TIME Opinion

Ask an Ethicist: Can I Still Watch The Cosby Show?

Bill Cosby, Camille Cosby
Bill Cosby sits for an interview about the exhibit, Conversations: African and African-American Artworks in Dialogue, at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art in Washington on Nov. 6, 2014. Evan Vucci—AP

I can get over the fact that Martin Luther King, Jr. cheated on his wife, but I don’t care that the Nazis made the trains run on time. Making that call is a moral calculus: when do the negative aspects of a public figure outweigh the positive? Granted, in Bill Cosby’s case, we’re talking about a comedian, but the question is relevant for The Cosby Show‘s legacy. Should I think less of The Cosby Show‘s power to teach and to change perceptions of race in America if it turns out Bill Cosby is a rapist?

Like most people, when I first heard word of allegations that Bill Cosby had raped multiple women, I impulsively pushed them to the back of my mind. For me, The Cosby Show’s legacy is personal. As a kid, the young Huxtables were among the few children on television with faces that looked like mine living well-adjusted upper middle class existences that resembled my own. When I considered my Cosby experience alongside the actor’s on-screen persona, a doctor and family man who combined life lessons with old-fashioned humor, I intuitively knew that he couldn’t be a serial rapist.

But eventually emotion gave way to reason. Seven women with little to gain have reported that Cosby committed the same heinous crime, rape, in the same way. So if someone like me, a life long fan, believes these women, where does that leave The Cosby Show? Are all of Cosby’s indelible life lessons suddenly moot? Does secretly watching an episode when no one is around condone sex crimes?

To help me think through these questions, I turned to ethicists and academics.

First, there’s the question of morality versus art. To condemn his actions, do I also have to repudiate the man and his work? I took this up with Jeremy David Fix, a fellow at Harvard’s Safra Center for Ethics who studies moral philosophy: Would continuing to watch The Cosby Show harm anyone, even indirectly?

(MORE: So What Do We Do About The Cosby Show?)

On the one hand, watching the show helps in some small way line Bill Cosby’s pockets via residuals. On the other hand, with an estimated net worth of over $350 million at the age 77, he can already rest assured that he’ll live the rest of his life comfortably. But Harvard’s Fix asks a good question: What about the women who have been assaulted—what sort of message does it send if I keep supporting Cosby, even indirectly? I had to give up watching, I started to conclude. Otherwise, I might inadvertently send the signal that I think sexual assault is something that can be treated flippantly.

But how do I weigh the message that watching the show might send victims against the still-needed message that it sends to America at-large about race? I had finally stumped Fix. So I turned to historians and other thinkers to talk about the show’s legacy and whether i still has a positive role to play in discussions about race.

Joe Feagin, a sociologist who has written about The Cosby Show, talks eloquently about the indelible impression the show left on the country. Black Americans tend to celebrate the achievement of a top-rated show featuring a black cast in a positive light. They will probably keep doing that even if they condemn its creator. White Americans tend to celebrate the show as evidence that African-Americans can succeed in middle class life, Feagin said. While that view leaves society’s entrenched racism unaddressed, I’d still take Cosby over the Sanford and Son. Let’s face it, American residential communities are still largely racially homogenous, and it would certainly benefit future generations to see black families like the Huxtables.

So I tried to convince myself that somehow we could condemn Cosby’s rape message while continuing to watch the show. That is, I hoped we could separate Cliff Huxtable from Bill Cosby. But in the end, I don’t think we can any more. The two are so closely linked that as I tried to watch an episode of The Cosby Show this week, the image of Cliff kept reminding me of the actor’s pathetic silence in response to questions about the accusations him. If that distracted me, I can only imagine how an assault survivor would feel. The show has positively affected millions of Americans, and that legacy remains intact, but maybe it’s time for a new show to teach us about race. It’s a little overdue anyway.

TIME celebrity

Watch Chris Pratt, Lena Dunham and Other Celebrities Read Mean Tweets About Themselves

The beloved Jimmy Kimmel Live! segment is back with yet another hilarious installment

One of Jimmy Kimmel’s favorite things to do on his show is to recruit a bunch of celebrities to read mean tweets about themselves. They usually read the messages then stare, despondent, into the camera. Or they just laugh. Or they shoot back with an equally mean quip. Either way, the recurring segment is always highly entertaining.

On Thursday’s show, Kimmel rounded up a new batch of A-listers, including Chris Pratt, Lena Dunham, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ty Burrell and more. Even though this is the eighth installment of the recurring gag, it somehow has yet to get old. Of course, that could be because some of these tweets may have been dreamt up by Kimmel’s writers rather than by real-life mean tweeters.

Oh, special shoutout to Chloë Grace Moretz, one of TIME’s most influential teens of 2014, for the solid quip she fires back to a very mean tweet.

Read next: Watch Alec Baldwin Give Out Relationship Advice in His New Web Series

TIME celebrity

Raven-Symone Denies Rumors She Was Sexually Assaulted by Bill Cosby

"I was practically a baby on that show"

As more and more women have come forward to accuse comedian Bill Cosby of sexual assault, actress Raven-Symone’s name has been pulled into the discussion.

Raven-Symone, who was just three years old when she began appearing on The Cosby Show, took to Instagram on Wednesday to deny the claims swirling online. Along with a picture of herself as a child wagging a finger, she writes:

I was NOT taken advantage of by Mr Cosby when I was on The Cosby Show! I was practically a baby on that show and this is truly a disgusting rumor that I want no part of. Everyone on that show treated me with nothing but kindness. Now keep me out of this!

MORE: Here’s Everything We Know (and Don’t Know) About the Bill Cosby Rape Allegations

TIME movies

Here’s Where to Watch Mike Nichols’ Movies Online

Signature Theatre Company's 20th Anniversary Gala
Director Mike Nichols attends the Signature Theatre Company's 20th Anniversary Gala at Espace on November 8, 2010 Jim Spellman—WireImage

From The Graduate to Charlie Wilson's War

Beloved director Mike Nichols, husband of Diane Sawyer, died suddenly of cardiac arrest Wednesday. He was 83.

Hollywood is mourning the loss of a great director, writer and producer, whose work included directing The Graduate and The Birdcage, and serving as a producer on HBO’s Angels in America . Nichols was one of only 12 people to win an EGOT — Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony — over the span of his career.

For those who want to revisit some of Nichols’ work, here’s a list of some of his movies that are available to rent and stream online:

  • Charlie Wilson’s War, 2007 — Amazon (rent)
  • Closer, 2004 — Amazon (rent)
  • Angels in America, 2003 — HBO (streaming), Amazon (streaming)
  • Primary Colors, 1998 — Amazon (rent)
  • The Birdcage, 1996 — Netflix (streaming, Amazon (streaming)
  • Wolf, 1994 — Netflix (rent)
  • Regarding Henry, 1991 — Amazon (rent)
  • Postcards from the Edge, 1990 — Amazon (rent)
  • Working Girl, 1988 — Amazon (rent)
  • Biloxi Blues, 1988 — Amazon (rent)
  • Heartburn, 1986 — Netflix (streaming), Amazon (streaming)
  • Carnal Knowledge, 1971 — Amazon (rent)
  • Catch-22, 1970 — Amazon (rent)
  • The Graduate, 1967 — Netflix (streaming), Amazon (streaming)
  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, 1966 — Amazon (rent)
TIME Comedy

Watch Alec Baldwin Give Out Relationship Advice in His New Web Series

His unsolicited counseling sessions take place in a taxi cab

There’s no doubt that Alec Baldwin has made a few mistakes in his life, but he’s learned a few things and wants to share his relationship insights with the world. In a new web series from Above Average, aptly-named “Alec Baldwin’s Love Ride,” Baldwin is taking those valuable life lessons and turning them into (sometimes NSFW) golden nuggets of truth that he is handing out for free in the back of a New York City taxi. As you do.

Aided and abetted by behind-the-scenes advisor (and long-time SNL scribe Paula Pell) in each episode, Baldwin grabs a couple off the street and takes them for a ride, doling out helpful (-ish) relationship advice along the way. First up is Corey and Francesca, an adorable young couple that seems perfectly happy in their relationship, but happy to hear Baldwin’s pearls of wisdom anyway. See another episode here.


TIME celebrity

Jon Stewart Admits He Wants to Rip Off Benedict Cumberbatch’s Clothes

And he's smart, to boot

Benedict Cumberbatch visited The Daily Show last night to promote his upcoming movie, The Imitation Game, about British mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing. And while the bulk of the conversation focused on Cumberbatch’s experience playing the role, Stewart found it difficult not to add his voice to the chorus proclaiming the actor totally swoon-worthy.

While Stewart does tell Cumberbatch he’d like to rip his clothes off, he admits that his motive is to profit off the fortune they could fetch on eBay. He warns the actor that the fate of humankind might be in his hands. “If you were to go on the Internet and oil up your backside and bear it in a Kardashian-like pose,” he cautions, “this planet could end.”

Perking up at the observation that the actor is as smart as he is handsome, Stewart sighs, “I guess it would be the wrong time to ask you to marry me.” Cumberbatch, who announced his engagement to actor Sophie Hunter two weeks ago, looks at his watch. “You’re a bit late.”

