We Need to Talk About Cosby (2022)

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8.0 Overall Score

Well organized argument and reason why Cosby need to be talked about


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How do you talk about an idol that did horrible things while helping?

Bill Cosby is an icon.  Breaking barriers at an early age, Bill Cosby helps change perceptions and appearances of Black people in America and change the culture around the community.  Bill Cosby had a secret that wasn’t talked about.  Over the years, Cosby assaulted multiple women, but the accusations and challenges go unsaid and unnoticed.  When the word of Cosby’s potential crimes are revealed, a divide is created in America…do you believe America’s dad or the woman accusing him.

We Need to Talk About Cosby is a Showtime documentary series.  Directed by W. Kamau Bell, the series received Primetime Emmy nominations for Outstanding Narrator (“Part 1”), Outstanding Directing for a Documentary/Nonfiction (“Part 1”), Outstanding Picture Editing for a Nonfiction Program (“Part 1”), and Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series.

I knew Cosby from Fat Albert and even Picture Pages which were institutions when I was young.  We got a copy of Bill Cosby Himself (taped from HBO) and watched it over and over again.  It was a family affair along with watching The Cosby Show week after week.  Cosby first showed some weakness with when he spoke out against The Simpsons (which I also loved) and FOX and NBC forced me to make a choice (usually picking The Simpsons).  When the accusations against Cosby came out, it was hard to wrap my head around them (especially after they got worse and worse).  We Need to Talk About Cosby poses the problems of someone who was influential and important in elevating an entire community and what happens when that person isn’t what people expect.

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What was happening behind the cameras and behind closed doors…and who knew?

Bill Cosby brought about change to Hollywood, and his mass appeal reached homes and audiences that were unprecedented.  In The Cosby Show, Cosby presented a lifestyle that was unattainable for both Black and White audiences…the Huxtables lived in a perfect world.  Despite having a daughter that probably was just right out of college, a lawyer and doctor live in a spacious New York brownstone.  Within The Cosby Show, was able to explore racial identity (like exploration of art and culture) that wasn’t normally presented on TV much less to the audience size reached by the show…it was a really positive presentation that America needed (especially at the time).

In addition to having a broad platform for his message, he also was an innovator who helped bring about change in Hollywood and brought up young Black men and women by providing opportunity which in turn provided visibility which led to more change.  It was all positive, but the dark underside of what Cosby was doing behind closed doors (or as some in the documentary question if they were really just partially closed door with more people knowing and not speaking).

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DOCTOR Cosby knows best

The question posed by the documentary is where the line is drawn.  If you erase Cosby, you erase the good deeds he did, but if you don’t erase Cosby, victims and others suffer.  He provided so much opportunity that it is tough call and W. Kamau Bell does a good job trying to present that strange divide.  In 2022, it is hard to be on the side of Cosby, so Bell has the challenge of presenting a quasi-balanced presentation…one of the better exchanges was with Jerry Seinfeld and Stephen Colbert debating the artistic divide and between the comedy and the crimes…something that everyone has to do.

Structurally, the series does a great job presenting what Cosby was doing to help the Black community and what he doing at the same time in his criminal actions.  With nice timelines and a good balance of victims and scholars, the series presents a lot of the complexity of the situation.  It is a tough issue and there are no answers.

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The victims…and not even all of them

Bill Cosby still remains a bit of an enigma after the documentary.  Is he a sociopath?  An egomaniac?  He obviously thought he was too big to fail and his attacks on Black parents and their actions in the community didn’t go over well (and helped split perceptions when he was finally exposed).  Telling moments include the interview where he tells the reporter to lose the question about the accusations against him (you can debate if asking the question was appropriate), or his reaction to Marc Lamont Hill who was shut out for questioning Cosby’s speaking accusations (and Cosby’s response was as vulgar as the comedians he complains about).

We Need to Talk About Cosby has enough distance from the events to get a good perspective, but as seen in documentary, it is also a documentary of still unfolding events (footage of Bell learning Cosby was being released was recorded while shooting the documentary).  The Cosby story isn’t over in the press and Cosby doesn’t seem to be going quietly…which instead of helping his case seems to be making it worst.  It is a situation with no answers, but it is something that needs to be explored and “talked about”.

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“Part 1”

Part 1 Airdate:  01/30/22

Bill Cosby hits the scene by quickly building a name as a stand-up comedian and gets a major and award-winning role in I-Spy…bucking frustrating TV and societal racial trends.  On I-Spy, Bill Cosby pushed for Black stuntmen to portray Black actors and opening the door for more actors and performers.  The rise of Playboy and Hugh Hefner’s Playboy lifestyle begins to attract the jet-set celebrities, and Bill Cosby is a perfect match for the club…and Spanish Fly could be a hint to Cosby’s intentions.  Victoria Valentino tells her story.

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“Part 2”

Part 2 Airdate:  02/06/22

Bill Cosby takes a stand on the teaching of Black history and begins to attempt other roles when I-Spy ends.  Despite early success, Cosby struggles on the big screen and finds success among children as a role-model.  As Picture Pages on Captain Kangaroo and Fat Albert puts him in the home of children, Bill Cosby continues a path of drugging women for sex.  Pursuing a doctorate in education, Bill Cosby dives into his new doctor title.  More victims tell their story, and Bill Cosby’s interest in Quaaludes is revealed…but Bill Cosby Himself changes everything.

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“Part 3”

Part 3 Airdate:  02/13/22

The Cosby Show takes the nation by storm, and Bill Cosby reaps the benefits of the success as The Cosby Show manages to reach an audience that of all races and ages.  With fame and popularity, more people began visiting The Cosby Show, and Cosby begins to bring in women in for roles.  Lili Bernard tells her experience on the set and a dressing room encounter along with others who experienced Cosby’s extra attention.  The murder of Cosby’s son Ennis shocks the world, but Cosby’s decision to double-down on Black people for crimes and taking stake in their lives divides the Black community.

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“Part 4”

Part 4 Airdate:  02/20/22

Hannibal Burress’s stand-up on Bill Cosby and rape changes everything and begins to expose Cosby’s secrets.  With the secret of his rapes are exposed, people begin to look back on his career and see the signs of his crimes have dogged his career.  NBC’s decision to potentially launch a new show is questioned under the potential rape accusations, and accusations of rape from multiple women begin to appear.  Bill Cosby faces charges of rape from Andrea Constand, and he might have to face his crimes…but is America ready to talk about it?

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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