We’ve heard a lot of tales of male toxicity and abuse in Hollywood over the past few years. But maybe none have hurt more to the general public than the truth about Bill Cosby.
As the star of such benchmark television programming as The Cosby Show and I Spy, Cosby was a fixture in American living rooms for decades. However, after allegations from an endless parade of other women revealed the truth about Cosby’s actions, ‘America’s Dad’ drew public ire yet was only found guilty of allegations made by Andrea Constand. Now, in the new CBC documentary, The Case Against Cosby, Constand shares her painful and abusive journey with Cosby and the extraordinary road to healing that she has taken.
Directed by Karen Wookey, The Case Against Cosby is unflinching, horrifying and brutally honest. It’s also one of the best documentaries in recent memory. With each scene, Wookey puts the emphasis where it needs to be – on the voices and stories of the victims that were devastated by Cosby’s serial violence against women. Although the narrative voice is primarily through Constand, Wookey never shies away from the endless parade of women who were damaged by Cosby as well. In doing so, she focuses the viewer on the lives and souls that were damaged by his criminal sexual recklessness.
At the same time, Wookey also juxtaposes these traumatic tales of sexual abuse with clippings from Cosby’s innumerable characters from television. In doing so, she creates a distinction between his public persona and the reality that was taking place behind the scenes. Beloved by millions, Cosby’s character was an icon to the point that people believed that they could trust him as a person. By inviting him into their homes every week, there was a certain warmth in the relationship between viewer and actor that developed over the years. But, in this Case Against Cosby, we understand that the man we thought we knew was never real. Instead, his fictional persona only allowed him the opportunity to hurt innumerable others. (And the doc does not shy away from the fact that his repeated actions were intentional.)
Even so, despite the horrific realities that it shares, Cosby still feels like a story that’s rooted in hope. By framing Constand’s journey through the lens of therapeutic exercises and conversations, Wookey embeds her tale with a sense of healing and a desire to move forward. Conversations about the nature of trauma, abuse and self-actualization serve to acknowledge the past while giving hope for the future. (“My life has never been the same but I believe and have faith that it will be better,” one victim states.) As such, Cosby becomes more than the story of one predator’s prey and becomes an opportunity for all women who have been victimized to be encouraged.
In other words, this Case may be Constand’s but it could also be anybody else’s.
It’s this lens that makes The Case Against Cosby such an alarming and poignant narrative. While this focuses on the damage of a high-profile public figure, Wookey acknowledges that Constand is far from alone in her story. But that’s why it’s also so powerful and fearless. This is a tale meant to empower women who have been victimized to speak up and share their stories.
In doing so, perhaps they can make a Case for themselves as well.
The Case Against Cosby is available to stream now on CBC Gem.