Bill Cosby has slowly begun to do stand-up comedy again. And quite frankly, he needs to sit back down.
Prosecutors in Philadelphia are prepping for jury selection for a retrial concerning the former comedian’s multiple sexual assault charges. Meanwhile, Cosby took the stage Monday night at a Philadelphia jazz club in front of, as the Associated Press reported, “a friendly crowd.”
Cosby cracked jokes about his family, his legal blindness and other personal anecdotes for about an hour and declined to comment on his ongoing molestation and drugging trials.
As he slowly wades back into society, having been seen at a barber shop and a local café, it is clear the people of that crowd as well as others in the United States, are forgetting the multiple women who have accused Cosby of sexual assault.
In a #MeToo culture where almost weekly a large-scale celebrity is explosively accused of committing an act of sexual assault, anger and mass disapproval are primarily directed at the "offender of the week."
The vital piece to the long-lasting potency of this movement is to not “forgive and forget” offenders who have fallen out of the immediate spotlight, even if their charges happened before #MeToo, and even if they were once considered “America’s Dad.”
Just to refresh everyone’s memory:
Dozens of women have accused Cosby of raping, drugging and molesting them over a period of 50 years, starting with the first reported offense in 1965. These reports come from nurses, models, actresses, flight attendants, educators, writers and more.
Additionally, Cosby is not out of jail because he has in any sense demonstrated innocence. He is out of jail because of a hung jury, which most likely occurred because of Cosby’s celebrity status and the luxury of posted bail.
It is admittedly hard to look away from and try to forget the joy seasoned artists such as Cosby have brought millions of audience members. It can be particularly hard when said artist is a long-time comedian, who, as we have seen over the past years, wields a craft that can unite people in times of uncertainty and strife.
However, as stated so brilliantly by Tyler Coates of Esquire Magazine, “it’s time to stop separating the art from the artist.”
The tired phrase bears repeating: actions speak louder than words.
Yes, chastising Cosby in public, tweeting and writing about his disgusting acts are important to inform others and share common experiences.
But these offenders who are artists are never going to feel real consequence for their actions if we continue to entertain their art and celebrity in spite of whatever vulgar act they may have committed.
Consumption sends a message.
Think of it as a boycott of a service or product because you do not agree with the morals or practices of the company you are buying it from.
If we want real change in our society to stick regarding celebrity sexual assault perpetrators and we want those accused of these unspeakable actions of be aptly punished, we as audience members must have the conviction to refuse to consume their product— their art.
As hard as it can be, silent action has the power to speak volumes louder than infinite words.
Bill Cosby has had a long, impressive career that has positively affected many people. Many Americans may find themselves missing Cosby’s humor and wanting to either watch his older works or go see him in what I’m sure will be future stand-up acts.
I strongly encourage those people to exercise restraint and to think about the long-lasting effect that conviction to moral rectitude will have as opposed to the temporary gratification of laughter that can be received elsewhere.
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