The last addition to the Cosby Codex, left me, to say both the very least and the very most, shaken and deeply disturbed. Delving into “The Dentist” episode proved to be a deeply unsettling critical venture, and one from which I have only begun to psychologically recover. That episode, you see, was dangerous and vile territory, a practical critical Pandora’s Box which, upon being even partially unveiled, led me toward a particularly dark and unsettling critical perspective that served to unsettle me. I’ll say this: exploring that episode in the critical fashion in which I did—opening myself as a critic so fully and completely to something so rich and so deep—rendered me a practical wreck of a man akin to the Consul in the final chapters of Lowry’s Under the Volcano. In the wake of that entry I didn’t, in the words of Sonny Crockett/Burnett, even know which way was up anymore. I slipped, in the course of a week, from operating as a (Christopher) Ricksian good humored and pleasant-natured critic into a gonzo (Lester) Bangsian figure, living, you might say, on the very terms of my subject(s) and, indeed, paying the psychic price for it along the way. I was left wasted and spent, feeling like I’d spent all of my critical acumen in one fell swoop. I needed an escape and a release. I knew with whatever semblance of sanity was left in my mind that I had to undertake the terrible task of washing Cosby out of my psyche. And that, I knew, would prove to be a difficult, if impossible, task. Still, for the sake of the Cosby Codex and my higher critical consciousness, I had to give it a try. So I went to Hawaii for a week. My original intention, naturally, was to journey deep into the mountains of Tibet and to undertake a bizarre, otherworldly meditation ritual known as Nanda Parbat meant to cleanse my soul of all things Cosby. That journey proved financially unfeasible—it’s not like they pay me to write the Cosby Codex—and my wife had no intention of watching me rinse the Huxtables out of my psyche. So, off to Hawaii we went. To my surprise, a week in the sun and surf did just the trick. On the long plane flight to the Pacific, I promised my wife I would take a break from the Huxtables, a temporary respite from the madness and obsession that the Cosby Codex inspired in my higher consciousness. I spent the first several days avoiding anything Huxtable related. I shut off the TV, erased all back episodes of The Cosby Show from my IPod, and avoided my email. After a couple days my wife commented, wisely, that “you seem better.” And I was. For a brief spell, I felt free and clear-headed.
And then it started all over again.
I was sitting atop Haleakala Mountain in Maui when Cosby emerged again. “There’s no God in the Huxtable universe, is there?” I asked my wife.
“What?” my wife said.
“Save for a mention or two in the first season of a family minister, there’s hardly any real sense of religion, never mind Judeo-Christianity, in the Huxtable narrative. Christmas is never celebrated, for example. Did you ever see a Christmas tree in the Huxtable home? No. Did they go to church? No. Was there any mention of God or prayer? I think they might very well be atheists.”
“You promised to let this Cosby stuff go, just for a bit.”
“I’m ok. I am. Let me just go with this,” I said, feeling remarkably strong and balanced, for once, in terms of all things Cosby. “And evil, as we see embodied in Olivia and Cousin Pam—and touched upon in the Satanic majesty of Cockroach—most clearly exists within the Huxtable universe. Evil and destruction and chaos always lurk. But so does love. When you get down to it, love is the saving grace in the Huxtable narrative, the glue, as dried up as it might be, that keeps the narrative together and maintains some semblance of hope within such. The love between Cliff and Clair is great and true. And passionate, too. Perfect? No. But abiding and true, yes. And I wonder if that’s the key to the thing.”
“The narrative. I think it’s all about love. For all the trials and tribulations the Huxtables endure, for all the madness Cliff descends into thanks to his growing consciousness and opium addiction, despite how cool and dark Claire’s disposition grows, their love remains. It’s physical, it’s emotional, it’s intellectual and it’s spiritual. There’s no God in the Huxtable universe because there’s no room for such. I’ll say this: Cliff and Claire are Romantic existentialists. All of the Huxtables are existentialists, but each member of the clan represents a different strand of such.”
“Didn’t you once say that Claire was cold and almost unloving to her kids in the later seasons?”
“That was a foolish, desperate claim on my part. Not incorrect, perhaps, but also not entirely right.”
My wife looked at me with wide, concerned eyes. “This trip was meant to clear your head, to get you away from the Cosby Codex, to put you back on the right path.”
“This trip,” I boldly announced, “was about me freeing myself and releasing myself from whatever weirdness my work on ‘The Dentist’ cursed me with. This trip is about gaining perspective. And perspective, I had gained.” We watched together as the sun came blaring through a break cloud bank just above us. “Notice, also, how the Huxtables never went on vacation, at least not before our eyes. Isn’t that something? The only place they ever visited was, what, Hillman College? We spent countless hours with Cliff at work, and several with Claire at work, but we never went on vacation with the Huxtables. Hell, we only left Brooklyn with them two or three times. What do we make of that?”
“Maybe because they filmed in New York City and location shoots are pricey …”
“Location shoots. Ever notice how, save for their visits to Hillman College and the famous track meet up episode, and the time Rudy played on a pee-wee football team, that everything took place, clearly, on stage? That we were always reminded of the overt performative and fictional nature of the show, that the show always subtly unsettled our willingness to believe in the veracity of what we were watching and, in turn, underlined its own overt fictionality? I wonder, though, if the masque of absurdism that such suggested served, only, like Becket, to strangely highlight the eternal existential truths the narrative was unveiling.”
That night I fired off a long and bold manifesto for the Cosby Codex to the dear, dear friend mentioned in my last entry. I made bold claims, I issued provocative ideas, and I asserted, with real gumption and hope, that I would continue to dig through the countless chambers that wound throughout the heart of the Huxtable narrative. The full text of such amounts to something in the area of 3500 words and is hardly worth reprinting here. Like all good manifestos, the “Cosby Manifesto” was more about me than my subject itself. In the manifesto I clearly outlined a new critical approach to the Cosby project, one which will serve to tackle the Huxtable narrative from a more reasonable and certainly less gonzo and subjective approach than before. The ideal, I realized, was to tackle the Huxtables on their own terms, to release myself from the storms and tribulations of my previous critical approach, to embody the very ideals of reasonability, responsibility and hard work that the Huxtables practice. My mistake, I realized, was taking a deconstructive approach to the project and not a constructive approach. My attempt to take the Huxtable narrative apart must now, I realized, be replaced by an attempt to put it together and elicit, truly, the even deeper meanings behind such that have so long evaded me.
As I finished and sent off the manifesto to my dear, dear friend, I looked out over the ocean and saw the first hints of sunshine appearing over the horizon. In the dark I heard my wife ask, “Are you ok?” I closed my eyes, feeling my critical mind calm and settled at last and said, “I’m fine now. I’m fine.” And with that I started composing the next entries, the first an in-depth study of Cliff and Claire’s marriage, the second a cross-reading of Nietzsche, “The Dentist,” and the later seasons of The Cosby Show, and the third a careful consideration of Cliff’s opium hallucinations, pieces which will serve to cast the Huxtable narrative in an entirely new light once again.