It's a testament to the power of Ebony's latest cover, posted yesterday, that its design has simultaneously sparked fierce outrage and wild applause. The magazine's November issue highlights black families, and the front image is a fractured picture of the fictitious but influential Huxtable family—notably led by the now-embattled Bill Cosby.
More than 50 women have accused the actor of drugging them, and in many of the cases, sexually assaulting them. The cover—from the smiling faces, to the cracked glass, to Dr. Huxtable covering Rudy Huxtable's ears—is a resounding introduction to the accompanying story—which examines how the allegations against Cosby are impacting his once widely-revered character, and the broader significance of The Cosby Show—a series that came, for many, to symbolize a version of a black American Dream.
Not everyone approves of Ebony's choice. The backlash was swift, with most of the criticism surrounding the publication's decision to use a photo of the Huxtable family—including other cast members—instead of Bill Cosby, the person.
"Regardless if Bill Cosby is guilty or innocent, that is no reason to demean the entire show," says one popular comment on the magazine's Facebook page, "Also the show does not reflect all black families. Come on Ebony do better."
Adds another, "for Ebony magazine to try and tarnish this show's reputation is both tasteless and a slap in the face to America and black America. Anything this man has done should not be held against Phylicia Rashad and the others actors. This is judging and finding them guilty as well. This is a mockery of all this fictional family has taught and brought us over the years. Ebony magazine you have lost me as a customer."
But there's also been plenty of praise for the choice, overseen by Ebony and Editor-in-Chief Kierna Mayo.
"[I've] got no problem with this cover," says a third widely upvoted Facebook comment. "[As] a matter of fact, I think it's a great idea and a conversation starter. It is so much bigger than one show. Cosby and things associated with him will be tainted from here on out, that's a fact. If he isn't problematic to you personally, he will be problematic to a lot of people. Black America is in turmoil and struggling with this conversation."
Case in point, the conversation around Cosby's legacy has shifted so far that readers see even the photo itself—which, sans cracked glass, is an NBC promo shot—in a new light. "The way he's covering Keshia Knight Pullman's ears seems so sinister now," says one Twitter commenter.
For some, though, the relationship between the man and his persona, is not so clear-cut. "Mixed feelings," says another tweet. "Grew up on the Cosby 'Show'—not Bill. It was an amazing example of family. Not sure why that has to be destroyed."