Friday, April 27, 2018

Bill Cosby headed for the big house? Goodbye, Cliff Huxtable.

Last night, I got the news that "America's Dad", Bill Cosby, was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault against Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee.  The year the assault happened was 2004, but Constand was just one of dozens of women who accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them.  Now, in 2018, it looks like 80 year old Cosby will finally get what's coming to him.  He could get up to ten years in prison for each of the three counts he was found guilty of, although given his age, it's doubtful that he will serve too long.

I saw many comments last night from women who wondered why he was only found guilty of three counts when so many women had accused him.  It's because the other assaults happened so long ago that the statute of limitations has run out.  Cosby cannot be prosecuted for those assaults, even though they were surely devastating to the women involved.  In any case, it's amazing that this man, who was EVERYWHERE in the 1980s, has fallen from grace with such a mighty thud.  In my mind, this is much more shocking than when O.J. Simpson fell out of public favor.  In Simpson's case, it seemed like he let everyone know exactly who he was once he fell out of respectability back in 1994.

It was a lot harder to believe that Cosby's wholesome facade was as fake as Dolly Parton's bosom.  He really knew how to pull off the respectable family man act.  I think Matt Lauer, who was also known as a "nice guy next door" type before his unsavory sexual hangups were exposed, might have taken some lessons from Cosby.  Both Cosby and Lauer seemed untouchable, although at least Lauer is reportedly taking some responsibility for what he's done.

Cosby continues to deny and disclaim, and even felt entitled to swear in court when District Attorney Kevin R. Steele expressed concern that Cosby had access to a private plane and may be a flight risk.  Cosby's response was, "He doesn’t have a plane, you asshole.”  What would Cliff Huxtable say about that?

This verdict will have ripple effects that reach far and wide.  At about two o'clock this morning, I was awakened from sleep by my wayward beagle, Zane, who kept crawling under the covers and overheating, then jumping off the bed.  Because I wasn't immediately dropping back off to slumber, I picked up my iPad and scanned the news.  I ran across an op-ed on the New York Times, written by Wesley Morris.  The piece, entitled "Cliff Huxtable Was Bill Cosby's Sickest Joke", was mostly about how Cosby had everyone fooled that he really was "America's Dad".

Morris, who is evidently about my age, was also growing up when Cosby was on TV every Thursday night.  It was impossible to miss references to him if you had a television set or were exposed to any media whatsoever.  Cosby had books, albums, movies, commercials, and the hottest show in America.  And Morris, who is a black man, absorbed all of Cosby's influence.  Here was a great role model who made everyone laugh each week on his wildly popular sitcom, then sold them New Coke and Jello Pudding Pops.

I mostly enjoyed Morris's take on what's happened to Cosby.  I thought his article was well-written and did a good job of explaining why Cliff Huxtable was a "sick joke".  But then I ran across something that irritated me somewhat.  At least twice in his article, Morris uses the word "vertiginous".  That, my friends, is more than a 50 cent word.  In fact, in my 45 years on the planet, I don't think I've ever come across that word before early this morning.

I told Bill about it and he said, "I think it means 'dizzying'."  Bill came to that conclusion even though, like me, he had never run across the word "vertiginous" before.  It turns out he's right.  The word is akin to "vertigo", which is the condition of being dizzy.  Bill credits his year of Latin for being able to figure out that word-- he was taught to look at the roots.  It got me to thinking, though.  That's the kind of word one learns for the SAT and then waits for the perfect time to use it.  I wonder how many people reading Morris's article took the time to look up that word.  Why couldn't he have just used a more familiar word or expression, like "dizzying" or "head spinning"?

