Tag Archives: Bill Cosby Ethics Train Wreck

Unethical, Shameless, Gutsy, Creepy Or Thought-Provoking: Kevin Spacey’s Christmas Video

What do we make of this, released by actor Kevin Spacey lastweek almost at the same time as he was being indicted for sexual assault?

Yikes.

The much-acclaimed actor  career collapsed in 2017 as more than 30 people claimed that Spacey had sexually assaulted them. Now he is speaking in the persona—with accent!— of his Netflix series villain, Frank Underwood, the central character of “House of Cards.” Or is he? Much of the speech seems to refer to Spacey’s own plight, and suggests that the actor is being unfairly convicted in the court of public opinion. By using the voice and character of an unequivocal miscreant however, for Frank is a liar, a cheat, a sociopath, indeed a murderer, such protests are automatically incredible.

Or is Spacey making a legitimate argument that an artist’s personal flaws should be irrelevant to the appreciation of his art, especially in a case like “House of Cards,” where the actor’s role can’t possibly be undermined by the actor’s own misdeeds: whatever one says or thinks about Spacey, he can’t  be as bad as Frank Underwood. If you enjoyed watching Underwood destroy lives on his way to power, why should Spacey’s conduct, even if it was criminal, make you give up the pleasure of observing his vivid and diverting fictional creation? This isn’t like Bill Cosby, serially drugging and raping women while playing a wise, moral and funny father-figure. Spacey seems to be arguing that there should be no cognitive dissonance between him and Underwood at all. Who better to play a cur like Frank  than an actor who shares his some of his darkness? Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “THAT’S The Concept I Was Looking For—’Cultural Vandalism’!”

Another perspective on the question  of how the personal and professional misconduct of artists should affect our regard for their art comes from Curmie, a drama teacher, director and blogger who has as deep credentials for this topic as anyone.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, THAT’S The Concept I Was Looking For—“Cultural Vandalism”!…

Back in graduate school, I worked as a teaching assistant to a brilliant professor, Ron Willis, in his Introduction to Theatre class. Seitz’s commentary intersects with two of the concepts Ron highlighted in his course. The first of those is what Ron called para-aesthetics: those elements which affect an audience’s reception of an aesthetic event without being the aesthetic event.

These can be entirely coincidental (it’s pouring rain) or created specifically by the production company (the poster). The company many have had some, but not complete, control over the influence (there’s insufficient parking, in part because of another event in the area). The para-aesthetic influence could apply to the entire audience (the leading actor is a big star, the auditorium is freezing) or to an individual (the leading actor is your best friend, the person next to you thinks that showers are for other people, you’ve had a couple glasses of wine before the show).

The fact that a Bill Cosby’s off-camera life has been considerably short of exemplary matters in a para-aesthetic way. But each individual spectator will respond differently to each impulse. That leading actor—my best friend—is someone else’s ex. Facebook tells me that a year and a day ago I saw a play in London with a young movie star in the title role. His presence mattered to me not a bit, but there were dozens if not hundreds of his fans in the house: people who were there specifically to see him. That play was an adaptation of a script I adore and indeed directed a few years ago. The fact that the play as presented bore little if any resemblance to the original bothered me a lot; those who didn’t know the 19th-century version were far more able to accept the 21st-century revision on its own terms. Continue reading

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THAT’S The Concept I Was Looking For—“Cultural Vandalism”!

Does he still seem like God to you?

“Cultural vandalism”!

Perfect! That’s the ideal description of what artists, especially performing artists, do when they engage in such revolting conduct that it becomes difficult or impossible for us to enjoy their work the way we could before we knew they were disgusting human beings.

We owe Vulture writer a debt of gratitude, not only for identifying the conduct as cultural vandalism (a term usually reserved for acts like stealing the Elgin Marbles), but also for explaining, in his article The Cultural Vandalism of Jeffrey Tambor, clearly and powerfully, why it is a serious ethical breach beyond the misconduct itself.

He writes in part,

Once I know something like this, it makes it impossible for me to look at the actor and not think of the horrible things they’ve allegedly done. I don’t care to argue whether this is rational or not (I think it is), or whether I hold inconsistent opinions of works that are problematic for whatever reason (everyone does). The repulsed feeling is still there, and it makes a difference in how I react as a spectator…This sort of thing seems categorically different from, say, watching a film starring an actor whose political beliefs are different from yours (though there, too, a line could be irrevocably crossed). Once you believe that a particular actor or filmmaker or screenwriter is a predator or abuser, you’re aware that the environment that produced your entertainment — the film set — was engaged in a conscious or reflexive cover-up, in the name of protecting an investment. You can still be passionately interested in the thing as a historical or aesthetic document — seeing it through the eyes of, say, an art historian who can contextualize Paul Gauguin within the totality of 19th-century painting, or an African-American studies professor who’s fascinated by Gone With the Wind — but you can’t lose yourself in it anymore. You can’t be in love with it. You can’t really enjoy it in the most basic sense, not without playing dumb.

