint, yet I doubt I'll be able to trick myself into being comfortable with his material any time soon.

My personal take, perhaps, is that we live in a world filled with fucking fantastic comedy. If I want to laugh, I have a dozen other highly-vetted comedians to check out who haven't got the same problems with human monstrosity. I loved Cosby as a child, but I loved Brian Regan too, and maybe that'll be enough to sate my childhood nostalgia for stand-up. Perhaps one day I'll get a real hankering for the early Cosby stuff, and then I'll give it a listen and see how much I can handle before it leaves me disquieted, same as I'm sure will happen with Woody Allen's wonderful essays. In the meantime, however, there's art for me to appreciate which isn't half as problematic for me to delve into, so I'll stick with that and enjoy the abundance which gives me the ability to skip the works of moral scum, at least for the time being.

(Regardless of how I end up feeling after such a hypothetical comedy re-listen, of course, I think that other people have the right to make up their own minds about such things, because we all have the right to draw the line wherever we feel like drawing them, and that's a good thing. I find Katy Perry entirely reprehensible, and make an effort not to hear any of her songs on any occasion — and I'll allow people the privilege of being reeeeeeally turned off by a guy's raping two dozen women if I get to nurse my petty grudges alongside them. Subjectivity in art is a good thing even when it doesn't concern as sensible a subject as "does Bill Cosby's being a rapist make him problematic as an artist?", the answer to which of course is no shit.)
posted by rorgy at 5:13 AM on November 23, 2014 [10 favorites]


For me, all this sentimental "but I loved his comedy" stuff is meaningless. I grew up with Cosby too, and I always thought his comedy was shallow, racist crap.

I mean come on. He's of the same generation as Richard Pryor. One of them was a great artist, whose tragic flaws don't diminish the power of his work.

The other was Bill Cosby, meh. He specialized in playing a black guy white people could love. Such art.
posted by spitbull at 5:24 AM on November 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


Let's not turn this into a discussion about Cosby's merits as an artist.
posted by rorgy at 5:27 AM on November 23, 2014


WaPo: Bill Cosby's Legacy, Recast.

The educator who holds that endowed chair at Spelman predicted in an interview that the sexual-assault allegations ultimately would not define Cosby. “I’m not worried about being the Cosby chair,” said Aku Kadogo, Spelman’s Cosby Endowed Professor in the Arts. “It’s not a worry to me. It’s a difficult time for him. But it ain’t the end of the world. If Hillary can run for president — she went through all that rigmarole. People forget easily.”
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 5:45 AM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I see the working definition of "structuralist" used here bears only the most tenuous relation to the one us old dipsticks had to absorb, but more fool us, with our stupid anthropology and linguistics. I suppose that it's worth a toothpick an an olive that the ancient word has staggered back into contemporary discourse, probably running over some sort of "deconstruction" revival in its way. (Give it 10 years, it'll be back advertising some stupid fashion trend again.)

I'm not necessarily against this, it's just how the market moves, and good luck selling it, but these usages are a kilometre wide and a millimetre deep. It's not like an idea is not worth a damn if it ain't worth a buck, either.
posted by Wolof at 6:00 AM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


"If Hillary can run for president — she went through all that rigmarole. People forget easily."

What the what?!
posted by jferg at 6:07 AM on November 23, 2014 [21 favorites]


The other was Bill Cosby, meh. He specialized in playing a black guy white people could love. Such art.

This is why it is worth arguing, he isn't a Woody or Roman so the principle of it is laid bare. There is little dissent in pegging Cosby's popularity as middle-brow smug boredom for kids, which means it was likely taken at face value during a vapid time in American history when fake families were promoted for the masses to love, despite being a playboy in Hollywood. Now that his star has fallen, people wash their hands of it, from a sense of betrayal. The problem is that the art was packaged for these suddenly angry critics to dream and fantasize in, it's their fake life, not Cosby's. The other problem is that Cosby's charm as a dad is the same charm as a rapist, so they feel violated. Bottom line is that if the art is edgy, the artist has more latitude in behavior because people don't expect him or her to be a saint. In Cosby's case, many expected him to be a perfect person because he plays one on TV. Carrol O'Connor, as Archie Bunker, claims that he spent his later life greeting people in airports being congratulated for being their conservative mascot, only to remind them that he was mocking them.
posted by Brian B. at 8:26 AM on November 23, 2014


The Florida thing is not only predictable, but inevitable in this backlash-of-automatic-support world. Think Chik-Fil-A and the Duck Dynasty guy.