It's my guess that Cosby, with his hefty academic pedigree and once lofty image as a successful black man, really did inspire Morris to rise above the ordinary.  And so, instead of using words and language that the everyday reader will readily understand, he throws in less common words like "vertiginous".  It's as if he has to prove himself.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm all for the correct usage of advanced vocabulary words from the SAT.  In fact, I thank Mr. Morris for teaching me a new word today.  It's just that I don't think the average person will be instantly familiar with that word or take the time to consult a dictionary.  And, it seems to me that if your aim is to communicate-- which is what I think all good writers should want to do-- your message should be clear and accessible to everyone.  In fact, I remember that very lesson was taught on an old episode of The Cosby Show that aired during season 5.

Former child actress Grace Johnston, who memorably played little Victoria in the 1988 film, Beaches, was guest starring as one of Rudy Huxtable's friends.  She had come over to the Huxtable residence to spend the night.  Rudy's big brother, Theo, was frustrated because he got a D on an English composition, along with some very critical remarks from his professor.  Rudy's friend, Caroline (Johnston), tells Theo that her dad is a newspaper editor and it sounded to her like he was using "big words" to try to sound smart.  Caroline says, "that never works" and that "big words are for small minds."

I'm not sure I'd go quite that far.  After all, Morris does use the word properly and the rest of his article is easy enough to understand.  It just struck me as a bit pretentious that he'd choose that word-- one that obviously isn't widely used or understood by the everyday man on the street.  But then, maybe that's another symptom of his having seen Cosby as a role model.


A very controversial speech...  turns out Cosby is a massive hypocrite.

For years, Cosby has held himself above the average person.  Who can forget how, in 2004, he dared to berate black people in his infamous "Pound Cake" speech?  He spoke of people who "cried" when they saw their son in an "orange suit".  Cosby asked them where they were when their son was two years old... when he was twelve... when he was eighteen?  He wanted to know why the parents didn't know their son had a pistol.  He lambasted them for giving their children names like "Shaniqua" and embracing their African heritage when they don't know anything about Africa.  Many people of color were offended by Cosby's high-falutin' speech, which seems especially ironic now, given that Cosby may soon be wearing an orange suit himself.  On the other hand, I remember a lot of conservative white people liked what Cosby had to say... the same way they like what Donald Trump says.  

I did like the way Morris ended his article.  He ends it with a thought provoking question.

We’re in a moment of cleaving terrible people from their great work. It’s a luxury conundrum, one that feels like a mockery of tremendous human suffering. With Mr. Cosby, though, these are questions worth seriously considering. How do I, at least, cleave this man from the man he seduced me into becoming?

How do any of us reconcile the legend of Cliff Huxtable and who Bill Cosby really is?  How is it possible that this man, who preached about education, hard work, and being respectful and respectable, may soon go to prison for committing vile sexual crimes against one woman... the only woman who was able to pin a rap on him before he inevitably passes away?  I'm not sure what kind of sentence Cosby will get.  I think he deserves to go to prison, but if he does go, he probably won't last long.  


I think prison will be tougher for Cosby than it was for the Huxtable girls...

On the other hand... this verdict against Cosby, and the dire consequences being faced by people like Matt Lauer and Larry Nassar, do offer some hope to the many women who have been sexually harassed and assaulted by men and were forced to just simply shut up and take it.  It will be interesting to see what kind of time Cosby gets and how he does it.  And... I also wonder when it will be Donald Trump's turn.

2 comments:

  1. They're gonna get Trump on something else. He'll never do time for the sexual stuff. His family is probably pissed that he went into politics. That's going to be his downfall and reveal all the crimes he's committed through the years. Not that it matters to his supporters.

    As for Cosby, I admit to really struggling with this. He did so much good for so many people such as the role model for the writer you cited. I know many people or color who said they strove to do better in their lives because of seeing him and his family on TV. The fact that his wife knew and just excused it too is beyond my comprehension.

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  2. I can’t deny that Cosby did a lot of good. Very few people are all bad and that applies to Cosby, too. I will remember some of his comedy fondly, even if I don’t like that he’s a predator. And I will always enjoy The Cosby Show. I do think he should be punished, though.

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