Tainted love

2018-10-01 14:16
Bill Cosby.

Bill Cosby. (File)

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The higher they fly, the harder they fall.

A trite saying, but one that echoes in my head often in my career. We see it all the time and often mutter it among ourselves in our daily news conferences. And this week’s headlines dished up one of the best examples of this.

Wednesday’s newspaper carried Bill Cosby’s (81) photograph on the front cover. He’s in disgrace. Deep disgrace.

His expression is that of a doomed man, having been sentenced to up to 10 years imprisonment for the sexual assault of a woman. He knows there’s no sympathy for him. No one thinks he’s funny anymore.

Let’s go back to all those years ago when so many of us looked forward to the Cosby Show on TV. It was easy on the brain after a day down the coalmine and good for a laugh or two.

Many of us became quite fond of the character played by Cosby, the dear Doctor Huxtable. He was wise and witty with good, solid family values. And safe. So very safe.

We watched him with his wife and thought, that’s probably what a good husband should be. We watched his interactions with his children, especially his daughters, and thought that’s what a good father should be. He kept us chuckling and sometimes even made us think. There was nothing, at all, that gave us a hint that he could be a danger to young women. There was no warning sign flashing.

And human nature, I suppose, means that a part of us associated his wonderful character with the man himself. We trusted him, the image of the man we thought he was.

It’s exactly the same with the once-delightful Rolf Harris (I still can’t help singing Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport in my head every time I hear his name) — the avuncular, multitalented funny man, who painted Queen Elizabeth’s portrait and sang at her diamond jubilee. How much more respectable can you get?

Both essentially comedians, they made us laugh. They were funny looking really, and remember the faces they’d pull? Cosby with his bulging eyes. Harris with his, erm …. didgeridoo. But back then, there was no creepy sexual thing going on. The vibe they exuded on the TV screen was all innocent. They were like your favourite uncle and as far removed from “dodgy”  as is possible.

But, how much more creepy can you get? A man who models perceptions of himself on the antithesis of what he really is.

Dear, sweet Cosby was also capable of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman he called his friend. And she’s only one of about 60  who came forward accusing him of rape, drug-facilitated sexual assault, sexual battery, child sexual abuse and sexual misconduct dating back as far as the mid-sixties. He was deemed a “sexually violent predator” by the court that sentenced him.

Harris has now finished serving his time in jail. He served three years of his sentence of five years and nine months, for 12 counts of sexual assault.

Now no TV network wants to touch reruns of their shows. Colleges and universities have taken back the honorary degrees they conferred on them.

They’ve gone from being the darlings of the TV screen to being the reviled. The mention of their names now evokes disgust among we who were their fans.

Their actions impacted their victims in a way that irrevocably changed their lives. The thing though, and the whole point of this column is, that somehow, for those of us who ever enjoyed a Cosby Show or laughed at Harris’s clown-like actions, beneath our revulsion for these men, we feel foolish for having loved them. Our memories of them are now tainted. We feel betrayed. And stupid for being conned by them. 

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  opinion and analysis

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