To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, We Need to Talk About Cosby is a four-part docuseries directed and produced by W. Kamau Bell. Comedians, journalists, and survivors have a conversation about the life, career, and sexual assault cases of Bill Cosby. The docuseries is brought together through interviews, news footage, archival audio and video clips, as well as narration by W. Kamau Bell.
We Need to Talk About Cosby is heavy from the start as it deals with a very touchy subject. W. Kamau Bell uses a nice balance of entertainers, journalists, and victims to show multiple aspects of how what Bill Cosby did affects people differently. The documentary does a great job at showing how even some of the interviewees said that they didn’t believe it at first and that it took someone that they knew personally to hammer at home. It also shows how even now there are still people who don’t believe Bill Cosby’s victims and feel that he was set up. At the same time, there are also those who can no longer look at him the same.
In covering many aspects, We Need to Talk About Cosby delves into how Cosby got his start in comedy and acting. Cosby left race relations out of many of his jokes thus allowing him to cross over into a White audience quicker than other Black comedians. This helped his rise to fame move very swiftly and he soon became the first Black lead in a television show with I Spy. It was on this show that Cosby first started to help out Black people in the entertainment industry. He made sure that his stunt double was a Black man because before then the stunt doubles were White men who were literally painted black. As the series moves forward in his career it shows how he was very much into making sure Black people focused on education and family and donated a lot of money to HBCUs and other organizations that promoted education for Black people. The docuseries also covers his education, marriage to Camille, family, and murder of his son Ennis Cosby.
One of the biggest questions with the allegations against Cosby is why didn’t the women come forward sooner. We Need to Talk About Cosby does a great job at showing the many different answers to this question. Many women actually did come forward over the past 40 years with allegations toward Bill Cosby they just never gained any traction. Whether it be due to not having sufficient evidence, being past the statute of limitations, or the story was just covered up. There are also the women who chose to not come forward publicly because some were truly unaware of what happened. The drugs that he gave them left them with little to no memory of the incident and because of his fame, stardom, and reputation, the women felt that maybe they just got too drunk and make a fool out of themselves. This shows truly what kind of monster Cosby was by taking advantage of these women and making them feel like it was their fault. Lastly, there were women who even today still will not come forward due to the public scrutiny they may incur even though he has been proven guilty.
W. Kamau Bell does a great job at mixing his own personal thoughts on the subject with letting the victims speak ad nauseam about what happened to them and how their lives are affected. Bell acts more like a connective tissue between the different stories segments of the docuseries. He mentions that Cosby was one of his biggest influences going into comedy. So he also wrestles with the man’s legacy. Each episode is the perfect length at right under an hour long and each dealt with different parts of the Cosby allegations along with the decades of his career in the United States. Bell stated that he wanted this documentary to feel similar to O.J.: Made in America by also showing that the state of the nation also played a major part in how someone such as Bill Cosby could rise to be such a famous person who could get away with such heinous crimes without a second thought.
We actually manage to see in real-time everyone’s reaction to Cosby getting released from prison on a technicality. This was another divisive situation for the fallen comedian as some were appalled that he was released, others felt that it was a triumph for justice even though it happened to a bad man. Black people needed a hero and Cosby fit the bill. He became “America’s Dad” and once you’ve gotten a title that high, it’s hard to be imagined as anything else. The docuseries ends perfectly by asking interviewees and viewers what their thoughts are on Cosby now and the answers, as I’m sure they will across the nation, varied greatly, but there is one constant. Bill Cosby is many great things, but he is also a rapist.
While there are many more questions that could have been asked and more details W. Kamau Bell could’ve gone into. The docuseries worked and made the point it was aiming for. I give We Need to Talk About Cosby a Superb 5/5. While a heavy and sometimes upsetting docuseries, this is a must-watch for those who were or perhaps still are fans of Bill Cosby and his work.