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-   -   My Bill Cosby Friendship and When Bad People Make Good Art (http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=96588)

E. Q. Taft 09 April 2018 07:03 PM

My Bill Cosby Friendship and When Bad People Make Good Art
 
Since the Oct. 5 New York Times article detailing the atrocities of Harvey Weinstein, a growing tsunami of outrage has washed through American culture. From celebrities Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey and Charlie Rose to political powerhouses Trent Franks, Roy Moore and President Trump, the list of infamy grows daily. But when that list includes names of beloved artists associated with social progress, such as Bill Cosby, Sherman Alexie and Al Franken, we are shaken on an even deeper level. Our initial anger and sense of betrayal makes us want to purge their artistic footprints from our cultural identity, and we are forced to ponder: What do we do with good art from bad people?

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/ne...pinion-1099111

crocoduck_hunter 09 April 2018 08:15 PM

My stance on the issue has always been that we already have more art than a person could consume in their lifetime. When you've got an artist who's done something this bad, try finding someone new who isn't tainted by such behavior.

Mouse 10 April 2018 02:35 AM

How about we think about all the good art we missed out on, by artists driven out of the field due to abusive assholes?

Sue 10 April 2018 04:46 PM

What a thought provoking article. It articulated much of what I've been struggling with particularly when he talks about collaborative art. Must everyone who worked with a disgraced actor (or director or whoever) suffer when he falls? Definitely food for thought.

Lainie 10 April 2018 05:08 PM

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is an excellent writer.

Dr. Winston O'Boogie 10 April 2018 06:18 PM

From the article,
Quote:

We've come to some sort of social consensus that for the most part accepts the transgressions of dead artists — maybe because of a lack of urgency or laziness or because if we banned every sexist male artist, we'd have few men in our artistic canon.

The attempt to punish the art for the sins of the artist is not a one-size-fits-all remedy to bad behavior. Other factors have to be considered, including cultural and historic context and whether the art form is collaborative.
I certainly can think of a counter-example. In the last 20 years or so, Wagner has fallen out of favor. Few doubt his musical genius, but his pieces are not being performed because of his racist anti-semitic views.
Quote:

Originally Posted by Lainie (Post 1976270)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is an excellent writer.

I have often said that the best athletes are also the smartest ones. Kareem has had quite the varied life, including martial arts and acting (although no one would call his roll in Airplane! Oscar-worthy, it was funny as hell!).

musicgeek 10 April 2018 06:59 PM

Look, kid, you tell your father... :lol:

This is a terrific article. I haven't listened to any of Cosby's old routines (which used to be all-time favorites of mine) since the allegations broke. It's a shame, because the bulk of his output was extremely kid-friendly, and I looked forward to sharing them with my kids the way my father shared them with me, but I can't bring myself to do it.

Dr. Winston O'Boogie, I'm curious as to what makes you think Wagner has "fallen out of favor." The Met just performed Parsifal at the start of their 2018 season, Chicago Symphony has Wagner programmed for May, Boston Symphony just finished a 3-day run of an all-Wagner program, Cleveland Symphony has a Tristan und Isolde program coming up in two weeks.... in Europe, the Royal Opera House (London) will open its 2018-2019 season with the complete Ring cycle, the Bayreuth Festival is still going strong, a new production of Lohengrin will be in Marseille in May... I think that most scholarly discussion of Wagner now includes criticisms of his views, but his music is still regularly performed by major opera houses and orchestras.

E. Q. Taft 10 April 2018 07:45 PM

I think the tricky thing is when you've been exposed to and developed an appreciation for the art long before the stories (let alone the proof) of the misbehavior surfaces. I mean, I'd been a fan of Cosby's comedy for forty years or so before these allegations got public attention. The stuff doesn't become retroactively unfunny, but it does make it hard to go back and listen to it. (Thankfully, at least his stuff rarely if ever dealt with subjects like sex and dating -- that would make it much, much worse.) Similarly, I'm not going to throw away the books I have by Al Franken, but I might hesitate to buy any new ones -- although I don't think his behavior is anywhere near the Cosby level.