Today's Los Angeles Times piece on the Florida performance provides some depressing evidence for that view.
As they mingled over barbecue and cocktails in a kind of tailgate atmosphere before the show, ticket holders spoke of their adoration for Cosby. Many of them saw the comedian as the victim of a coterie of hustlers, or worse.

“I think what you have is a lot of people on the left who don’t like him,” said Ray Harker, who owns an air conditioning and heating business in the nearby town of Grant and came out to the show with his wife Eleanora, who nodded in agreement with much of what her husband said. “They don’t like what he says about black people taking more responsibility, and this is their chance to beat up on him," Harker, who is white, added.
I don't have anyway near the sociological sophistication to unpack everything that's going on here, but it's not hard to see why cognitive dissonance would kick in for conservative whites when, in their mind, the Good Negro is under attack.
posted by Creosote at 8:27 AM on November 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


Back in junior high, my music teacher would let some of us stay after class and listen to Bill Cosby records. We all laughed ourselves sick at "Chicken Heart" and "Go Karts." It is hard to separate that experience, that shared joy, from reality.
posted by SPrintF at 8:45 AM on November 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


It seems to me the fatal flaw in a lot of the thinking embraced in various corners of American culture is the idea that we can choose to view some things on their own terms, without regard for any broader context, and that our notions about separating the artist from the art originate in the same conceit. It's quite similar to the way we think about externalities in mainstream economics and the way we think about raw materials being fungible in commodity markets: It's a pretty fundamental strain of thought in our culture that sometimes you can and should just ignore context and compartmentalize things. I see the way people think about issues like this as sharing genetic material (or maybe, "memetic material") with those other ideas.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:23 AM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think it's weird that he needed to do that. Bill Fucking Cosby couldn't just propose going back to his room for some fully consensual filth, foul, foul, flarrn and get it pretty frequently? If not, he must put out a creeper vibe in person that doesn't show on camera.
posted by ctmf at 9:38 AM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


it's been my experience is that rape is rarely about men who can't get sex in other ways - especially guys with habits like cosbys - they are all very similar stories because that's the thing that gets cosby off - the drugging and rape are seemingly required.
posted by nadawi at 9:42 AM on November 23, 2014 [15 favorites]


Yeah, I don't think "needed to" plays any role at all.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:46 AM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


It seems to me the fatal flaw in a lot of the thinking embraced in various corners of American culture is the idea that we can choose to view some things on their own terms, without regard for any broader context, and that our notions about separating the artist from the art originate in the same conceit.

The idea of artist-as-hero, and viewing the artist as inspired towards originality, is the hallmark of Romanticism. But they would disagree with your ideal of not viewing something on its own terms, since that was mainly their point. The worst of it died out with fascism.
posted by Brian B. at 10:32 AM on November 23, 2014


NY Daily News: Ex-NBC employee Frank Scotti claims Bill Cosby paid off women, invited young models to dressing room as he stood guard".
"Veteran NBC employee Frank Scotti says he helped Bill Cosby deliver thousands of dollars to eight different women in 1989-90 - including Shawn Thompson, whose daughter Autumn Jackson claimed the actor was her dad. The ex-aide also tells the Daily News he stood guard whenever Cosby invited young models to his dressing room, which eventually led him to quitting after years on the job."
posted by amf at 11:45 AM on November 23, 2014


Brian B., are you deliberately phrasing your comments in the most condescending manner possible?

