About that EBONY Magazine Cover and the Cosby Conundrum
Yesterday, EBONY dropped the mic on everyone when they released the cover of their November 2015 issue. It is a cover made to look like a cracked picture, featuring the Huxtables. The crack starts on the face of Heathcliff, which is mostly covered because of it, and it spreads throughout, but everyone else’s face is still visible. And then you look and realize that Cliff is covering Rudy’s ears.
The moment I saw this cover, I said “WELL DAMB. They went there.” Yes, they surely did. They took it there, came back and ran to the grocery store. That cover is instantly iconic, and there is no way you can look at it and not feel the gut punch that was intended. Whether you hated it or loved it, it gave you a visceral reaction, because the statement is loud and clear, and the conversation we are meant to confront is incredibly uncomfortable but necessary.
EBONY’s team had to know that backlash would happen. It is strong. It is bold. It is just right. To me, it is perfect. Mass rage has spilled out on their Facebook fan page since the cover dropped. People are wall-sliding and sobbing all over their comments, talking about how Ebony has betrayed the Black community, ruined their childhood and stole their last piece of candy. Folks are threatening boycotts, cancelling subscriptions and saying they’ll never support anything EBONY does ever again. People are UP and SET. If you want to fight the air, go take a look. The Butthurt Brigade is out. And I have to say, I am fascinated by the level of vitriol that is coming at this cover.
I interpret the cover pretty literally. The allegations of rape that are being dropped at Bill Cosby’s feet have tarnished the legacy of a man called “America’s dad” and of the show that he created to be semi-autobiographical. He caused the crack but it reverberates through the entire cast photo because those people in the picture were a part of the magic of the Cosby Show. Without them, he would not be America’s dad. That does not mean they are to blame for any of it. Let me repeat: THEY ARE NOT TO BLAME. But their legacies in those roles are tied together and the success of the show was because they played an amazing unit. You cannot watch the Cosby Show without any of them. It also has Rudy’s ears being covered by Cliff and this seems to be a wink to our “hear no evil” approach to this. We don’t want to hear it, or talk about it.
No, I don’t see the exclusion of Raven-Symone as shade. Don’t forget that she wasn’t a part of the show until season 5.
Like countless others, I grew up watching the Cosby Show. I can quote many episodes verbatim, and it had a very special piece of my heart. It was the prototype for familial perfection, and it was revolutionary in that it dared to paint a Black family as such. I loved the show fiercely, so I get the attachment to it. This is why this cover was an immediate jab to the chest for us.
We are attached to the Huxtables, particularly Healthcliff, the patriarch. Some people imagined him to be their father, and the idea that he could be a monster in real life shatters our hearts to pieces. THIS is important because it is one of the reasons why Bill Cosby is being defended so vigorously against the allegations. Well, there’s also the part about society not giving a shit about women’s bodies and rape culture is a bitch. It’s also undeniable that it is because people do not want to think of Cliff Huxtable as a rapist.
You’re probably like “Ok but why have Dr. Huxtable on the cover? Why not Bill?” It is true that Bill and Cliff are not the same person. BUT Bill is prospering from the Cliff Cape and Armor. The reason he has been protected, besides the obvious that society doesn’t give a damb about women, is that people are giving him leeway BECAUSE of what he represents in Heathcliff. You do not know Bill. You know Cliff. Bill is the guy you know is married to Camille. Cliff is the coogi sweater-wearing face of fatherhood. That is who you’re giving the benefit of the doubt when you shrug off those allegations. Claire’s husband would never drug women. Rudy’s dad would not dare to use his power to get women to do sordid shit. Dr. Huxtable, the gynecologist, would never cross those boundaries. True. But Bill Cosby very well might have.
We must separate Bill and Cliff to be able to understand that one was a fictional character, who was made up and created to be perfect. The other is a real man, with flaws so deep you need floaties. At the same time, we must know that Bill and Cliff are bound together because Bill is still receiving the privileges of Cliff. You aren’t defending Bill. You’re going to bat for Cliff. That is why that cover gave you a visceral reaction. You immediately winced because the idea of Cliff raping 45 women punched you in the gut.
We’ve attached so much real life value to a fake character that some of us want to act like this scandal is not happening. We close our ears and go “I CAN’T HEAR YOU.” We can be disappointed by the comeuppance of the people playing our favorite characters, but we cannot let our love of the legend keep us from addressing the crimes of the real person. We need to separate the persona from the person.
Cliff Huxtable clearly carried the hopes and dreams of Black America because folks are calling this EBONY cover a betrayal. You would think the magazine reneged in a tied up game of Spades. People are hollering, talking about how they are contributing to the downfall of Black people by going along with the plan to bring us all down by bringing down one of our largest icons. Well, Bill did bad all by himself, and calling him out and the consequences of his actions is needed. There are times when we can discuss things as “family business.” And there are times when you need to know when to stand on the porch, get Cicely Tyson to ring a bell and call it out.
Black unity does not mean I cosign your dumb shit and mistakes ALLATAHM because you got melanin. It also does not mean that one of the most iconic Black media outlets should sweep the giant pink elephant in the room under the rug. They are doing the job they should be doing, using facts to drive conversation and tackling topics that are relevant, both tough and mundane.
So the people who are wilding out on their fan page gotta chill. Some of y’all would not defend your own MAMA this much. They’re outchea threatening boycotts and I’m like “Girl, shut up. Shut it up!” Talmbout you boycotting Ebony. I bet your goofass ain’t bought an issue in the last year. NO. ONE. CURR.
I need people to stop with the idle boycott threats for everything they disagree with. You have cried wolf enough. It hasn’t mattered.
The Cosby Show was great, in every sense of the word. It was Black pride in show form, from the music to the art to the fashion. And it is because Bill Cosby insisted that it was unapologetically Black, even down to the crew. The man has done amazing things for the Black community. We cannot deny that. But this whole rape thing ain’t just “some mistake.” Folks have skeletons in their closets but when these skeletons include you taking someone else’s body without their consent, then you’re a fucked up person. And when it is tens of people, then you’re basically Voldemort. Your past charity can only make up for so much.
50 women have come forward saying Bill Cosby molested them, and they are young, old, Black, white. Where there is fuel there is fire, and he has been kicked off the pedestal. Some people are handling it better than others but for some, it is absolutely preposterous and it is a conspiracy against Black America. Break up the Cosbys, and what might be next? Let us check the Willie Lynch letter for it’s psychic readings.
The person who did this is Bill Cosby, not EBONY Magazine for pointing it out. While folks are mad for Bill, are they just as mad for his victims? OR NAH? Some of the comments I’ve seen are stuck on stupid and I am floored. Everyone won’t love this cover, sure. We can be critical of it. But some of the reasons I’ve seen have me facepalming because people are PRESSED. It hurts like hell. I get it. We gotta deal.
I say congrats to the EBONY Magazine team for taking this where it needed to go. This was brave. No one is happy to see this fall from grace but we have to face it and talk about it and heal from it.