You didn’t do that to the artist. The artist did that to himself…

And it’s awful. People’s lives get ruined, their careers get interrupted or destroyed. The emotional, physical, and financial damage that problematic artists inflict on people in their orbit should always be the first and main subject of discussion…On top of all that, we also have the collateral damage of cultural vandalism. Fun, meaningful, even great works that dozens or hundreds of people labored over, that built careers and fortunes and whole industries, become emotionally contaminated to the point where you can’t watch them anymore…. in recent years, an entire wing of African-American cultural history has been vaporized by the Bill Cosby allegations and his recent felony sexual-assault trial, including the most popular sitcom of the ’80s (The Cosby Show), some of the top-selling comedy albums of all time, the precursor to the R-rated buddy comedy genre (Uptown Saturday Night and its sequels), and the first Saturday morning cartoon with a predominantly black cast (Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids). Predators’ careers are getting raptured, as well they should be. But unfortunately — perhaps inevitably — their work is getting raptured along with it, imploding into dust as the culture moves on to things that aren’t as problematic (or that might have skeezy stuff going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about yet)….

…Nobody is stopping anyone from watching these works (though they’re no longer as easy to find, and you probably have to own a DVD player). We can still talk about them, study them, write about them, contextualize them. But the emotional connection has been severed. The work becomes archival. It loses its present-tense potency, something that significant or great works have always had the privilege of claiming in the past.

That’s all on the predators. It’s not on you. None of us asked for this.

Continue reading

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Rudy Huxtable Lets Desperate Dad Use Her As A Stage Prop

Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial began yesterday in Norristown, Pennsylvania,  but Bill’s enabling and complicit wife didn’t appear with him. Smart move by defense counsel: Camille Cosby’s almost certain knowledge of her husband/meal ticket’s infidelity and worse makes the pair seem like a couple of monsters, and the jury would be conflicted seeing Mrs. Cosby  sitting in court as women described being drugged and assaulted by Funny Bill while her husband’s defense was not “I didn’t do it” but “it was consensual.”  Still, having Cosby  entering the Montgomery County courtroom without family present would send the message that he was being shunned by those who know him best. What to do?

Eureka! Have the accused serial sexually predator accompanied by a member of the family the public knows and loves best, his TV family from “The Cosby Show! Perfect! It sends the message that he is still supported and loved by those who know him. It proves that he has not been abandoned and shunned. Best of all, such an entrance makes Cosby appear to be the nice, ethical, fatherly Bill Cosby everyone thinks they know, the one who raised four adorable girls and who had a beautiful feminist wife, a noble and moral man who would never, never do the things that over 50 women say he did to them, the money-grubbing sluts.

So instead of his real-life wife, Cosby was guided into the courtroom  by former television daughter Keishia Knight Pulliam, who played the cute little one, adorable Rudy, from 1984 to 1992. Pulliam agreed to be a prop, in other words, a prop designed to help implant reasonable doubt in a case where reasonable doubt will be hard to come by. Bias and cognitive dissonance helps, though. Rudy is there to help “Dad” by nourishing bias as a jury considers Andrea Constand’s lon-standing accusation that Cosby drugged and molester her.

Of Knight Pulliam’s presence, Cosby’s spokesperson Andrew Wyatt said: “She’s not here to proclaim guilt or innocence. She’s here to finally hear the truth for herself in the courtroom. She wants people to stop listening to the sensationalism and come hear the truth.” Nonsense. If Pulliam wanted to do just that, she could have arrived at the courtroom like anyone else, and sat quietly among the spectators. Instead, she was playing a role calculated to make it harder for a jury to see through Cosby’s celebrity and public persona. She knew it, too.

Why would an alleged feminist ally herself with a sexual predator and against so many women? Well, it can’t hurt Pulliam’s career any, since she barely has a career. She has been languishing in post-child star Hell for sometime now, going the “She’s all grown up and she’s bad’ route that worked out so well for Lindsay Lohan; the Cosby trial gig—no, I don’t think its unfair to ask if she was paid—at least reminds people that Rudy is 38 and still around. Maybe a reality show producer is watching.

Last year, Pulliam had Amber Rose on her podcast “Kandidly Keshia”I’m sure you never miss it-to promote Rose’s “Slut Walk” event designed to end slut-shaming. When he mentioned Cosby, she responded,

“I feel you, and everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but we still live in a country where you’re innocent till proven guilty. And I understand everything that’s happened, and me being a feminist and believing women—no means no and I get that—but, just so you know, I did work with him for a really long time. I love him dearly still and that isn’t the man that I know.”