As far as I can tell, you're not successfully giving anyone the impression that you know the best way to interpret art, and that everyone who disagrees with you is an unsophisticated rube unfamiliar with artistic criticism. This seems to be the impression you're aiming for, however. And now we have "the worst of it died out with fascism," a line whose only apparent purpose is to draw another inflammatory and irrelevant comparison in a particularly passive agressive way.

It's not constructive, and this "necessary" separation of art from artist is only one of the many ways in which contemporary art scholars approach art. Arguments such as The Death of the Author are not gospel.

Please cut it out. If you genuinely can't comprehend how intelligent, well-educated people disagree with you, which is the impression I am getting from your comments, then the fault is yours, not theirs.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:59 AM on November 23, 2014 [9 favorites]


Please cut it out.

The fascism comment was in the link I provided. Plain as day. I was summarizing. I didn't think I was condescending at all, especially after I quoted the comment that referred to my own views as a conceit. You must be joking or missed all this or think you are in charge.
posted by Brian B. at 1:02 PM on November 23, 2014


It's not your conceit Brian B., if that helps. I mean it's an unexamined assumption beneath a lot of contemporary thought.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:12 PM on November 23, 2014


[Folks, let's focus on the ideas/facts, not on the people in the thread. As always, meta-discussion does not belong on the blue.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:14 PM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Saul, I enjoyed your comment regardless, it was in the right vein.
posted by Brian B. at 1:16 PM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Allegations and anecdotes continue to come in by the minute. The latest: Cosby required female staffers from the Letterman show to sit and watch him eat curry before his appearances there. (Whaaaa???)
posted by glhaynes at 1:41 PM on November 23, 2014


I think it's telling how a lot of the rhetoric of peoples' responses to Cosby being a rapist is about equating it with things which people are shamed for that are not something they do (like the above comparison of being a rapist to being the wife of a philanderer/likely rapist) or somehow shift the blame so it falls on the people saying, "people shouldn't rape other people" and not the people saying, "well, thirteen people with the same story... must be all making it up".

These days I think of rape culture like our conception of how time/space is distorted by gravity, where rapists are these pools of gravity that distort everything around them. They are easier to spot by their event horizon and how people react to them than by looking at them directly. The problem is, a lot of people don't want to acknowledge they're there, for a wide variety of reasons.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:56 PM on November 23, 2014 [11 favorites]


Didn't see this thread, so I'm sorry if this has already been posted. Sunday's Washington Post has interviews with five of the women who have accused Cosby of rape, plus a review of his pre-Cosby Show career: Bill Cosby's Legacy, recast. It's very good.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:37 PM on November 23, 2014


Have you guys seen his attorney's statements? Martin Singer's attempts to discredit all the women coming out and Frank Scotti? At what point does Marty Singer realize he looks like a fool and evil guy and is ruining his own credibility, and not just appearing as a pitbull lawyer protecting his client?
posted by discopolo at 7:45 PM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Let's not turn this into a discussion about Cosby's merits as an artist.

That horse has already left the barn. How could it not? Cosby's not a painter or sculptor or dancer. He's a comedian. Part of his method is putting forth an on-stage persona that people relate to, identify with and sympathize with. But "I relate to, identify and sympathize with a rapist," is a position that a most people are not comfortable with. Which is why the public developed collective amnesia the first time his crimes came to light. We don't need to re-examine our feelings if we can simply forget the bad stuff exists.

And even now with the recent revelations, people who want to maintain their love of Cosby aren't generally saying, "I don't care if he's a rapist or whatever, I still like his sketch comedy." They're twisting reality into bizarre shapes that allow them to keep their consciences clear, e.g., "He hasn't done anything unless it can be proven in a court of law" or "I don't believe he's really a rapist; all of these women must be in it for the money or publicity." (Someone announced the latter to me on Friday.)

