Mad at Bill but Still Wishing for Cliff and Claire

Screenshot of a Cosby Show episode featuring Cliff and Claire snuggling on the sofa

“He is guilty of self-confessed crimes against women such that we should break his albums, burn his tapes and scratch up his CDs until he acknowledges and apologizes and rethinks his position on The Woman Question.”

As you may remember from this post, “He” is Miles Davis, and Pearl Cleage, the author of the above quote from her essay, “Mad at Miles,” demands accountability of black men who commit violence against black women.

“He” could be replaced with so many different names.

Miles Davis

James Brown

R. Kelly

Chris Brown

And if we didn’t know before*, now we know, the music references could be interchanged with those more specific to actors.

Bill Cosby is guilty of self-confessed crimes against women such that we should boycott his comedy tour, burn his Cosby Show DVDs, and break anything of his still on VHS.

I was about to write “remove his shows from Netflix,” but I noticed that, though her language is metaphoric, Cleage is calling for collective action against Davis through items that individuals already own, not for a corporation’s action against him. And that’s the rub. Financial damage hurts super stars who are perpetrators, but perhaps losing the adoration of fans, losing a solid reputation, losing a lifetime of the work one put in to create a legacy, hurts more.

Though I no longer crave fame the way I did in the past, I can say that when I either can’t do the things I’m able to do now, or when I’ve gone to the ancestors, I want to be remembered for greatness. I believe Bill Cosby does, too. The deposition in which Cosby states that he purchased sedatives intending to give to women he wanted to have sex with—he doesn’t say, “I so I could rape them,” but sex without consent is rape and unconscious is without consent—isn’t just “embarrassing,” as his attorneys had feared. It has forever disrupted our willing suspension of disbelief–that 30 minutes (23 without commercials) that calls us to a place where a middle or upper middle class exists, where people of different races not only work and play together but also live in the same quiet neighborhood, and where there is an episode or two of stress but work-life balance can be achieved. Where women have it all. Where husbands and wives support one another. Where black people get married and stay married. Where there is an intergenerational black family untouched by violence, addiction, mental illness, the stress of being black in an anti-black world, the prison industrial complex, cancer, poverty, incest, rape.

I may never be able to look at entertainment uncritically again–this is education’s doing, not Cosby’s–but I need to be able to escape, to laugh, to dance with abandon, and to believe I can have it all. I don’t have any VHSs to break, DVDs to burn, or comedy show tickets for which to demand a refund, but ever so often, I do kind of want Netflix to bring The Cosby Show back.

*And if you didn’t know before, weren’t sure who to believe before Cosby’s 2005 deposition was unsealed, it’s not because you’re naive. It’s because of rape culture.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *