Sundance 2022 Review: “We Need to Talk About Cosby”

Year: 2022


Director: W. Kamau Bell

By Morgan Roberts

In Showtime’s new docuseries, “We Need to Talk About Cosby”, director W. Kauma Bell explores the complexities surrounding the more than 50 years of predatory actions by the once-beloved comedian and actor Bill Cosby.

The series lets you know immediately where they stand.  Each episode stands behind the survivors of Cosby.  There are survivors interviewed for the series.  After taking that stance, the series dives into the ways Cosby positioned himself as wholesome and a family man, his gaslighting behaviors, the ways he abused women, and the many ways he told on himself leading to societal complacency.

“We Need to Talk About Cosby” breaks down Cosby’s career as it provided greater and greater protections for him to remain at large.  What was so profound were the many ways Cosby was so blatant about drugging and assaulting women.  The series highlights each step in his career, getting more bold with each decade, in showing his true self.  While all of these heinous assaults are happening, Cosby is touring comedy shows, on children’s television programs, and being a role model for many Black people in America.

However, what the series does not do is answer every question posed.  Can you ever separate the art from the artist?  It is not an easy answer.  And Cosby is just one of many examples of the struggle to make that decision.  In the series, they show Stephen Colbert interviewing Jerry Seinfeld; Colbert asks Seinfeld about comedic influences and Seinfeld answers: “Bill Cosby.”  Colbert refutes, stating he can no longer watch Cosby’s work, much to Seinfeld’s surprise.  Which, when you think about it, makes sense – just Google Jerry Seinfeld and Shoshanna Lonstein and you’ll understand why Seinfeld isn’t too pressed to write Cosby off.

“We Need to Talk About Cosby” is certainly not an easy watch, but it is absolutely necessary.  While Cosby is the catalyst for conversation and analysis, he is not the only thing examined across these four episodes.  His pervasive abuse is examined in societal contexts.  For instance, a third of survivors of Cosby’s assaults were women of color, yet their stories are largely dismissed.  Furthermore, because the majority of survivors are white, Cosby apologists were using historical events to dismiss white women accusing a Black man of assault.  It all gets very tricky.  And while Bell does provide us with enveloping intersections of the issue, he does require his audience to think about these layers critically.  There are no easy answers or easy discussions here.  But they are things that should be said.  Truths that should be heard.

“We Need to Talk About Cosby” is a poignant series that gives voice to the survivors and highlights the challenges they face due to the crafting and manipulation of their very public assailant.  

“We Need to Talk About Cosby” begins airing on Showtime 30 Jan 2022 at 10PM EST.

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