Kareem also raises the problem of when you've actually got a personal relationship with the person in question. Of course, if you were a friend who knew, or had strong reason to suspect, that the behavior was happening, and didn't do or say anything about it, then you have to feel complicit. But if you had no idea? I think many of us have had things like that come up in a far less public context.

And then, of course, there's historical context and shifting values. I am a huge fan of Isaac Asimov, but reading his own descriptions of his flirtatious behavior with young women can get quite uncomfortable. I am sure that many of the young women were amused and flattered by the behavior, but I am also sure some were not. That it was often done with clever wit is somewhat beside the point (The Sensuous Dirty Old Man is rather brilliantly written, but the behavior it suggests could get you fired from a lot of jobs) -- though I admit sometimes I have had the "joke too good not to make" line spring to mind, and for someone as addicted to humor as I am, it can be a quandry. (Nothing excuses the actual groping, however...)

E. Q. Taft 10 April 2018 11:28 PM

Somewhat on the same topic:

What About “The Breakfast Club”? by Molly Ringwald

Quote:

How are we meant to feel about art that we both love and oppose? What if we are in the unusual position of having helped create it? Erasing history is a dangerous road when it comes to art—change is essential, but so, too, is remembering the past, in all of its transgression and barbarism, so that we may properly gauge how far we have come, and also how far we still need to go.

crocoduck_hunter 11 April 2018 12:20 AM

It's kinda weird hearing from all of you who remember I Spy or The Cosby Show when they were new. As someone who grew up in the 80s, my formative memories of Bill Cosby were the Fat Albert cartoon and Jell-O commercials. And the former had an episode about inappropriate touching.

E. Q. Taft 11 April 2018 04:04 AM

I didn't watch "I Spy" as a kid, but I do remember Cosby's first sitcom (which I think was just called "The Bill Cosby Show") where he played a gym teacher. He also had a variety show in the seventies, but everybody had a variety show in the seventies...

ganzfeld 11 April 2018 06:29 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mouse (Post 1976217)
How about we think about all the good art we missed out on, by artists driven out of the field due to abusive assholes?

I love this line of thought. So true, Mouse. Yet it seems the problem remains we can't do anything with the art we never got. :(

I think one thing is people have to stop putting old art on a pedestal, no matter how "good" it's supposed to be. I love the Gioconda as much as the next guy steeped in this Eurocentric cesspool and I don't expect the Louvre to take it out of its special little place but, really, let's move on. Maybe what we're looking for doesn't exist yet. I'm all for fully funded art history classes to the max but a lot of this "good art" talk is just nostalgia. (Also, if what you talk about in art history is what's "good" or not, fercryinoutloud get a new teacher or textbook or something. That's so f-ing irrelevant.) I mean, are we really losing anything by putting I Spy in film and TV class rather than the reruns hour? Really? Put something new there.

crocoduck_hunter 11 April 2018 06:43 AM

I've had similar conversations, Ganzfeld. I got accuse of "not wanting to have an honest conversation" when I asked someone to specify what, exactly was so special about one specific piece of famous artwork that it would be worth saving to the exclusion of other art. I said that saying that we should preserve da Vinci because it's da Vinci was nothing but a circular argument and evidence that they were the ones who weren't interested in having an honest conversation.

ganzfeld 11 April 2018 09:51 AM

I grew up with old recordings of Cosby's standup material (which is where Fat Albert came from but I'm sure you mean the animated series). I did see him on various kid's TV and commercials and reruns of I Spy but I never saw a whole episode of the Cosby Show. (Sometimes I feel like a TV illiterate. I don't get the cop-donut references or anything...)

I'm sad he apparently turned out to be such a terrible person but I don't see what throwing away the audio I have of him would do at this point. I can't listen to it now - or probably for a few decades - but, like you said at the top, there's no shortage of good comics around. I just discovered Tiffany Haddish. She makes me feel like I should have stopped listening to Cosby in 2005.

Lainie 11 April 2018 12:57 PM

I love Tiffany Haddish.

