The place do you begin to Talk About Cosby? He was probably the most common leisure figure of the 20 century, a person who reshaped the tv panorama in a manner that outlined illustration in comedy. He was additionally a violent, vicious predator who used his rigorously constructed public picture as a household man and revered pillar of the neighborhood to feed his vile urges. The dialog round Invoice Cosby doesn’t simply want to incorporate each of those tales, it wants to acknowledge how they have been inextricably linked—how Cosby’s public persona and recognition enabled him to commit horrific crimes outdoors of the general public eye. And the dialog wants to incorporate how generally we refuse to acknowledge that what we see on TV or hear on a stage isn’t anyplace close to the entire story in relation to an individual’s life. We thought we knew Invoice Cosby as a result of the so deftly turning his personal life into stand-up and fiction, however, we didn’t understand how a lot of it was a lie. The sensible W. Kamau Bell tries to wrap his thoughts around all of this within the wonderful four-part Showtime docuseries “We Must Speak About Cosby,” which premiered at Sundance at this time earlier than beginning on the cable community subsequent Friday, January 28th.
Bell’s method is wise in that he avoids a lot of the standard chronological method to true-crime collection or bio-docs. Considered one of his greatest choices, and what actually elevates the collection, is how cleverly he eschews the “fall from grace” construction. Many tales like this chart the rise and fame of their topic earlier than revealing the reality behind their public façade. Bell doesn’t do this. He is aware of there are shared worldwide data about why we’re right here—what we have to speak about is extra than simply “I Spy” and hit comedy albums. And he additionally makes clear how evil Invoice Cosby was from the very starting. He wasn’t a famous person after which a prison—he was at all times each on the similar time and that’s what we’re right here to debate.
Bell assembles an interesting assortment of interview topics, avoiding most of the acquainted faces that one may count on to see in a documentary a few movie stars. I’d like to know precisely how Bell selected the voices that may take part in this dialog, however, he’s clearly an exceptional interviewer. You may sense the consolation his topics have with him, typically utilizing his first identity like they’re speaking to a pal. And he attracts fascinating perceptions from sensible folks like Marc Lamont Hill, Jemele Hill, Jelani Cobb, and extra, whereas additionally together with a number of ideas from individuals who labored with Cosby like co-stars Doug E. Doug and the comic Godfrey or a producer from “The Cosby Present”. How Cosby has enabled turns into a backdrop for the present, however, Bell avoids pointing fingers in that division, in a fashion that may very well be irritating for some. The concept “somebody needed to know” comes up, however, it often stops there without a lot of decisions as to who and why they didn’t do something about it, however, Bell clearly needs to maintain the deal with Cosby himself greater than your complete damaged system.
In fact, probably the most highly effective voices on “We Must Speak About Cosby” are these of his victims. And right here’s the place Bell actually exhibits his ability as a creator. Simply because the present is feeling a bit too soundbite-driven within the premiere, the enhancing nearly grinds to a halt, and we hear an unbroken testimony of an assault. Bell does this a number of occasions in all 4 episodes, permitting Cosby’s victims the platform to inform their tales with few cuts, no rating, and no clips. He turns into an ally by listening, which is what everybody must do extra of now. We don’t simply want to speak about Cosby, we have to hear about Cosby, and listening to what he did from the mouths of the folks he did it to has unbelievable energy.
Probably the most fascinating feature of the Cosby story is how a lot of folks rose to defend him and a few nonetheless proceed to take action to today, and I want Bell would have dug into this a bit extra however I am completely satisfied he does not keep away from it. Within the remaining episode, he will get to the difficulty of why the Black neighborhood so shortly defends their Black males towards accusations—due to generations of false ones from the white neighborhood that may lynch Black males for a misconstrued slight—however, he doesn’t spend long there, most likely understandably avoiding criticizing the neighborhood for conduct that understandably emerges from the scars of historical past. Nonetheless, there’s an implication that Cosby nearly exploited this concept in his whole profession, shaping himself as an educator and an ethical authority in a manner that may insulate him from accusations, that is actually disturbing. He turned America’s Dad as a result of he knew it meant that we might come to his protection when the reality got here out, and in order that he may proceed to commit his crimes. How did we let that occur? How will we be sure it doesn’t occur once more? And, if it’s occurring proper now, because it most likely is, how will we cease it? We have to speak about Cosby as a result of speaking about Cosby is speaking about all of us. And solely ache comes from silence.