Chicago comic Hannibal Buress sparked overdue outrage when Philadelphia Magazine posted a clip of his Oct. 17 bit online in which he called out comedian Bill Cosby for the growing list of rape allegations the famous actor has collected in recent years.
While many of the allegations against Cosby have been public for years, the actor has managed to keep a lid on them and maintain his wholesome, sweater-wearing image.
Until the clip of Buress’ show went viral, it seems most fans remained unaware of the multiple reported instances of rape and other forms of sexual assault against Cosby.
However, as Buress pointed out in his bit, a simple Google search of “Bill Cosby rape” will lead curious readers to a long scroll of reports on allegations against the actor, meaning that although the information has been readily available for years, it took a male comedian calling Cosby a “rapist” on stage to draw substantial attention to the issue, despite five of the 18 known women accusers speaking out from 2000–2006, according to a list of the accusers published online by Slate on Nov. 21.
Since Buress “stirred the pot” in October, nine more women have come forward, according to a Nov. 24 report by The Daily Beast. Cosby’s representatives have dismissed each new allegation, calling them “fabricated lies” and bringing up some of the women’s rough career paths or histories of drug-related problems in attempts to invalidate their claims.
While some fans have taken the accusations against Cosby seriously, others have shown continued support for the entertainer even after the nine new allegations arose Nov. 16–24.
Cosby performed for a sold-out crowd in Melbourne, Florida, on Nov. 21, and in a video published the same day by NBC News, fans shared their reasons for still coming out to see his shows in light of what is widely viewed as what could be one of the biggest rape scandals in recent memory.
“I don’t know these women, but don’t wait 36 years to accuse a man of raping you,” one unnamed Cosby fan told NBC in the video. “Do something as soon as it happens.”
While fans may be conflicted on how to react to the accusations against “America’s Dad,” networks involved in several of Cosby’s pending projects have quickly pulled the curtain.
Online video streaming company Netflix, Inc. announced on Nov. 18 it was postponing a stand-up comedy special starring Cosby, “Bill Cosby 77”—which was due out Nov. 28—NBC announced on Nov. 19 it had also canceled a project with Cosby that was still in the early development stages, according to a Nov. 20 Reuters report.
TV Land also stopped showing reruns of “The Cosby Show,” and according to the Reuters report, a spokeswoman for the network declined to comment further on the issue.
Although it is a common practice for successful corporations to dissociate themselves from a person or group in the midst of a scandal, it seems NBC, Netflix and TV Land are taking the allegations more seriously than the public.
While reflecting back on the days of watching Dr. Cliff Huxtable on screen easily draws feelings of nostalgia, fans need to realize that Cosby’s situation is a prime example of society protecting an alleged rapist rather than protecting the purported victims.
Aside from one case, which was settled for an undisclosed amount in a 2006 civil suit, none of the accusers has faced Cosby in court, according to the Slate report.
To this, some critical Cosby lovers have said that any true victim could or would have come out sooner, seeing as the alleged cases date as far back as 1965.
What those fans have failed to consider is the trauma and feelings of powerlessness those supposed victims—most of whom were in their teens or 20s when the alleged assaults would have taken place—would have been dealing with immediately following any assaults and the fear that any victim may feel toward speaking out against a rapist, let alone calling out one of the most beloved actors in the U.S. during the decades when he was at the top of his game.
While one woman was given money to shelve her complaint, the others have nothing to gain from accusing such an icon.
Those critical of the potential victims have also failed to consider that most victims can be afraid to share their stories for fear that the crime committed against them will serve as their sole legacy, and most would rather not have family, friends or the public associate their images with rape every time they see or hear of the victim.
While Cosby may never be convicted for any of the alleged crimes, the growing list of women he may have harmed should not be dismissed.
Even likable, charming and celebrated icons are not necessarily good people. Cosby could be innocent of the crimes he is being accused of, but fans should not dismiss the possibility that he is guilty simply because they grew up with him.