Wednesday, December 17, 2014

On Cosby and Role Models Doing Terrible Things (#ThinkKit Day 16)

ThinkKit Day 16 asks:

Extra! Extra!

Take a moment to dip into the deep well of the past year's 24-hour news cycle.What world event moved you this year? What story, series, or moment fascinated you? Made you scratch your head? Brought you to the edge of tears...or past the edge of your seat? Did an outside perspective change the way you felt, or make you take action? Share the headline(s) that resonated with you.

This year's news was full of the disturbing and the tragic, much of which affected me in different ways. But a stand-out was, of course, the revelation of the private life of Bill Cosby.

I loved Bill Cosby as a child, along with everyone else. I remember vividly the final episode of the Cosby Show, and Boys II Men, at the top of their game at the time, changing the words to their song to say "It's So Hard To Say Goodbye... to the Cosby Show". It truly felt like an end of the era when that show ended. All the adult men in my life wore those ridiculous Cosby sweaters, and Bill Cosby was a true icon. I'll even admit to watching the film Ghost Dad repeatedly.

Cosby has been in the news pretty much every day the last couple of months, with allegations against him popping up all over the place. At first people seemed skeptical, but as the mountain of allegations grew, and higher profile women shared their stories, those defending Cosby got quieter. A while back I read Janice Dickinson's autobiography (don't judge, we all need some semi-trashy reading material once in a while, and I used to love America's Next Top Model when Janice was a judge). In her book she talked about an incident with Cosby where she turned him down and he slammed a door in her face, and she wrote that years ago before the allegations were widely known and reported, so it didn't seem completely out of the realm of possibility to me when the allegations started coming out after Hannibal Buress's comedy routine caught fire. But I never would have imagined the sheer scope of what he likely did, and there are likely many more victims out there that will never come forward.

In the end, it's incredibly sad that yet another role model has fallen. Also this year, the actor that played the dad on 7th Heaven admitted to molesting children in the past. It didn't get the same level of media exposure, but it's just as disturbing. Both his and Cosby's accused crimes are past the statute of limitations, so while their reputations and careers will suffer, they don't have to fear prison.

I don't know why the people we put on pedestals so often turn out to have done horrible things. Does the limelight warp them, or do warped people pursue fame?

People we admire can do terrible things. Other people will try and defend them, or avert their eyes and pretend nothing is wrong here, because they are powerful, or because we just don't want to believe someone we adore could have an incredibly twisted side to them. Look at the support of Roman Polanski, for god's sake. He pled guilty to sleeping with a 13 year old girl (who he drugged and raped), then fled the country, and now he can't travel to the U.S. or any country that might extradite him because he would be sent to prison. Anjelica Huston's memoir that came out this year even includes her talking about seeing him with the 13 year old at a party and thinking nothing of it. Yet A-list actors still flock to work with him because he is a gifted director. Yes, The Pianist was a gorgeous film. But I can't bring myself to watch any more of his films now that I'm aware of his past. I feel the same way about Woody Allen. I wonder if, once he passes on, if we can watch the Cosby Show again without guilt, or if it will always be marred by the thing he did off-screen. Can we ever truly separate someone's work from who they are?