[Sundance Review] WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT COSBY
Courtesy of Sundance Institute
W. Kamau Bell has done his work with great care and produced a series about Bill Cosby and his legacy that really answers the question, “What do you do when one of your heroes turns out to be a predator?” His answer is simple but so effective. The answer is that you need to talk about it.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT COSBY is the perfect series for everyone to watch, but I think it could be most useful in getting the people who insist on defending Cosby at all costs to hear what the women who were victimized by Cosby have to say. Bell approaches it from his own viewpoint. Bill Cosby was a tremendous influence on him and a cultural icon. As a stand-up comedian, Bell can really relate to Cosby.

But, once he heard the evidence from the victims, he would no longer support Cosby. The documentary never “attacks” Cosby, but it also never shrinks back from telling the truth. The documentary’s tone is one of even-handed observation of the facts. Bell starts with his own former admiration of Cosby and the undeniable good that Cosby has done for Black people. It acknowledges the breakthroughs in Cosby’s career that opened the door to so many talented performers. It does additionally point out that Cosby wasn’t the only one making strides for Black people and acknowledges Cosby’s debt to other performers who came before him. Nobody does it alone. It also slowly begins to chronicle how Cosby’s monstrous ego and his own self-reverence made him think that he was as untouchable as some of the white abusers who worked in the industry too.

Courtesy Sundance Film Festival

Through interviews and archival footage, Bell traces the “bread crumbs” that Cosby himself left as a self-congratulatory mockery of his victims and everyone that he didn’t think measured up to his own greatness and intelligence. As he grew older, Cosby seemed to have developed a contempt, not just for women, but for Black people as well. I have read a lot of the accounts of Cosby’s crimes, but some of the stories in WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT COSBY shocked me.

Bell also deals with the Cosby defenders who see the accusations and his prosecution as another example of racism and an attempt by white women to destroy a powerful Black man. He does this by showing the anger and scorn that Cosby has heaped on Black people and highlights quite a few of the accusers are Black women and they’re very angry about what Cosby did to them. It’s something that has hurt them for a long time, especially because they all looked up to Cosby too, and his betrayal was personal and his contempt for them was palpable. He is a blatant sexist, rapist and chauvinist who thinks he’s better than anyone. It’s not just women or poor people that he hates. He hates us all equally. It definitively makes the case that Bill Cosby is a dangerous and evil man who will repay your loyalty and admiration with violence and disrespect. He’s not worthy of it.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT COSBY is an extremely powerful and disturbing look at what Bill Cosby really was and still is. It is Boardwalk Pictures Production in association with WKB Industries for SHOWTIME, directed by W. Kamau Bell. The series is executive produced by Bell, Andrew Fried, Katie A. King, Dane Lillegard, Jordan Wynn and Sarina Roma. King also serves as showrunner and Geraldine Porras serves as a co-executive producer.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT COSBY premiered on January 22, 2022, at Sundance, and then played Sunday, January 30 at 10:00 p.m. on Showtime. I highly recommend it.

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