Watching Bell contextualize Cosby’s popularity and importance as a Black cultural figure while also describing in detail (told by Cosby’s accusers) the way he leveraged his wholesome image to drug and allegedly assault women is hard to digest. I watched most of it through tears. It’s uncomfortable and uncompromising. Even though we’ve known about the allegations for years, seen the headlines, and heard all the jokes, watching Cosby’s triumphs beside his transgressions is brutal — especially because there is no way to let ourselves off the hook. There is a system in place that allowed Cosby to do what he did and for as long as he did. If you believe his accusers, and I do, it’s clear that he thought he was invincible and on many levels, he was. He was Cliff Huxtable, the most respected, loveable, trusted dad in America. And he was Black.
At every turn, he tricked us into thinking Bill Cosby was the same, and deserved the same respect, love, and trust. And we bought it. What Bell and his various cultural commentators and interview subjects do so well is force us to reckon with the juxtaposition of Bill Cosby the performer, and Bill Cosby the predator. But as the New York Times notes
, they are one and the same. “There isn’t a good Cosby and a bad Cosby, whom we can store in different mental compartments,” James Poniewozik writes. “There is just Bill Cosby
, about whom we didn’t know enough and now know dreadfully more. In the end, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are always the same guy.”