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February 23, 2005

When Cosby Becomes Farrakhan

I think if I hear another word about Bill Cosby, I'm going to projectile vomit green spew like some animated monster on Aqua Teen Hunger Force. He has become encrusted into the Fungibles like the curls of George Washington's Rushmore rock locks. Everywhere you go, you cannot talk about black anything without the interminable conflict raising it's ugly empty head: Cosby vs 'Real'.

What has happened here? The same thing that always happens. Americans have locked on to a proxy exactly in tune with the Isbell Theory. There are no black leaders, so we invent them so as to better understand those faceless nameless masses, and place them into the appropriate compartment.

We Americans are so good at doing this because too much of our culture is pop culture, and hardly anyone recognizes the power of organic traditions any longer. We think that there's a spokesmodel for our every value. So that's what Cosby has become over the past year, the Bill Bennett of his day, a pop representation of a set of values. The problem is that it becomes all about Cosby and whether he's a worthy character, rather than whether what he is contributing to the ongoing dialog will stand the test of time.

It's still to early to tell if Cosby will continue to respond and engage in such a way that minimizes the damage. The more he talks, the more he's going to distinguish himself from others who address the subjects. However if he goes on tour and its his new version of the Cosby Show, then he will be no different than Farrakhan. Cosby must share the stage and take his knocks. We've got to see Cosby vs Michael Eric Dyson and Cosby vs Abagail Thernstrom and Cosby vs JC Watts and Cosby vs Oprah for him to merit the oxygen he's sucking out of the atmosphere.

It's not a bad thing that Cosby is too large to ignore, but can we have some context please?

Posted by mbowen at February 23, 2005 09:40 AM

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