Read next: Benedict Cumberbatch Tries to Get Jimmy Fallon to Say ‘Booty’

TIME celebrity

The 6 Best Celebrity Versions of Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’

Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift performs on stage at CBS Radio's second annual We Can Survive concert at the Hollywood Bowl on Friday, Oct. 24, 2014, in Los Angeles. Todd Williamson—Invision/AP

From Steve Carell to Kelly Clarkson, famous people just can't stop won't stop grooving to this song

If you keep finding yourself singing “Shake It Off” quietly (or loudly) to yourself at weird times, you’re definitely not alone. It seems nobody can get Taylor Swift’s ultra-catchy hit out of their heads — and that includes a whole bunch of celebrities.

And so, to honor the recent TIME cover star, here’s a look at some of those celebrities proudly belting the unshakeable hit. Some of these people are professional singers performing polished covers, others are just amateur vocalists proudly showing their love for Tay-Tay.

Steve Carell

In an appearance on ABC’s Popcorn with Peter Travers, the actor was asked what music has been playing in his head. He responded without missing a beat.

Kelly Clarkson

At a concert in Buffalo, N.Y., Clarkson treated fans to a soulful, gospel version of the song.

Kendrick Lamar

In a radio interview with The Fader, the rapper — whose respect and admiration for Swift has been documented — launched into an impromptu “Shake It Off” sing-along. (He later free-styled over the song’s beat.)

Barack Obama (kind of)

No, the President of the United States didn’t actually sing “Shake It Off,” but it sounds like he did thanks to some clever editing by the folks at The Tonight Show.

Meghan Trainor

She’s best known for her hit “All About That Bass,” but this time, Trainor grabbed a ukelele and performed a mellow but still totally catchy cover.

Kelly Ripa

Kelly Ripa didn’t actually sing, but she did channel Swift and recreate the music video with an astonishing attention to detail. A bunch of other celebrities — including Anderson Cooper, Sofia Vergara, Emma Stone and even Tay herself — make appearances in the spoof video.

Taylor Swift herself

Because, well, obviously.

TIME celebrity

Steve Carell Declares His Love for Taylor Swift by Singing ‘Shake It Off’

"I actually love Taylor Swift. I think she's great."

During a recent appearance on ABC’s Popcorn with Peter Travers to discuss his new movie Foxcatcher, Steve Carell treated us all to an unexpected little surprise.

Travers asks the actor about the music that’s been playing in his house lately. Without missing a beat, Carell takes a breath, keeps his face stoic and launches into the chorus of Taylor Swift’s total earworm “Shake It Off.” He maintains serious eye contact with Travers before eventually turning to sing into the camera.

Travers just laughs, apparently very surprised about this response. (Kinda being a hater, in fact.)

“I love it. I actually love Taylor Swift,” Carell says, unironically. “I think she’s great.”

Read next: The 6 Best Celebrity Versions of Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’

TIME celebrity

Kim Kardashian on Nude Photo Shoot: ‘I Did It for Me’

"I love the photos"

It seems like just about everyone has an opinion about Kim Kardashian’s Internet-”breaking” nude photoshoot for Paper magazine. The reality star herself is no exception.

“I’m never one to preach, but I felt really positive and really good about myself,” she said on the Australian show The Project Tuesday. “I love the photos, I did it for me, I hope other people like them.”

Kardashian also praised photographer Jean-Paul Goude: “I was so honored and excited to work with him because he is a legend. And she added that the poses, which included balancing a champagne glass on her butt, made her “back hurt for about a week.”

TIME celebrity

Benedict Cumberbatch Tries to Get Jimmy Fallon to Say ‘Booty’

Spoiler alert: Kim Kardashian gets discussed

Did you experience varying stages of grief when the Benedict Cumberbatch announced his November engagement? Well here’s something to temporarily numb the pain: It turns out that he probably would have been really bad at couples game night.

When on Jimmy Fallon Monday, the actor was asked to play the “Three Word Game.” The rules are simple: you have to make your opponent say a keyword using only three words. Fallon accomplished the goal with relative ease. Cumberbatch, on the other hand…

Here are some of the clues he gave Fallon for the word “booty”:

  • “You’ve got to shake…” (that’s four words, but whatever)
  • “Shake the shake…” (if at first you don’t succeed…)
  • “At the top…” (clearly not ready for this jelly)

Finally he got to the right territory, saying “A beautiful big,” inspiring Fallon to say “Kim Kardashian’s butt.” After a couple more attempts, booty was revealed.

Who are we really kidding, though. We would still offer to pair up with Cumberbatch for a rousing game of Scrabble or Taboo anytime.

Read next: Watch Benedict Cumberbatch Nail 11 Celebrity Impersonations in a Minute

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser