a thousand words

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bill Cosby and the Mysteries of Jell-O

"When a product is perfectly matched to its seller, you cannot tell which thing you are being sold." - Anonymous.

Jell-O was always a mystery to me growing up. What held it together? Why did it wiggle and how come other foods were not nearly as shiny and fun.

Well, Bill Cosby's recent scandal forced me to not only deal with the nightmarish revelations of over 50 women, it also caused me to finally find out what the hell Jell-O is.

Jell-O is gelatin and gelatin is: animal bones and skin ground up, treated with acid, then boiled. The top layer of gelatin is skimmed off the surface. Flavored and colored water fills in the spaces between the polymer chains and in that state, making it jiggly, shiny, fun and desirable.

But if you heat the Jell-O, you break the bonds that hold the proteins together and it becomes what it once was: dead meat.

Bill Cosby's scandal is literally like heating Jell-O. It has broken the bonds holding together his image and turned his legacy into skin and bone because no matter how we celebrate Cosby's life and career after he's gone, there will inevitably be a discussion of this scandal, which makes his whole life's work look like a dead carcass.

The accusations of over 50 women casts a spell on the life and work of Bill Cosby and forces the imagination to recast him in our memories: 

Chet Kincaid, the impossibly positive and helpful physical education teacher of the first Bill Cosby Show, can now be seen lusting after young school girls and cute teachers in that Los Angeles high school, spiking their milk cartons in the lunch room and their coffees in the teacher's lounge and doing unspeakable things in the janitor's closet.

Alexander Scott the intrepid tennis pro of I Spy is fighting the cold war, but also date raping women across Europe, leaving dazed and confused heiresses and the occasional countess in hotel rooms, groggy and unable to remember what happened to them.

And of course, Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable is not just a dad and physician, but a skillful predator who uses that cover to assault women throughout New York in his OBGYN office, while raising his kids with jokes.

And in reality, we had Bill Cosby the man, the lovable, intelligent icon, a man who stood tall from the oppression of Jim Crow and rode the new racial enlightenment as an example of hard work, talent and perseverance. And now we are told that all during that glorious journey, he was drugging and raping women, in a constant pattern and in numbers that were consistent with his famous work ethic. If Bill Cosby was a brilliant entertainer, athlete and scholar, why would he be any less talented as a predator?

And while this is still technically an allegation, the volume of the evidence against him has stifled all doubt. But this notion should not totally surprise us because wasn't there always something just a little creepy about Jell-O? I mean, it moved like it was alive and then you ate it while it was still shaking on your spoon. Not cool, man, as Chet Kincaid might say.

I do not know how the Bill Cosby story will end, but I am sure it will not be good. And for years after he's gone, people will argue whether he was evil or the victim of an incredible and terrible conspiracy. The latter seems very unlikely and the former will probably never be conclusively proven to everyone's satisfaction.

But one thing is sure for all of us now. 

Jell-O is no longer a mystery.

And neither is Bill Cosby. 

copyright 2015.