Hollywood is rumored to be a liberal bastion. Why exactly? Because a couple of actors raised some money for Obama? Hollywood as a business is far from liberal. Its core value isn’t progress; its core value is profit. If “Fifty Shades of Grey” can make money, it’s produced. If “The Passion of the Christ” can make money, it’s produced. Hollywood’s only bottom line is the bottom line.
So if the most powerful man in town is a libertine predator but he’s making people money, he has immunity. Yes, I’m speaking of America’s father figure, sitcom icon, Bill Cosby.
As of this writing, more than 30 women spanning four decades have come out publicly to say that Cosby sexually assaulted them. But because we love Cosby, the knee-jerk reaction is to cast doubt on these women: “Who are they?” “Why’d they wait so long to come forward?” “What are their motives?”
“I don’t know why it’s so hard to believe women,” said Jay Leno during an interview at an industry conference last week. “You go to Saudi Arabia, you need two women to testify against a man. Here you need 25.”
Because in the world of television the formula is set: Bad guys lose, good guys win. Bad guys are bad. Good guys are those we identify with—their struggles, their charm, their perseverance. To Americans, Cosby was the quintessential television good guy.
I didn’t have a father growing up. The father I created was an amalgam of advertizing images and Dr. Huxtable.
So it’s understandable for fans to reflexively want to protect Cosby by casting doubt on his accusers. We aren’t used to seeing monsters who don’t look like monsters. Cosby is a complicated villain who made an entire industry complicit in his sex crimes. It’s now clear Bill Cosby, the man, is more fit for a Shakespeare drama than a half-hour situation comedy.
If you talk to people in the Cosby-sphere (which I have), his assaulting women has been an open secret for a very long time. So forgive me for not calling him an alleged rapist. He’s an enabled rapist.
One victim is a crime—more than 30 is a criminal enterprise. And just like in the mob, if you’re an earner, you’re protected. The moment Cosby was no longer bankable, the allegations suddenly stuck.
I commend those responsible for cancelling Cosby’s new projects after more than a dozen women came forward. A Cosby crony, former NBC employee Frank Scotti, told the Daily News he paid off women for the comedian in the 1980s. Besides Scotti, there are plenty of others who knew this was going on and did nothing. Those who at best looked the other way and at worst supplied the family friendly fraud with young girls.
As a television viewing public, once we get past not believing three-dozen women and finally admit Cosby is a serial rapist, the next phase is even more uncomfortable. It’s realizing there’s an industry we love and admire that fostered, promoted and profited off a Cosby. Who was going to stop the gravy train just because a couple of models got hurt? Apparently no one.
In an industry that loves to navel gaze, it’s time for some serious self-reflection.
Imagine being brutally assaulted by a beloved entertainer who was free to continue the practice as he wanted. These women were rape victims first and victims of a conspiracy against rape victims next.
Whether Cosby will be charged with a crime or not is yet to be seen, but regardless of the legal system, it’s the Hollywood machine that should be held in contempt: An industry with no regard for young women, treating them as a disposable commodity to be fed to a star.
That’s the buried lead in the Cosby saga: As a predator, he thrived and blossomed in a business where the only crime, it appears, is not being profitable.
Photo by Ted Eytan