Will the Real Bill Cosby Please Stand Up?

By Sarah Teegarden

Out of the different 1980s sitcoms I thought that The Cosby Show was the most interesting and funny. Not only were the jokes good in the show, but the innovative portrayal on Black families and masculinity was good too. I thought that the show did a great job of giving Black families a place in society. By making the Huxtables a middle- to upper-class family rather than the poor, working-class stereotype of previous sitcoms, the show made a strong racial statement. Yet, what I think was the most impactful way The Cosby Show made a social impact was by making its characters so likable. Without such likable characters and cast the show would never have been so successful. Fast forward, about two decades and the cast members or at least the most important cast member (Bill Cosby) isn’t so likable. Add the importance of The Cosby Show‘s cast members to the recent scandals of Bill Cosby, and the outcome of the show’s social impact becomes confusing. A once undeniably successful, socially innovative show now becomes questionable.

During a video chat with Michael Real and Lauren Bratslavsky, they discuss how Bill Cosby’s reputation will taint the show’s cultural relevance. I agree with them. Despite, the huge success and cultural impact of The Cosby Show, I don’t think that the show will remain successfully impactful because of Cosby’s negatively redefined reputation. I think this distinction is necessary to note in regard to sitcoms connection to real life. Bill Cosby’s real life has greatly impacted the sitcom, which demonstrates the severe connection of the two. It shows how much Americans connect with sitcom or television characters and link their real lives with their sitcom lives. If television viewers truly recognized the fictionality of sitcoms they would not think of The Cosby Show any differently today. But I think that Real and Bratslavsky are right in that The Cosby Show will never be regarded the same because of reality’s influence on it. I think that Bill Cosby did some terrible things, but that The Cosby Show did some incredible things. It’s a shame that this distinction cannot be recognized by most of society. Figuring out how to distinguish the true and false links between society and television would be an interesting topic to explore.

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One Response to Will the Real Bill Cosby Please Stand Up?

  1. marymdalton says:

    Excellent post — perfect title!

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