In 2008, one of my best friends was moving into her first big girl apartment. It was on the second floor in a private house - a stunning 3 bedroom, 2 bath in the northern Bronx area. She raved about how quaint and charming the neighborhood was, how her landlord (also the owner of the property and lived on the first floor) sang opera and was a sweet old man who really cut her a break when putting down for rent and security deposit. I also met him while helping her unpack and move in and he really reassured me that she was safe and in good hands. My friend was so happy because it seemed like the most ideal and seamless move-in situation for a first time renter.
A week after she moved in I got a phone call from my homegirl hysterically begging me to come to her apartment because she had distressing news and didn’t want to talk too loudly about it in the apartment on the phone. I was so confused and prayed there wasn’t a rat kicking it there as her new roommate or something of the sort.
When I got to her apartment, she greeted me in silence and pointed at her laptop screen with horror in her eyes. There, on her screen, was her landlord…. Listed as one of the SEX OFFENDERS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD! WHAT?!?! BLASPHEMY! We felt so mislead! He was so sweet and unmistakably harmless. Literally from that day, I never let someone’s smile or appearance (a man more specifically) misguide me into believing they couldn’t possibly be what they are portraying themselves to be.
That feeling of duplicity that my friend and I experienced the day of our discovery sure as hell is what a lot of fans are feeling about the allegations against Louis CK. The comedian was an easily likeable, dry-humored balding ginger-haired dad that wrote for notable comics like Conan O’Brien and Chris Rock. He had everyone’s vote and went from small writer to 8-time Emmy Award winner for his tv show “Louie.”
What we all turned a blind eye to was his actual references of sexual harassment and masturbation in both his stand-up and his show Louie. There’s an episode of Louie where he forcibly tries to keep a close friend of his from leaving his apartment and to kiss him and stay over (alluding to sleeping with him). C.K., a father of two young girls, received significant criticism for the frightening scene. At the time sexual harassment allegations and rumors about C.K. started to grow with direct quotes from Roseanne Barr about his inappropriate behavior. Although people tried to speak out about their encounters/knowledge of sexual harassment with C.K., they remained the dark shadow of C.K. bright ascent to American comedy god.
Unfortunately, this situation bares an uncanny resemblance to that of Bill Cosby’s scandals except for a few stark differences. For one, Cosby’s prestigious awards and honors were almost instantly revoked. The reruns of his famously recognized television show, “The Cosby Show” was pulled by a multitude of organizations and networks and 25 colleges and universities also rescinded his honorary degrees. Granted, Cosby was accused of far harsher allegations than C.K. and also maintained his innocence, denying the validity of all 60 claims of sexual assault against him.
These rape and sexual assault allegations have single-handedly demolished the Cosby brand and legacy. I am interested to see the turnout of Louis C.K.’s career now that he has actually admitted to sexually harassing the women who came forward. His movie premiere has already been cancelled, shows dropped or put on hold, and appearances for talk shows have been replaced with other stars. But will it truly destroy his image as badly as it did Cosby’s?
I hate to make the obvious racial comparison between C.K. and Cosby, but it's hard not to. While I’m aware of C.K.'s Mexican heritage, for all intents and purposes Louis C.K. is generally recognized as a white man. Sexual abuse scandals are flying left and right. And the accused perpetrators of the latest claims are white men in power re: Bill O’Reilly, Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, and America’s favorite Donald Trump. However, it seems Bill Cosby was held at an even higher standard than even our very own president. And I’m not sure how big and bad the efforts of Netflix were when it came to renouncing Kevin Spacey and distancing themselves from both the man and his work, because I definitely signed into Netflix and scrolled to House of Cards (for shits and giggles) and all seasons were intact from pilot to finale. Meanwhile, I couldn’t even catch The damn Cosby Show on YouTube when Bill was in hot water.
Let’s also never forget the case of Brock Turner, a 22-year-old white Stanford student, who only did three months jail time for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman — a sentence that usually gets a minimum 6 year prison sentence. Turner received a minimal sentence that would have been a few times more rigid had he been a person of color and he's not even an award winning celebrity (or President).
Woody Allen was put under a spotlight and scrutinized for being a sexual predator and oddly marrying his adopted daughter (who is 35 years his junior). Yet Woody is still recognized as an icon in the industry and sickeningly enough C.K.’s latest film “I Love You, Daddy” has been widely reviewed by critics as an ode to both Allen’s work and his infamous sex scandal. Unlike Allen, Bill Cosby was immediately ridiculed by everyone, my generation and older. All of us disappointed and disgusted to discover our once beloved Dr. Huxtable was actually a serial rapist. Many all but erased any contributions The Cosby Show made to the culture. How Cosby's work has been treated in the aftermath of his date rape revelations provide a sharp contrast to the conversation around C.K,'s. Louis is currently receiving more thought pieces on separating the flawed man from his brilliant work than I can count.
Let’s see if Weintstein, Spacey, and C.K are blackballed and blacklisted and held accountable by the criminal justice system as Cosby has been or if they’ll be offered the same understanding the nation afforded Donald Trump when leaked tape of him saying, “when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab 'em by the pussy,” wasn’t even a minor bump on his road to the White House. My mom has always reminded me that when you’re black you have to be twice as good as someone white or privileged. What she never mentioned was that when things go downhill for people of color they usually go down twice as fast and twice as hard.
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(Photos from left: Nate Smallwood-Pool/Getty Images, Jeremy Chan/Getty Images)