Unless you were living under a rock this week, you know that Bill Cosby was convicted on three counts of sexual assault Thursday.
Ever since this began, it seems my entire generation has struggled to reconcile our memory of the friendly, sweater-wearing Cliff Huxtable and the funnyman who voiced Fat Albert and sold pudding pops with the predator described in court. The impact seems to be twice as harsh for African-Americans who grew up watching The Cosby Show and A Different World, who saw positive reflections of middle- and upper-class black America presented on a national stage for the first time.
Some lamented that this seminal work is now tainted forever with Cosby's sins. And I am never going to be That Person and tell the black community what to think or how to feel. It’s not my place.
But I do think this is going to be one of the great struggles for us as a society, as social media now puts us in closer contact with the people we have previously idolized: how to separate art from artist. One nasty tweet can reveal that an artist we loved is actually a racist, or misogynist, or simply clueless and rude. We’ve gone through it many times, with allegations against Woody Allen and Kevin Spacey and so, so many others, going back to Orson Scott Card and before. How can we separate the person from the work? And is it fair to do so?
I know the choice I make: to try to separate art from artist up to the point that the artist’s malfeasance or problematic beliefs infects the art. But I also try to pay attention to the financial impact of my consumption of art, to ensure that little to none of my money goes to support causes I would stand against. That means, for example, if I simply must read a book from an author who espouses hateful homophobia, I can always get it from the library without giving him my money.
Can we really say that we should throw out The Cosby Show and A Different World because Cosby was a criminal? (Good luck finding either on streaming services, by the way.) There were so many artists who worked on those shows, writers and actors who did good work that deserves to be remembered. It wasn’t just cheap laughs that entertained us; it made us think, in ways that the modern sitcom often avoids, and busted stereotypes that go back decades.
It would be a sad thing for our collective culture if the fine work of so many people disappeared or was disparaged and dismissed because the lead actor was a criminal. The legacy of those shows does not belong to Cosby alone.
EDIT: A little birdie has informed me that you can find A Different World streaming on Amazon Prime.
• Speaking of artists doing very bad things… Smallville actress Allison Mack has been charged in the ongoing NXIVM sex cult weirdness. Mack is accused of assisting group leader Keith Raniere with coercing and enslaving unwilling women into the cult and forcing them to have sex with Raniere. As many as 50 women are alleged to be victims of the cult.
• Winter is not coming…. George R.R. Martin says The Winds of Winter will not be published in 2018. There hasn’t been a new Ice and Fire novel since 2011. Instead, there will be a 1,000-page history of the kings of Westeros, coming out in November. The fictional history has been compared by some as Martin’s Simarillion. Meanwhile, HBO is considering three to five possible spinoffs. Yikes.
• The first St. Louis Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Film Festival will take place at First Friday in May at the St. Louis Science Center. Attendees will be able to learn about cinematography, special effects, editing, directing, lighting, costuming and set design as well as screening the various short films. As it will be May the Fourth (be with you), the Planetarium will celebrate Star Wars Day. Finishing up with a screening of Ed Wood in the Planetarium, I’m really wishing I were off work.
• Ever since I saw this silly “Marvel Bunch” video, this song has been stuck in my head, so I gift it to you and you can have it stuck in your head. (Chris Evans, we gotta talk about the 'stache.) I think those guys have a movie coming out, have you heard anything?
• Hamilton may be gone (don’t worry, it’ll be back) but there’s still theater in St. Louis! Highlights this week include The Dresser by Gaslight Theater, Falling by Bankside Reperatory Theater Company, The Fantasticks by the Hawthorne Players, and Jesus Christ Superstar by Stray Dog Theater.
• In case you were worried that you weren’t giving enough money to Amazon, they’re now raising the price of Amazon Prime from $99 to $119. The change goes into effect May 11 and will apply to renewals beginning June 16. Amazon has had cost increases, they say. Sign on the dotted line if you feel sorry for them.
