Fallen Idol

Stand-up comedy, television, and motion picture entertainer Bill Cosby has been found guilty of three counts of sexual assault. The New York Times reports:

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — A jury found Bill Cosby guilty Thursday of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home near here 14 years ago, capping the downfall of one of the world’s best-known entertainers, and offering a measure of satisfaction to the dozens of women who for years have accused him of similar assaults against them.

On the second day of its deliberations at the Montgomery County Courthouse, the jury convicted Mr. Cosby of three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand, at the time a Temple University employee.

I doubt that this marks the end of the story. In all likelihood Mr. Cosby will spend the rest of his life either in jail or in court. Civil suits will strip him of the earnings of a lifetime.

It’s hard to overestimate how momentous this conviction is. Cosby was the first African American man to star in a television series, the first to have his own television series (he had three of them), and his role as Cliff Huxtable in the Cosby Show was held up as a role model, not just for young African Americans but for all young Americans. He joined with Sidney Poitier and other black actors in the 1970s to make movies that opposed the blaxploitation movies of the time in their portrayals of African Americans.

This is a genuinely tragic story.

12 comments… add one
  • I don’t see tragedy. I see a sexual predator who was allowed to get away with preying on women for more than 40 years while maintaining the affable public image of a comedian and, in the 80s, “America’s Dad” in the form of Heathcliff Huxtable.

    There’s plenty of evidence to indicate that, as with the women who have come forward regarding Harvey Weinstein or the gymnasts who have spoken out against Larry Nassar, that there were plenty of people who were aware of what was going on who didn’t speak out and allowed Cosby to maintain a false public image.

    There’s a tragedy here, but it involves what happened to these women not the downfall of a man who was, it appears, a complete phony.

  • I’m talking about Greek tragedy. In Aristotle’s words “a reversal of fortune, involving persons renowned and of superior attainments”.

  • A tragic flaw results in the downfall of an otherwise great man.

    Cosby was only “great” if you believed the press clippings and the public persona.

    The fact that he was able to project that image and at the same time act in the manner he did for more than four decades is just another indication of how misguided our worship of celebrity actually is.

  • PD Shaw Link

    Doug, he was a great man because he produced great works; he was not someone famous for being famous. Your inner Calvinist is showing.

  • Doug, he was a great man because he produced great works

    That was his public persona.

    In the world that was deliberately hidden from view, and perhaps covered up, the fact is that he was a sexual predator.

    And I’m far from being a Calvinist.

  • Modulo Myself Link

    Greek tragedy involves pity and sympathy for the hero’s condition. Cosby drugged and raped countless numbers of women. In his relationship to his crimes he’s no different than a serial killer.

  • Were Caravaggio, Cellini, Picasso great artists or not?

    What Cosby did was wrong; evil. But the world is complicated. If Cosby’s evil invalidates his work why doesn’t Picasso’s?

    Note that I am in no way defending the man. But the work and the man are two different things.

  • PD Shaw Link

    Doug, his deeds were not his personae. If you don’t like his work, that’s certainly your opinion. By Calvinist I mean that one that believes works can never be good if they don’t originate from an internal state of grace. Your redefining his works as his personae is to the same ends. Hyper-Augustinian works as well.

  • PD Shaw Link

    My own initial experience with Cosby were through his comedy albums, particularly those that were his reminiscence about his childhood, things like getting his tonsils out, watching a scary movie that he wasn’t supposed to watch or a playground that the adults introduced that was more dangerous than the barren lot they used to play on. His dad is not the ideal father in these stories, nor was the father figure that he would later portray.

  • By Calvinist I mean that one that believes works can never be good if they don’t originate from an internal state of grace.

    That’s Donatist. Donatism is a charge frequently levied against major figures of the Reformation, e.g. Calvin but even moreso Luther.

  • PD Shaw,

    But I am a fan of Cosby’s. As I noted in a post late yesterday at OTB, I grew up watching the Fat Albert cartoons that he hosted for more than a decade and, of course, on The Cosby Show. I also recall watching I, Spy reruns in the 70s on one of the local stations in the NYC area. I enjoyed all of it and I’ll readily admit that he’s an immensely talented man.

    That being said, I do not feel sorry for him in the least nor do I see what happened to him as tragic in the Greek or any other respect. He put himself in this position and the punishment he will get for this conviction is nowhere near being sufficient given the long trail of allegations against him.

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