Hijackably, AFAIK, the cop-donut thing isn't related to any particular TV show. IME, it's a pretty common real-life joke/stereotype.

Sue 11 April 2018 02:58 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by E. Q. Taft (Post 1976330)
I didn't watch "I Spy" as a kid, but I do remember Cosby's first sitcom (which I think was just called "The Bill Cosby Show") where he played a gym teacher. He also had a variety show in the seventies, but everybody had a variety show in the seventies...

The show where he was a teacher was the first time I remember watching him on TV. I'm old enough that I could have seen I Spy in its original run and I know my parents did watch it but I don't remember it. I know him best though from his recordings and from The Cosby Show - a show that had some fabulous moments, teachable moments and incredibly funny moments. If this had all never happened The Cosby Show would be in endless reruns somewhere. As it is it will surprise most of us enormously if any of his shows are ever aired again.

Which reminds me - OJ Simpson didn't have (as far as I can remember) a TV show but he was in some pretty high profile movies. Do those movies ever get shown on TV anymore I wonder.

And while I'm pondering why is it that two black men accused (but not convicted - so far) of some terrible things have had their careers destroyed but men like Roman Polanski get standing ovations at the Academy Awards? I get that the crimes are different but I can't help wondering if the colour of the skin plays into this as well. Perhaps not.

Lainie 11 April 2018 03:00 PM

Especially since the difference between Polanski's crime and Cosby's crimes is that Polanski's victim was a child.

St. Alia 11 April 2018 03:22 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by crocoduck_hunter (Post 1976313)
It's kinda weird hearing from all of you who remember I Spy or The Cosby Show when they were new. As someone who grew up in the 80s, my formative memories of Bill Cosby were the Fat Albert cartoon and Jell-O commercials. And the former had an episode about inappropriate touching.

I've read your comment several times over a couple days and I'm still trying to figure out which era is which without having to look it all up.

I also grew up in the 80's, but I think you're younger than me based on lurking here for years.

I don't really know what I Spy is but I think it's from before I was born? Or at least before I was watching TV shows.
The Cosby Show was something I grew up watching throughout childhood into my teens I think and then I watched A Different World. Did the Cosby Show end far earlier than I recall and I just watched reruns or something?

I do remember the Jell-O commercials...well, more the Jell-O pudding pop commercials than anything else. And I think I only saw a few episodes of Fat Albert. Those always felt dated to me and never were a favorite of mine so I didn't pay much attention to when they were on.

GenYus234 11 April 2018 03:28 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sue (Post 1976354)
Which reminds me - OJ Simpson didn't have (as far as I can remember) a TV show but he was in some pretty high profile movies. Do those movies ever get shown on TV anymore I wonder.

He wasn't the star of them, but the Naked Gun series of movies have been running on one of the cable channels this past week.

Quote:

And while I'm pondering why is it that two black men accused (but not convicted - so far) of some terrible things have had their careers destroyed but men like Roman Polanski get standing ovations at the Academy Awards?
Pretty sure race is a key part but I wonder if timing might have something to do with it. Polanski's crime has long been known about so there was some degree of "acceptance" (for lack of a better word) about it. Cosby's alleged crimes were known, but not widely known so the outrage was peaking at a time when such crimes weren't as likely to be swept under the rug. Don't know if the number of victims has any bearing on the difference but it might.

Lainie 11 April 2018 03:40 PM

St. Alia, the Cosby Show ran from 1984-1992, according to IMDB.

I Spy was a 60s drama starring Cosby and Robert Culp as spies who traveled the world. Their cover was that Culp was a tennis player and Cosby was his trainer. But Cosby's character was also a Rhodes Scholar and a very accomplished man, which was groundbreaking for a black character on American TV at the time.

Re: differing reactions to such crimes, in Cosby's case, I think some of it is that he was so beloved. I don't think anybody had that kind of investment in Roman Polanski.

ETA: Also probably didn't help him that he used to harangue young black people about their supposedly indecent behavior, which even in his exaggerated descriptions didn't approach the indecency of his own behavior.


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