by AARON MEGAR
In recent weeks, rape and molestation allegations against one of America’s favorite comedians, Bill Cosby, have emerged once again after being at rest for nearly a decade.
The allegations, which suggest that Cosby drugged and raped over ten women beginning in the 1970s, were brought to the spotlight after comedian Hannibal Buress called Cosby a rapist in a stand-up act this past October in Philadelphia.
Videos of the act went viral, and in the weeks since, accounts by multiple women have been published in The Washington Post and on the website Hollywood Express, reaffirming stories that were published in Newsweek in February of this year. No criminal charges have been pressed against Cosby, and he has continuously denied all allegations, leaving the allegations unconfirmed and the truth vague.
Click here for Time Magazine‘s full timeline of Cosby’s rape charges.
For those who were previously unaware of these allegations, I’m sure you are as shocked, betrayed, and disgusted as I was. While it is likely that they will never be confirmed, the accusations will certainly tarnish Cosby’s reputation, especially for a man who is at the end of his career and fading from the spotlight that he held so prominently in the 80s and 90s when he starred as Cliff Huxtable in The Cosby Show.
Bill Cosby was a man that I watched endlessly as a little kid, listening to his stand-up acts because he was one of the few that could make people laugh without the use of obscenity or profanity. To hear that he is an alleged rapist, and to read the graphic descriptions given by multiple victims of when they were as young as 18 years old, has put me in a confused state of mind where I truly do not know what to believe. Upon being asked to write an article about the recent allegations, I began to think of other celebrities who have seen similar accusations and how these accusations, though unconfirmed, effected their reputations.
Specifically, I’ve decided to reflect on the accusations made against and the reputations of Kobe Bryant, OJ Simpson, Michael Jackson, and Ben Roethlisberger, using their reputations today to determine how these recent accusations will effect Bill Cosby and his legacy.
Out of the four listed above, Bryant and Roethlisberger’s allegations are nearly forgotten while the allegations held against Jackson and Simpson make up most of their reputation today. When one thinks of Bryant, they think of one of the greatest basketball players of all time, and with Roethlisberger, what comes to mind is a Super Bowl winning quarterback with a debatably Hall of Fame resume. When one thinks of Jackson, they do know him as the King of Pop, but along with that a creepy child molester who, though never convicted, certainly committed the crimes he was accused of. When it comes to OJ, he is first and foremost a murderer who got away with killing his wife.
So the question is, what sets Roethlisberger and Bryant apart from OJ and Michael Jackson. The answer is quite simple: the first two continued their careers, going on to lead their respective teams to a combined total of three championships after being accused of sexual offenses, while the second two were already departed from the professions that made them so famous to begin with.
Bryant was arrested in 2003 for sexual assault, though the charges were later dropped in 2004 as the two sides agreed on a civil settlement that was undisclosed to the public, and he continued to build his reputation as one of the NBA’s top players, leading his L.A. Lakers to repeat championships in 2009 and 2010 and being elected to the All-NBA First team nine times after the alleged assault. Similarly, Roethlisberger was accused of sexual assault twice, first in 2008 and then in 2010, though he was never convicted. Roethlisberger went on to win his second Super Bowl in 2009 and was elected to the Pro Bowl in 2011.
On the contrary, the careers of Michael Jackson and OJ Simpson were almost entirely dead when accusations arose in 2003 and 1994, respectively. Though Jackson was originally accused of and investigated for child molestation in 1993, this was in the midst of great commercial success, coming two years after the release of his seven-time platinum record, Dangerous, and a Super Bowl half time performance in January of 1991.
The second set of allegations, however, came two years after a much less successful release of the only two time platinum record, Invincible, where Michael was no longer in the spotlight for his music, but rather brought back into the spotlight for the accused molestation of 13-year old Gavin Arvizo. Michael did not release another studio album after Invincible, and even in the wake of his death in 2009, Jackson’s reputation was clearly heavily tarnished by the 2003 accusations.
In the case of OJ Simpson, we see a very similar trend. OJ’s football career is decorated with some outstanding accolades including a Heisman Trophy in 1968, six Pro Bowl selections while playing for the Buffalo Bills, and an NFL MVP in 1973. By 1994, however, Simpson was fifteen years removed from the NFL and at the tail-end of a fairly insignificant acting career, though he was on the verge of starring in an NBC television series titled Frogmen before the murder of his wife and her friend, Richard Goldman, on June 12, 1994, which led NBC to cancel the show. Though never convicted, it was fairly obvious to the general public that Simpson committed the murder, and he has since been regarded as a murderer before a football player.
Which brings us back to Bill Cosby. If these allegations were to have emerged in the 90s, during the peak of Cosby’s success, they would likely be forgotten like those against Kobe Bryant and Ben Roethlisberger. Like OJ Simpson and Michael Jackson, however, Cosby is at the end of his career, and with that has little time to continue to create more success that would overshadow the accusations that have emerged this past month.
While I am still skeptical of the allegations against him, mainly because I and much of the media are asking, “Why would it take this long for the victims to come forward?”, the fact remains that neither Michael nor OJ were officially convicted, and the claims still hold a great bearing on their names today. I believe that if this story continues to gain traction by the media, and especially if any sort of court case emerges from these accusations, Bill Cosby will forever lose his reputation as one of America’s great comedians, and become more notorious as an accused rapist.
This is all quite a shame, because to a lot of us, Cosby was more than just a comedian. His role as father of the Huxtable family on The Cosby Show expanded far beyond the TV screen, as he gave advice to not only his children on the show, but to all of us kids growing up about relationships, accountability, and being an overall good person. He was a model father and husband on what TV Guide called the biggest hit show of 1980s, and today remains as one of the most memorable shows of my childhood.
While I’d like to think that the accusations are all attempts at stealing Cosby’s money, the fact still stands that not just one, but multiple women have been able to deliver detailed accounts of being drugged and raped by the man that many have adored for so many years.