Friday, December 27, 2013

Bill Cosby – From Doctor Huxtable to Doctor Toxic

I’ve long known that laughter can be both enjoyable and toxic and that we tend to suspend our critical thinking when we’re laughing; laughing can bring barriers down quicker than chug-a-lugging a Mason Jar of Virginia Recipe. There are things society endorses today that it prohibited fifty years ago; Hollywood had a hand in bringing the barriers down by getting us to laugh at them – we were culpable because we paid for the entertainment, we laughed at the entertainment, and now we are the entertainment. Make something funny or cute or sympathetic and there is a good chance of getting that something accepted. By the same principle take something serious like the Gospel, or sex within marriage, or faithfulness in marriage and caricature it, make jokes about it, belittle it…and again critical thinking is suspended and the floodgates of toxicity open to engulf society.

I haven’t followed Bill Cosby closely but for the most part what I’ve seen I’ve liked. When I was in junior high school I had a record of his stand-up routines, they were clean and I enjoyed them. In fact, until this week there is only one routine of his that I objected to and it was one in which he used the name of Jesus in a profane manner. Again, there may have been other objectionable routines of his that I’m not aware of for I haven’t followed him closely. But my opinion of Mr. Cosby has changed and he has gone from Doctor Huxtable to Doctor Toxic.

You may recall that Doctor Heathcliff Huxtable was his name on The Cosby Show which ran from 1984 – 1992. In the show he portrayed a husband and father who was kind, honest, faithful, with a sense of humor, and wise. In 2004 TV Guide ranked Dr. Huxtable the #1 Dad in TV history. While I didn’t watch many episodes of this series, what I did watch showed a loving husband and wife who loved their children.

With the above as a backdrop, Cosby has a new standup performance titled, “Bill Cosby…far from finished”, that has been released on DVD. The back jacket of the DVD says, “Whether he is talking about friendship, first love, marriage or raising children, the result is people laughing so hard their faces hurt, their sides are splitting, and they can’t breathe. This extended concert event is a must-see for your whole family.”

My recommendation is to keep this DVD away from your family and anyone else you care about. For 95 minutes (I recall one exception when he weaves a story about driving children to school) Cosby cynically attacks marriage by lampooning wives as the equivalent of prison wardens and portraying husbands as prisoners in their own homes and marriages – it is the story of the overbearing wife and the mousey husband who is trained to say, “Yes Dear”. Cosby inserts toxicity with humor, with comedic timing, with signature facial expressions, and by taking isolated things which can and do happen in marriages and making them the motif of marriage – and by doing so he deprecates marriage. Wives are portrayed as domineering tyrants and husbands as bumbling serfs just trying to get along.

The fact that it is Bill Cosby delivering the message makes his delivery a Stealth Bomber; after all, this is the guy who played Doctor Huxtable, this is the guy who makes it a point not to use curse words in his comedy, this is the guy we trust.

A confession: in retrospect I wish he had started his routine with a few curse words because then we would have turned the DVD off…as it was we watched the entire thing…my excuse is that I thought it would surely get better – poor excuse. Yes, this is a confession – I was a fool to watch the entire thing but I did. I kept thinking, “What message is this sending to young people in the audience? What message is this sending to women? What does this say about marriage?”

So you see I was watching somewhat critically, but as I hope you also see I agreed to be sucked into the morass, I made the decision to keep watching – I was a fool. Don’t be a fool with me.

The experience is interesting to me on a few fronts; one is that it shows how laughter can overcome critical thinking and how being favorably predisposed to someone can entice us to drop our guards. Another thing about the experience is that it is a sober reminder to me that I must never suspend critical thinking and that when I sense something is awry that I need to deal with it then…not later…because the more one sips from the Mason Jar of Virginia Recipe the easier each subsequent sip is to take…and before you know it the entire jar is empty and you don’t know where you are or how you got there.

The Scriptures tell us to gird up the loins of our minds and be sober; how we use our minds matters; thoughts reproduce and reproduce and then reproduce some more – what thoughts are our minds generating, what images, what attitudes? I want to think sober thoughts in line with reality, corresponding to God’s truth and God’s word – I don’t want to be drunk on the world’s toxicity. 

Here’s another confession…since I’m laying this all out in public…watching this was not honoring to my wife Vickie…and that, my friends, was sinful and stupid and I’m sorry I wasn’t enough of a husband not to turn the wretched thing off. Shame on me.

Now…in all love and gentleness may I say…don’t let it be shame on you.

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