Has Bill Cosby tainted the legacy of our favourite TV dads?

Bill Cosby as Cliff Huxtable and Malcolm-Jamal Warner as Theo.
Bill Cosby as Cliff Huxtable and Malcolm-Jamal Warner as Theo.

I used to love Bill Cosby. He played my first example of a great TV dad (Cliff Huxtable) and he was very similar to my own in that he was a disciplinarian, but it was obvious that he genuinely cared about his kids. 

I watched the reruns of the Cosby Show when I was a little kid and laughed at the funny antics his family got up to and smiled and felt moved when those same kids learnt very important lessons from their parents. 

I thought he was the epitome of the TV dad and very important to a lot of people in a lot of ways. In fact, Randiesia Fletcher wrote a piece for The Lily talking about how important Bill Cosby and the Cosby Show was to her as a kid living on Skid Row and who needed a great TV dad to replace her real life one. “My parents were crack addicts. I never knew what or when we might eat next. Sometimes, we had a TV, and when we did, I looked forward to a sense of normalcy on Thursday nights. I was a voyeur in the Huxtable home portrayed on ‘The Cosby Show.’

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“I envisioned eating the hoagie sandwiches my TV dad ate. I wanted the orange juice his kids drank. I wanted clothing that was not twice my size marred with holes. I wanted my hair neat and clean. I wanted family dance days,” says Fletcher.

And while my experience and reason for loving this TV family is not nearly as tragic as Fletcher’s, I can understand the disappointment and anger of finding out that this man you idolised and thought was wholesome and decent is actually a rapist and it was just all an act. We know he was playing a character but ultimately Bill Cosby lived and took shelter under Cliff Huxtable's umbrella.

Bill Cosby was convicted of three counts of aggravated indecent assault a week ago and will be sentenced in the next three months. He could end up spending the rest of his life in prison given that he’s already 80 years old. Here’s a breakdown of what happens next now that he’s been convicted.

READ MORE: We need to talk about Hollywood’s rape problem

So does this mean that every other TV dad (remember the allegations against another TV dad Stephen Collins from Seventh Heaven?), is now eyed with a similar distrust because of one man’s terrible past?

Do we trust ourselves less with looking up to Uncle Phil from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Carl Winslow from Family Matters, Frank Mitchell from Moesha and Julius from Everybody Hates Chris?

We shouldn’t. We need them now more than ever.

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Yes, it’s shocking that a man who was allegedly involved in the rape and molestation of several women and convicted of the assault of another made such important television.

Such well-written, groundbreaking television that while you don't have to watch anymore, you can still appreciate his art for what it was – a trailblazing portrayal of a family. You can still recognise that it was important in its time for us. 

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Now, thankfully, there are a host of other TV dads (there are still too few) who have come after Cliff Huxtable who are good role models. And will be for generations after us. What we must remember though, that should any of them fail, that we hold them accountable as the men that they are and not as the characters they play.

Need recommendations of good TV dads to look out for right now? Check out Andre Johnson in Black-ish and Richard Webber from Grey's Anatomy (he totally counts).

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