In resurfaced allegations of sexual assault, Bill Cosby hasn’t received much punishment. Sure, he was a trending topic for a day. He lost many contracts with Netflix, NBC and TV Land, and resigned from his seat in the board of trustees with Temple University. The entertainment industry is blacklisting him, but is this too late?
These allegations have been known for decades, yet only when a male comedian calls Cosby a rapist do people take notice. Only when #BillCosby trends on Twitter does the industry decide to punish him for something they already knew decades ago. They perpetuated his career and authority as a comedy legend, giving him dominance over his victims and their ability to speak up.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved Bill Cosby. I grew up watching “The Cosby Show.” He revolutionized stand-up comedy and paved the way for black comedians. It’s heartbreaking to know that America’s favorite sitcom dad is allegedly a serial rapist. But do you know what else is heartbreaking? The multiple women he victimized. The multiple women who screamed rape for years, but nobody listened.
This isn’t just Bill Cosby. Hollywood continues to sweep sexual assault under the rug to maintain the reputations of their leading men at the sacrifice of the women sexually assaulted. This stems from two issues: celebrity culture and patriarchy.
Since the inception of motion picture and the creation of Hollywood as America’s mecca for entertainment, people have viewed celebrities as gods. We look to them for inspiration, emulate them, and feed into their image of perfection. We hold them to higher standards and view them as infallible. In death, they’re martyrs for their craft. In memory, they are canonized into sainthood, only remembered for their talents. Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Michael Jackson embody this archetype.
This god like status in addition to an industry imbedded in a patriarchal structure perpetuates celebrity culture: a culture that continues to validate Woody Allen, Terry Richardson, Michael Jackson, and Bill Cosby. Hypermasculinity, power, prestige, and wealth all play into these men getting away with sexual assault. The issue lies with the industry. They’re allowing celebrity men to get away with sexual assault because they hold so much prestige. They need to be stern and systematically phase them out, not when it becomes a media sensation, but when they are privy to it.