Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

The Cosby Show

I, like many others, have been following the buzz around Bill Cosby for the past few days. A few years ago, I remember hearing allegations that “America’s Favorite Dad” had done the unthinkable- he had raped someone. But just as quickly as I had heard about the allegations, they were swept away.

Now it seems that it can no longer but swept under a rug. 15 women have come forward with rape allegations against Cosby. The evidence seems to be mounting so high that Netflix has cancelled his special, a major network called it quits on a new show, and TV Land has pulled pretty much everything with the name Cosby on it. By all accounts it seems to be a PR nightmare. Imagine the nightmare his victims have been living for the last 50 years.

In recent months, we have heard a lot about the “free passes” given to athletes, but what about artists? The concept of “celebrity” is universal. We apply it to athletes, artists, musicians, actors. We let them get away with theft, assault, domestic violence, rape, and murder, all because they can throw a ball, play an instrument, or tell a joke. What happens when we say “He didn’t mean it…” or “But he has such a promising future…”? What happens when we look away?

“I don’t have many writing regrets. But this is one of them. I regret not saying what I thought of the accusations, and then pursuing those thoughts. I regret it because the lack of pursuit puts me in league with people who either looked away, or did not look hard enough. I take it as a personal admonition to always go there, to never flinch, to never look away.”

What happens when we say “No More“?

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5 comments on “The Cosby Show

  1. amyjoforeman
    November 21, 2014

    This is such a sad reminder of the cruelty in the world… I’ll try to write without bias.

    What I’m interested in is your use of the term “celebrity” as a scapegoat. I think that artists of varying celebrity status would be prosecuted in very different ways dependent on their art form. Had Robert Mapplethorpe experience similar accusations he might have been condemned like a smarmy woman in the Salem Witch Trials. It can be so difficult to condemn Cosby because we know his work as loving and kind. And his work should be an accurate representation of him, right? It is interesting how the artist’s work can deceive an audience from the truth.

    As an arts manager, I would have to follow suit with the large companies that have been pulling the plug on Cosby work. By doing so, it would be an effort to pull my organization out of the spotlight. I wouldn’t want to be associated with the allegations.

  2. yaoge2016
    November 21, 2014

    In my country, if a person has a single possibility to take away from the allegation, then he is either innocent or has some privilege. It doesn’t mean he won’t be on trial, but the process is harder and longer than average. In this case, I think the fame of celebrity gives he privilege, which makes illusion that he could do whatever he can and avoid punishment. I don’t think it’s celebrity’s work that deceives the audience from the truth, but their privilege and resources to settle it down work. (Maybe my opinion only suits in China, where there is no jury, so people’s fond of someone won’t change the result.)

  3. hgenetos
    November 21, 2014

    Since I wrote about his collection of art being given to the Smithsonian for an exhibit, I’ve been wondering about how we will handle him going forward. I agree with your stance of No More. I’m curious about what will happen to his exhibit. Will the Smithsonian take a stand of No More?

    • zeniasimpson
      November 25, 2014

      @hgenetos I wrote about the Smithsonian’s response on the Marketing Facebook page but in short, they’re keeping it up there. They actually don’t even mention Cosby. In their defense, its about the art and not him and he does have an awesome collection, but they are terrible people who lack academic integrity because they really just wanted a blockbuster exhibition and centered what should be an academic space, around this pretty word “celebrity.” Back to playing Devil’s Advocate, this exhibition took years to create and he’s an extremely private person who loans nothing out so they’re probably just going to stick with it.

  4. benjamendouglas
    November 22, 2014

    This requires a more full discussion than can be had here. And, before anyone tars and feathers me (metaphorically – I hope not literally) it is certainly worth noting that FIFTEEN women have come forward. It is also worth noting that I have several friends who know Cosby quite well for 30 years – and he is generally known to be more-or-less a nutjob.

    However, I feel it is CRUCIAL that I point out that we the public have no way of knowing what happened. Which of these allegations – if any – are true? (And, by that token, are there two, three, four, ten times as many who haven’t come forward?)

    I don’t like what I know of Bill Cosby. But, until there’s a trial and all of the facts come to light, I do not believe that we can fully know for certain what did – or didn’t happen.

    As an arts manager, this creates interesting situations. Helen pointed out the Smithsonian exhibition. High Point University has removed him from their Board of Trustees.

    I’ve been through a few similar crises (notably Dickie Scruggs) where orgs had to decide whether or not to return six and seven figure donations because the donor was tainted by scandal.

    And I think that to make a fully informed decision, facts – not rumor, scandal, heresay, or gossip must be considered.

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