• Locals: Afterwords Books in Edwardsville celebrates its ninth anniversary on Saturday, May 12! Drop by for baked goodies, a 20-percentn discount, storytime and a drawing for a $50 gift card. Congrats to one of the hidden jewels of Edwardsville!
• Is Thursday really Alien Day? Is that a real thing? Twitter thinks so.
• A recent study in the journal PLOS One found that authors with female names were paid 9 percent less than authors with male names; female-dominated genres such as romand are thought of with less value; and there are gender differences in the prices of books within the same genre. Who’s surprised?
• You could fill a whole column with the latest in WTF is Next for Star Trek, but this latest one is interesting. S.J Clarkson has been tapped for the next movie, which makes her the first female director in the franchise. Side-eye that it took that long, but if you’re hoping to find out what movie they’re doing… is it the flashback movie with Chris Hemsworth as George Kirk? Is it that weird-ass idea of letting Quentin Tarantino direct a Star Trek movie? Is it Prime Universe or Abramsverse? Stay tuned.
• You know what Hollywood thinks needs a sequel? If you answered A Quiet Place, you’re right. Not sure if Paramount is right, since the movie was one of those experiences that really works and would be hard to recapture. But that isn’t stopping them…
• Bob Dorough, creator of Schoolhouse Rock, age 94. Sing along with “Conjunction Junction” and “I’m Just a Bill,” songs by Dorough the jazz pianist and vocalist. He was first hired by an ad exec to write a song to help his kids learn their times tables. The rest is television history.
• Arthur Rubenstein, 80, movie composer who worked on more than 300 films and television programs. His music direction could be heard on Broadway in A Chorus Line, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita and more. You’ve heard his scores in Wargames, Lost in America, Blue Thunder, Nick of Time and many other movies, frequently working with John Badham. He founded a symphony that presented more than 60 free classical concerts to 80,000 families and children. His composition “Observations” was performed at the Griffith Observatory in honor of the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s achievements.
• Jurassic World, which doesn’t look any less sexist or annoying, but I applaud Chris Pratt for his multi-tasking this year (although his Star-Lord and Owen the Raptor Whisperer appear to be roughly the same guy).
• Kin, with Dennis Quaid and a young kid in a dystopian future, whose older brother just got back out of prison and is already getting back in trouble. Enter an alien body, funky ray guns, and wackiness ensues. It’s an interesting setup, but could someone turn on the lights? You can be grimdark and still light the set.
• Deadpool 2, and I couldn’t get the silly thing to run, but given how I usually feel about Deadpool humor, it’s probably best. (In all fairness, I didn’t see the first one. But the menfolk did, and assured me that they found it hilarious and I would absolutely hate it. I trust their judgement.)
• In a completely different vein…. The Tale, pending from HBO and starring Laura Dern as a documentarian whose mother finds a short story she had written as a child that exposes long-buried secrets. Also starring Ellen Burstyn, John Heard (RIP), Jason Ritter and Isabelle Nelisse.
• Curious about the new Venom movie? Have a trailer that actually shows some plot! Tom Hardy plays a reporter who gets infected with the Venom symbiote, and who may or may not be an unethical turd. Can Marvel manage to produce one journalist who is competent, dedicated and ethical? We’ll see, but I’m not holding out hope.
Coming This Weekend
• Avengers: Infinity War. You might heard a little something about it.
• Foolish enough to actually premiere the same weekend: Kings, about a foster family in South Central Los Angeles right before the Rodney King riots; and Disobedience, a starcrossed love story between two women in a conservative Jewish society. (Technically it premiered last year, starring Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams; this is its wide U.S. release.)
I Feel Pretty, Super Troopers 2, Traffik, Rampage, Truth or Dare, Isle of Dogs, Blockers, A Quiet Place, Ready Player One, A Wrinkle in Time, Pacific Rim Uprising, Acrimony, I Can Only Imagine, Love Simon, Sherlock Gnomes, Chappaquiddick, and The Miracle Season. And probably BLACK PANTHER.