The recent media outbreak surrounding the integrity of America’s beloved father figure from the 1980’s television phenomena The Cosby Show has left many wondering if his great legacy is beyond recovery. This sitcom, produced by William Henry “Bill” Cosby, was one of the decade’s defining shows of its generation. The Cosby Show aired from 1984 to 1992 to total eight seasons. Five of those years it held the number one spot in America which propelled Cosby’s legacy upward very quickly.
Cosby has been involved in several hit television shows and series. He is a veteran stand-up performer, actor, television producer, musician, educator, activist and of course comedian. Cosby, at 77-years-old, had no plans of retiring from television just yet. Until recently, he was working with NBC on a new television project.
On Wednesday the network confirmed that it would not be moving forward with the project in light of the recent scandal. In addition to NBC’s decision, Netflix has decided to postpone the launch of his comedy special titled, Bill Cosby 77 and TV Land has decided to cease the reruns of the 80’s show on its network.
Several women have accused the producer of sexual assault. In January 2000, Lachele Covington alleged Cosby groped her in his apartment. In 2004, Andrea Constand accused the actor of fondling and drugging her. In February 2005 Bruce Castor, Montgomery County District Attorney, released the following statement:
Constand filed a civil claim against Cosby in March of that year and thirteen women came forward with similar allegations, agreeing to testify as witnesses when the case went to court. Cosby settled out of court for an undisclosed amount in November 2006.
After learning that charges would not be pursued in Constand’s case, Tamar Lucier Green, a California lawyer, came forward and accused the comedian of drugging and assaulting her in 1969. Later in 1984, Beth Ferrier said Cosby drugged her coffee. Ferrier told the Philadelphia Daily News she felt faint, passed out and upon awakening found that her clothes had been partially removed.
In October 2014, Hannibal Buress called Cosby a serial rapist during a comedy routine sparking several allegations against the famed father figure to resurface. In an interview around the same time, Barbara Bowman repeated her long-standing accusations that Cosby drugged, sexually assaulted and repeatedly raped her starting in 1985. The alleged assault occurred over a two-year period when she was only 17-years-old.
The allegations did not stop there. An essay was published by journalist Joan Tarshis on November 16 of this year claiming Cosby raped her back in 1969, when she was 19-years-old. A mere two days later, model Janice Dickinson accused the activist of rape after he gave her a pill and glass of wine in 1982.
When questioned about the recent allegations, the Different World creator refused to address them. His silence spoke volumes to those who wanted to believe the accusations could not be true. Although Cosby has yet to be charged with a crime the question remains, “Has his legacy reached the point of no return?”
It seems author William Shakespeare said it best in his famed play Othello. In the third scene of the third act when speaking of the importance of a good reputation Shakespeare penned:
Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
is the immediate jewel of their souls.
Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him, and makes me poor indeed.
In other words, a good reputation is the most valuable thing a person owns. If one steals another’s purse (or other possessions) it can be summed up as trash. However, once a reputation has been tainted or stolen, it may not bring any riches to the “thief” but it definitely makes the accused much poorer.
Legacies are made, not born. It is the moment to moment decisions and responses made to the pressures of life that are shaping the type of legacy one leaves behind. People are remembered by the problems they helped solve or the ones they created, but everyone leaves some type of legacy. Only time will tell whether Bill Cosby’s legacy has been ruined beyond repair, but if history is a great indicator of future events Shakespeare may have already solved the puzzle.
Opinion by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)