In the wake of sexual assault allegations leveled at Bill Cosby, Netflix has pulled the comedic legend from its lineup although curiously stands by and continues to celebrate the works of accused pedophile Woody Allen. While one cannot necessarily blame the entertainment juggernaut from distancing itself from Mr. Cosby until more facts are known in his case, their selective outrage is worth questioning when one considers the accusations against actor-director Woody Allen are even more vile and disgusting than those that have remained front-page news for the past week.
In an official statement, a Netflix spokesman declared, “At this time we are postponing the launch of the new stand-up special Bill Cosby at 77,” which featured the comic performing on his 77th birthday. Netflix had initially planned to air the special on November 28, the day after Thanksgiving. The dry and diplomatic statement did not indicate if the special would be aired at a later date and did not provide a reasoning for the postponement. Conventional wisdom suggests they fear the public backlash from the ongoing scandal and preferred to shield itself from ties to the legendary funnyman.
Netflix is hardly alone in its selective outrage as NBC has cancelled development of a comedy series it was developing with Cosby, and cable network TV Land has pulled all reruns of the 1980’s sitcom The Cosby Show from its regular programming. In addition to backlash from Hollywood, numerous upcoming performances of the iconic funny man have been pulled over the past few days. Across the country everyone from noted feminists, late-night comics to the office water-cooler critic have been quick to confirm their cultural bona fides by condemning Bill Cosby in a rush of judgement.
Dignitas News Service will go on record as saying that if the accusations against Bill Cosby are true then he deserves all the scorn he is receiving and more, but we find the selective outrage of the general public to be both disingenuous and self-serving. In addition to the apparent free-passes that the likes of R Kelly, Chris Brown, Roman Polanski, Jimmy Page and so many others have received, accused pedophile Woody Allen is still celebrated by Netflix and the bulk of the entertainment industry. In the case of Mr. Allen, not only are the accusations of pedophilia reprehensible, but given his unique pseudo-parental relationship to both Dylan Farrow and now-wife Soon-Yi, if true he should be placed at a level of revulsion far and away above that of Mr. Cosby. When considered in that light, it appears Bill Cosby’s biggest handicap is that the accusations against him have hit the public’s attention at a time abuse of women happens to be the cause célèbre of the moment, coming off the heels of the problems involving Ray Rice and others in the National Football League. The NFL’s troubles prompted a wave of empty gestures by a self-serving public seeking to feel better about itself.
Bill Cosby’s reluctance to properly address the accusations against him may be in direct relation to Woody Allen’s pathetic and infuriating defense/hit piece in the New York Times following Dylan Farrow’s account of her childhood molestation at the hands of the Academy Award winning director. In an expose titled Woody Allen Speaks Out, the only sympathy and regret he expressed for Dylan Farrow was that she had been “cheated out of a loving father” and had been “taught” to hate him.
Among the many disgusting accounts found in the 33-page affidavit (which have not been disputed by Allen) is that Woody Allen was fond of reading to then three-year old Dylan in bed, dressed only in his underpants and offering his own thumb for Dylan to suck on.
In both cases, we have instances of iconic figures from film and entertainment being accused of acts of sexual depravity that occurred decades before. What separates the two, however, are the overt actions of the accused. While there have long been whispers about Mr. Cosby’s private behavior, Woody Allen has built a career on making light of his sexual proclivities. Nearly every one of his works references his obsessions, bordering on sexual addictions, including that of much younger women. This in itself is hardly enough to condemn Mr. Allen, but the fact that he married Soon-Yi, for who he had served as a primary father figure certainly adds credence to the charges of Dylan and Mia Farrow.
There were dozens of troubling revelations that resulted from the 1992 custody battle between Allen and Mia Farrow, in which New York State Supreme Court Justice Elliot Wilk ruled strongly against Allen. Among the many disgusting accounts found in the 33-page affidavit (which have not been disputed by Allen) is that Woody Allen was fond of reading to then three-year old Dylan in bed, dressed only in his underpants and offering his own thumb for Dylan to suck on.
Despite all of this, Woody Allen has somehow managed to maintain his status in the entertainment world. Although he has numerous and noted detractors, he did not face the onslaught of public opinion and his defenders, unlike those of Mr. Cosby, were not met with an equal level of righteous indignation. While I don’t believe this is due to their racial differences, there is an aspect of race and politics at play here. Among the mainstream media and cultural elites, Bill Cosby is widely considered a “safe” black target. Throughout his life, the iconic comic and racial pioneer has been an outspoken critic of the glorification of the “ghetto culture” within the African-American community. While not necessarily a political conservative, his outlook and statements are to the right of the accepted talking points as related to black culture. He has come out strongly against the slang and borderline ebonics that has come to be celebrated in pop culture and mimicked by so many of today’s entertainment celebrities, black and white, as well as his harsh critique of various issues plaguing inner-city life. Allen, on the other hand, is the quintessential hand-wringing Manhattan liberal. Despite the lack of diversity in his films and off-color jokes that would land any conservative figure in the media’s firing scope, Woody Allen is on the “right side” of the voting block, as a lifelong Democrat and thus affords him the benefit of the doubt from Hollywood’s elite.
Only Bill Cosby and his accusers know the real truth, but we cant help but wonder why accused pedophile Woody Allen is still celebrated by Netflix and Hollywood at large, while Cosby has become a persona non grata. As an entertainment leader, Netflix should apply an equal standard to the censorship of entertainers who have run afoul of accepted behavior and as a culture we should do the same. While it is up to each individual to determine their standards and should rightfully vote our own conscience, as a society we need to decide whether to separate celebrities private lives from their professional performances or to treat those facing circumstantial evidence with an equal sword, whether they are iconic family friendly figures like Bill Cosby, or a degenerate scumbag like Woody Allen.
Commentary by Paul M Winters
Founder & Managing Editor, Dignitas News Service