As the number of women who say Bill Cosby molested them grows to more than 35—including Jennifer Thompson and Jewel Allison, who just last week added their public statements to a dismayingly lengthy list—the comedian continues to ignore them, pretending as though nothing’s wrong while performing for an audience who shares that imaginary world. Now, as ABC News reports, he’s released his first video message since those allegations resurfaced, in which he gives that illusory audience a call and metaphorically acts out that self-delusion. For scholars of mise en scene, the Cosby video is a masterpiece of symbolism, distilling the entire scandal and his willful ignorance of it into 10 highly charged seconds. Let’s watch and analyze!

Caught under the unforgiving glare of the spotlight, Cosby sits in an easy chair amid an obviously fake living room set. Clearly it’s all been hastily thrown together behind a stage curtain, with no one even bothering to remove the ladder in the left side of the frame. This symbolizes the picture of domesticity The Cosby Show star once represented, now irreparably shattered. Now we see the ugly artifice behind it all, and it is falling apart. Some truly masterful staging here.

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Cosby wears a pair of silk pajamas, suggesting he is jarringly comfortable even amid this crumbling façade. The pajamas are an emblematic nod to his accusers’ stories, most of which involve Cosby putting them to sleep, as well as to how much Cosby doesn’t give a fuck.

Deliberately out of touch, Cosby speaks on an old, outdated rotary phone, the kind still used only by those who stubbornly cling to the past and enjoy Bill Cosby’s comedy. Symbolizing his refusal to speak directly, Cosby holds the phone to his nose.

“Yes!” Cosby says to his imaginary audience, who asks only the very specific questions about his tour that he wants to hear. “I’m gonna be in Wheeling, West Virginia, Capitol Music Hall! 8 o’clock show, that’s right!” He ends this sham by saying, “You know I’ll be hilarious! Can’t wait!”

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Cosby’s tone is warm and convivial, because this is fake. Like his entire reaction to this story, it is a one-sided conversation that is convincing only to Bill Cosby. Most performance artists strive to convey in hours what Cosby has captured in mere moments here.

As ABC notes, the video also came accompanied by what is Cosby’s now-standard dictum of defiance, saying/threatening, “Dear Fans: I hope you enjoy my wonderful video message that’s filled with laughter. Hey, hey, hey, I’m far from finished.” As in the video, it is a symbol that Bill Cosby has completely lost touch with what his words sound like.

[via The Hollywood Reporter]

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