But that crutch becomes more rotten and unsupportable with every passing moment, and seems certain to shatter even in the eyes of his ardent supporters. And when it does, Cosby will, I think, be fairly utterly disgraced. He will be publicly viewed as a monster, and his artistic legacy will crumble.
posted by xigxag at 8:08 PM on November 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


"I relate to, identify and sympathize with a rapist," is a position that a most people are not comfortable with.
Not openly, but privately... it's why we what we call Rape Culture is tragically more prevalent than most of us would admit... well, not openly.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:27 PM on November 23, 2014


In the end, it fell to a comic, not an investigative reporter or biographer, to speak truth to entertainment power, to take on The Natural Order of Things. - Calling Out Bill Cosby’s Media Enablers, Including Myself [nyt]
posted by nadawi at 6:47 AM on November 24, 2014


Back before the 2012 election, when Herman Cain's primary campaign was taking on water due to his own sexual improprieties, I found myself engaged in a small debate with someone -- I can't be certain who, but given the context it was probably my landlord at the time -- about whether the accusers were credible.

My landlord's position was, essentially, that "There's a lot of nuts out there."

My response was to point out that the accusers were not a random sample of society; they were women known to have interacted with Herman Cain, such that their individual accounts of his inappropriate behavior were at least plausible. There may be "a lot of nuts out there," but what were the chances that (eventually) five women in one man's orbit would have such similar stories of harassment if those stories were not true? To think otherwise at that point would strain credulity.

Bill Cosby has, what, eighteen, nineteen accusers now? With similar stories of how he plied them with alcohol, drugged them, and otherwise tried to put them in vulnerable circumstances? And many of them known to have at least been in a role or position in which they might have visited Cosby's dressing room or hotel room or so on and so forth? Yeah, I think it's pretty obvious at this point that Cosby is a rapist.

But why did the accusers wait so long before making their accusations? Well, not all of them did, there have in fact been rumblings about Cosby's behavior for years. But remember that he preyed on this women when they were young, when they were just starting out in the entertainment business. As rapists so often do, he preyed on them when they were vulnerable.

And he preyed on them when he was at his most unassailable. Back when he was the next thing to Mister Rogers in the American consciousness, back when he was Jello and Pudding and Kodak, back when it seemed that Mr. Huxtable could solve any problem a family could face in thirty minutes or less.

It was the Jimmy Savile syndrome, only on this side of the pond.
posted by The Confessor at 6:48 AM on November 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


In other news (I must quote PZ Meyers here, because he's been saying everything I want to say better than I can lately)
"The Canadians have arrested Jian Ghomeshi on four counts of sexual assault. [Previously here] That was quick.
Meanwhile, in the USA, Bill Cosby had reruns of his old show cancelled. We are TOUGH ON CRIME."
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:49 AM on November 26, 2014 [6 favorites]


Wow.
posted by rtha at 10:51 AM on November 26, 2014




30 Rock Called Out Bill Cosby For Sexual Assault All The Way Back In 2009

The article mentions in passing that Hannibal Buress used to be a 30 Rock writer (although not on that episode).
posted by Lexica at 9:58 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]






fellow comedian/actress Whoopi Goldberg and singer/actress Jill Scott, who spoke out on the his behalf.

Why does it always have to be people I thought I could respect?
posted by Drinky Die at 10:42 PM on December 5, 2014


Whoopi Goldberg had been a huge apologist for Roman Polanski. She's the one who said it wasn't "rape rape."
posted by jaguar at 10:49 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


whoopi is awful and filled with shitty opinions about rape, and domestic violence, and probably some other things i'm forgetting. jill scott's support is a disappointment, but i hope she'll come around. even though i absolutely believe cosby's victims, it's good to remember that this situation echos some really grotesque american history and some people, especially people who are black, are going to react based upon that history and not about the guilt or innocence of one man - this is all aided by the racial makeup of his victims and the position he holds/held in society. you can see some of this on display if you search emmett till and bill cosby.
posted by nadawi at 6:57 AM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Finally, I reached the conclusion that the current attack on African American men has absolutely nothing to do at all with Bill Cosby. He brought this on himself when he decided he had the right to have his way with who knows how many women over the last four decades. If anything, Cosby is distinguished from the majority of black men in this country because he could depend on the powers that be for support and protection.
Bill Cosby Drugged Me. This Is My Story. By Beverly Johnson
posted by nadawi at 10:50 AM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]




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