By: Sophie Hunt

It has been said that Bill Cosby is a comedic legend, a cultural icon that has influenced the lives of people across the world. Fans still flock to his shows and pay money for front-row seats in order to listen to his jokes. Yet there is a problematic undertone to Cosby’s performances that these people are ignoring.

There are many dedicated fans of comedy that have chosen to look past the recent sexual assault allegations made against Cosby. Nearly 20 women have stepped forward claiming that Cosby, either decades ago or in recent years, sexually assaulted them in various ways. Despite the allegations and charges that began to surface as far back as 2005, fans of the comedian stand with him and continue to support his career. Cosby has recently visited three cities in Southern Ontario, including Hamilton, and avid fans still attended his comedy show, despite the presence of protestors willing to speak out against Cosby at his events.

The reflexive response of Cosby’s fans is not an isolated incident. Many influential celebrities continue to maintain their fan base despite any wrongdoing on their part. We participate in a culture that allows a celebrity’s popularity and career to cloud the conversations about social issues that should come about from scandals such as Cosby’s.

Why have people chosen to ignore the incredibly serious claims made by these women? Fans have been quoted as saying they support the comedian regardless of the allegations made against him, simply because they enjoy his comedy and have grown up watching Cosby’s work.

There is a passive acceptance in our culture that brands influential individuals as untouchable by the backlash that should come about from the crimes they commit. Regardless of whether or not the claims of these women are true, a precedent must be set when dealing with allegations of this nature. The fact that these women’s claims are so willingly overlooked invalidates their voices, and instead works against their efforts to bring to light horrible crimes that potentially have been committed.

The central concern here is the blatant disregard these fans have for the women that have come forward and revealed their claims against Cosby. Instead of supporting the rights of women who have suffered from sexual assault, or even acknowledging that these allegations exist against Cosby, fans are choosing to turn a blind eye to the overall implications of Cosby’s performances. By allowing him to continue to tour, fans are implicitly working against efforts being made to give voice to those who are fighting for the rights of sexual assault victims.

Cosby’s extensive and influential career does not- and should not- completely discredit the allegations that have been made against him by a continuously growing list of women. His “legendary” status should not invalidate these claims, whether or not he is proven guilty. The voices of these women cannot be ignored, and a vital change needs to be made in the way society views celebrities in the wake of serious allegations made against them.

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