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Making Peace with Cliff Huxtable

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Making Peace with Cliff Huxtable

If you were born much past 1982 or so, it’s probably difficult to understand the depth of reaction to the rape and assault allegations against Bill Cosby. OK, so a celebrity is accused of sex crimes. That’s unfortunate, but regretfully, not exactly uncommon. Why are people reacting so viscerally, you wonder?

So you youngsters look back over Cosby’s career, trying to understand. You see him as a secret agent, a successful stand-up comic, and ultimately an all-around comedic talent with a strong emphasis on children and family.

Ding ding ding!

There’s not really been anything like The Cosby Show since. It was uproariously funny, but took family values seriously, well before it was a buzzword.

It’s there, on The Cosby Show, that you missed him being the nation’s dad: Dr. Cliff Huxtable.

There’s not really been anything like that show since. It was uproariously funny, but took family values seriously, well before it was a buzzword. The series was full of wisdom, yet it was nearly never genuinely political. It struck chords that generated nodding all around, on both sides of the aisle and everywhere in between. It was good sense. It united.


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Culturally, it wasn’t even just The Cosby Show. It was all that happened just before and during its run. Bill Cosby hosted Picture Pages. He was the Jell-O pudding guy, and the Coca-Cola guy. There was Fat Albert on Saturday mornings.

Bill Cosby cared. You knew it in your heart. You felt close to him. I bet the guy’s been hugged by a complete stranger 5,000 times in his life.

And that’s why his current situation feels like such a sucker punch.

To be sure, we don’t know exactly what his current situation is. He has neither confessed nor been convicted (or even formally charged). Mostly, there are allegations—but there are many allegations. That’s troubling. Opportunists of questionable integrity tend to come in onesies and twosies, not dozens. This would be an awful lot of smoke for there to be no fire.

So it’s exceedingly difficult to feel good about it. Consider also that there’s nothing Cosby can do to alleviate that feeling. We all feel bad right now. So would we feel better if he confessed? See?

I’m not much into feeling betrayed or anything else substantive by celebrity actions, but I’ve had a hard time getting to a good place with this. The best I’ve done is comparing it to remembering something from your childhood with adult sensibilities, and having a sudden epiphany.

Perhaps you had a favorite uncle who doted on you. We’ll call him Earl, mostly because I don’t have an Uncle Earl (and indeed, know I’m not basing this narrative on any event from my childhood).

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You always had a good time at Uncle Earl’s house. He told you great stories, and always had time to listen to yours. He found out and got you what you wanted for Christmas, instead of generic aunt-and-uncle stuff. He loved you. You loved him.


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Then, your adult self thinks “gee, Uncle Earl pretty much always had a drink, didn’t he? And he wasn’t a very old man when he died. And…”

Wow. Uncle Earl was an alcoholic. That was one of his demons. Not always fun being a grown-up and knowing and realizing grown-up stuff, isn’t it?

But does it change the love Uncle Earl had for you? (Now alcoholism isn’t rape, and I’m not making a statement of moral equivalence. I hold up the example only as something bad similarly concurrent to something good.) No, of course it doesn’t. Uncle Earl loved you.

And despite multiple allegations of despicable criminal behavior, the good family traits Bill Cosby espoused remain valid. Cosby’s work made us all think deeply about taking responsibility for our actions, looking out for those less fortunate than we are, and working hard and honestly. Those things haven’t lost value because their messenger may have.

Breaking those good things off and taking them with us may be our only ultimate resolution.


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View Comments (9)
  • Great post, Bo. As usual, your writing is thoughtful and thought provoking. I’m rather glad to see you writing about this for two reasons: 1) I considered tackling this subject in my own post, and 2) Something needed to be said. I’ve struggled with this for a myriad of reasons, and have even questioned continuing to watch re-runs of the show on Hulu , which is how I introduced the show to my daughter a couple of years ago. It’s an issue that’s left me with simultaneous feelings of sadness and disappointment, while still holding out for some definitive proof that it isn’t true. Thanks for sharing your take on it.

    • Thank you so much, Taralyn.

      I know what you mean about still wanting proof that it isn’t true. I don’t think we’re going to get it, which is why I started looking for another way to get it into a box. I’m not altogether happy with my answer, but I think it might be the only one. For me, anyway.

  • There have been so many unusual things happen in the last few years, so are very scary. Just because there are 20 or 30 people saying these things about Bill does not make them true. He has spoken out about the real race problem in this country and could it not be possible that someone would like to discredit him? If he denies it, who will believe him? If he decides to just not answer these people it might be the best thing he can do. In my heart I can not believe he did this, if he did, then he will have to make his peace with God. My prayers are with him and his family.

    • Shirley, he has indeed done a lot of good. As far as someone trying to discredit him, that’s where the numbers get problematic for me. If this was a monetary shakedown, or a baseless attempt at character assassination, it’s hard for me to swallow that 27 different women would march together singing the same tune.

      You and I are in full agreement that ultimate judgment is God’s, and that wasn’t my purpose here. I was just trying to figure out how not to feel so terrible about it.

  • People who have been raped or molested can truly understand his denial, his silence, and him having fooled so many people. We all have some kind of sin in our life but some people are able to know how to make the victim
    out to be the bad guy, or how to appear to be the good guy to friends,
    neighbors and family, and they know how to make the victim look like the liar. The wife, rather from T.V. or in real life, is always the last one to believe that he could do such a thing, along with others who have had no experience in this area.
    God bless all of his victims and may the truth prevail.

  • Well, it seems today the fire definitely arrived.

    Among other things, today brings clarity. I think breaking the good things off and taking them with us is the only path now.

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