Throughout the 1980’s, everyone loved Bill Cosby. The entire world practically stopped on Thursday nights when The Cosby Show came on; it was funny and inspiring to people of all races and as a result, people fell madly in love with Bill Cosby.
Well, maybe not everyone. Fourteen women (and possibly more) have accused Cosby of raping them in the 1980’s, at the height of his celebrity. After reading many of the women’s personal accounts, I had to reexamine my own thoughts about Cosby. These women came from different walks of life and ages, and they told the same story over and over—how Cosby manipulated them, made promises of stardom, and took advantage of them sexually. The assumption can be made that at least some of their allegations are true, and none of it looks good for Cosby. And is usually the case, people immediately came to his defense.
“My gosh, this is Dr. Huxtable, a wonderful character from a television show! There’s no way he could be a bad man in real life!” The same type of people also defend Woody Allen (‘He’s a genius!’), Michael Jackson (‘He was a brilliant singer and dancer! People just wanted to hurt him!’), and any number of messed up artists, actors, athletes, and politicians. One has to wonder if these were regular, every day folks instead of mega-stars, would the public be as protective towards them? Doubtful.
So why are we only just hearing these allegations about Bill Cosby, some 30 years after-the-fact? In part because the old-school PR machines, once able to hide the dark & dirty secrets of Hollywood, are officially broken. Even into the 1990’s, PR people were able to keep celebrity scandals away from the mainstream. If, for example, an actor was blatantly gay and all of Hollywood knew about it, publicists knew how to keep his secret safe. They would promote the closeted actor as a “perpetual bachelor looking for Ms. Right.” If that didn’t work, they would instruct said actor to marry a woman and, in some cases, have children. Those marriages rarely lasted, but the point was made: “He’s not gay, silly–he was once married to a woman and has children!”
If an actor was an addict or alcoholic and needed to go to rehab, PR folks would use two words to explain it all away: extreme exhaustion. And in the 1990’s when a celebrity died of AIDS, you would only hear that he died from “complications of pneumonia”—always, always, to keep those secrets secret.
Prior to the Internet, gossip magazines were the main source in calling out the foibles and flaws of the stars, with publicists staunchly denying any and all claims. But the reason many of those periodicals are still in existence today is because there are almost always threads of truth involved. If not, all those gossip mags would have been sued out of existence decades ago.
Today, with a combination of the Internet, iPhones, and TMZ-type shows, celebrities—and politicians–aren’t able to get away with much of anything anymore. They don’t have that sacred protective wall surrounding them; if they go to jail, the entire universe will know about it soon after their mug shot is taken.
It’s easy to imagine the scandals that would have surfaced during JFK’s ‘Camelot’ years had he been subjected to TMZ, catching him (and his brother) with their alleged non-stop stream of women. And picture how differently Bill Clinton’s political career might have gone had there been iPhones in the 80’s and 90’s. It’s pretty safe to say that Bill could possibly have gone by way of Anthony Weiner had there been video proof of his dalliances.
Because of our instant-access world, it’s almost impossible for celebrities and politicians to get away with their usual nonsense, either privately or publicly. They hate this because it means they have to stay on their toes and maintain their public persona on a constant basis. No longer can Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bines’ types get away with being idiots anymore—and politicians can no longer get away with using their power for privileges.
In a political sense, perhaps one of the reasons many of the old guard Republicans despise the Tea Party is because they represent us, ‘the people’. The days of ‘going along to get along’ don’t work anymore because they know we are watching them. Just like celebrities, politicians are being held accountable for their actions and if we don’t like what they’re doing, we will call them out.
Unfortunately for the old guard in both Hollywood and DC, once you’ve seen the light you can never go back to the darkness again.