It’s not that hard to become almost inured to the reality that we’ve always had sexual predators in our society. In every society. The real shock–and rationale for hope–is having victims summoning the public courage to speak out. It’s exactly what predators never expect.
But of all those marquee names–from Harvey Weinstein to Kevin Spacey–the worst example, by far, has been Bill Cosby. He wasn’t just a prominent show business personality who was rich, entitled and assaultive. But he was also somebody we needed for our racial tinderbox society. He reminded black-and-white audiences that we had much more in common than in conflict.
His comedy–from early Philly nightclub stand-ups while he was still attending Temple University to movies, syndicated TV shows and national tours–was universal. He didn’t traffic in the gratuitously vulgar or raw or political cheap shots. His humor was as universal as a “Fat Albert” cartoon or a “Noah’s Ark” biblical riff. He defied racial stereotypes and played a funny, empathetic, middle-class physician dad on “The Cosby Show.”
Now, at 81 and legally blind, he is the first celebrity of the #MeToo era to be locked up for his predatory ways. His life is over, but the harm he caused has lingered long over the years. He waived his right to address the court after his sentencing. No apology for anything.
Bill Cosby was never who we thought he was and wanted him to be, and that’s the ultimate tragedy. America wanted–and needed–Dr. Huxtable, who was really Mr. Hyde.