Translation: My mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with facts. Maybe this statement led to the phone call from Cosby’s lawyer. Continue reading

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The Smithsonian Institute Discovers That It Has Booked A Seat On The Bill Cosby Ethics Train Wreck, But It Has No Intention Of Getting Off

Cosbys and Cole

The Cosbys and Johnnetta Cole

When three new women accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault this week, the government’s Smithsonian Institution, “the nation’s attic,” suddenly found that it had been lured into assisting a clever PR ploy by the disgraced comedian. [ Full disclosure: I have worked for the Smithsonian recently, delivering a five hour lecture on the cultural and ethical influence of classic Western movies last December.] The revelations were the most graphic and disturbing yet ( Sample: “I was shocked. I didn’t know how I had lost so much time. My clothes were thrown all over the room and I felt semen on the small of my back and all over me…” ), and brought the total number of accusers near the half-century mark. Meanwhile, an exhibition of art owned by Bill and Camille Cosby will be on display at the National Museum of African Art until January 2016.

How many women will have come forward by then? Let’s start a pool! Continue reading

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Cognitive Dissonance Chronicles: Now “The Cosby Show” Is Suddenly Racist And Part Of A Conservative Plot

THE COSBY SHOW -- Season 3 -- Pictured: (front row l-r) Keshia Knight Pulliam as Rudy Huxtable, Bill Cosby as Dr. Heathcliff 'Cliff' Huxtable, Tempestt Bledsoe as Vanessa Huxtable (back row l-r) Lisa Bonet as Denise Huxtable Kendall, Malcolm-Jamal Warner as Theodore 'Theo' Huxtable, Phylicia Rashad as Clair Hanks Huxtable, Sabrina Le Beauf as Sondra Huxtable Tibideaux  (Photo by Alan Singer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

When “The Cosby Show” was on the air on CBS from 1984 to 1992, it was unanimously praised—except by a few grumps and crackpots, for there are always grumps and crackpots—for being an unequivocally positive influence on racial understanding and the culture. Finally African American characters were on television every week who were not inner city criminals, hucksters, drug dealers or pimps. Finally, after dozens of white “Father Knows Best” style sitcoms, there was a comedy about black professionals heading a family with kids that used good grammar, didn’t skip school and were never in trouble with the law. “The Cosby Show” won awards and plaudits from educators and civil rights groups. It provided a positive model for an attainable future for black children, and an image of black Americans that combated racism by making it seem as illogical as it is. These were good people, good parents, good citizens, with the same values, hopes and dreams as everyone else.

The insidious power of cognitive dissonance is that it allows strong feelings about anyone or anything to unfairly and irrationally carry over to anything or anyone else that the object of those feelings touches. Today, as the fact that the creative force leading “The Cosby Show” had a hypocritical and despicable secret life as a sexual predator becomes undeniable, this process is triggering dangerous and ugly shifts in attitudes and advocacy. A confluence of events has resulted in Bill Cosby being teamed with the Confederate flag (remarkably, it murdered nine African American church members in Charleston! ) to trigger a troubling wave of attempted cultural and historical purges—and where it stops, nobody knows. Some progressives want to wipe all memory of Bill Cosby’s achievements from the nation’s consciousness, just as they want to  tear down every statue of a Confederate military hero and wipe the name of Robert E. Lee off hundreds of schools, streets and parks.

[Aside: Stations are now pulling The Cosby Show, once one of the most syndicated and ubiquitous of all sitcoms, from their schedules. This is just a reasonable business decision. The stations reasonably assume that the show will not be as entertaining or popular once it is impossible to watch Bill Cosby as Dr. Cliff without thinking about Dr. Cliff secretly drugging and raping his female patients. That’s not cognitive dissonance. That’s just reality. Actor Gig Young made some of the best romantic comedies of the Sixties with Doris Day and others. He was a skilled comic actor, but he murdered his wife and killed himself in a drunken rage, and it’s hard to laugh at Gig any more. Those movies are virtually never broadcast, and it is hard to find them on DVD. Among Bill’s victims are the member so of his cast, including the kids he professed to love like a father, who will lose millions in residuals because he couldn’t control his demons.]

A time machine is helpful in these matters, so Salon, the left-wing blog that is so predictable it sometimes catches me by surprise, since it is hard to believe that any publication will willfully rush into self parody, has suddenly decided that “The Cosby Show” was “based on a distorted and inaccurate presentation of the black community, one that has enabled a pernicious type of right-wing “colorblind” racism to flourish.”

Ah. Cosby is bad, so everything he did before we found out that he was bad was bad too. We weren’t just duped about him. We were duped about the values he stood for!

The author of the article is Chauncey De Vega, an African American journalist who doesn’t even try to hide one of his motives: he’s still steamed that Cosby dared to urge African American families to be responsible, and pointed out that wearing one’s pants like they do in prison wasn’t the way to get respect from employers and potential associates not recently out of prison.  Mostly, however, he is determined to re-cast “The Cosby Show” as complicit in embedding racism in U.S. society. He writes in part: Continue reading

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