Every tragic hero has a downfall. In this case, you have R. Kelly, a renowned R&B legend, and on the other hand, Robert, a monster behind closed doors who has been revealed as abusive on sexual, physical and emotional grounds.
In the docuseries, Surviving R. Kelly, the world watched in horror as the suppressed stories of the women who have been victim to the singer’s abuse were unearthed.
The six-hour long docuseries originally aired on Lifetime January 3-5, showcasing the testimonies of alleged survivors, accusing R. Kelly of countless acts of rape, sexual assault, leading a sex cult and other predatory behavior.
Executive producer, Joel Karsberg, told The Hollywood Reporter that they have been working for over a year to bring these women’s stories forward.
“We are proud to team with Lifetime to shed light on these stories as well as an industry that has looked the other way for so many years.”
Andrea Kelly, R. Kelly’s ex-wife and a participant in the docuseries, told Rolling Stone,
“It makes me smile because that lets me know we’re on the right track. We’re causing people to listen.”
Predators in the limelight
By now, many of us have become familiar with the #MeToo movement: the movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault. Hollywood has been notorious lately for its stars being exposed as sexual predators – just look at House of Cards Kevin Spacey, for example. Powerful men have been using their power to sexually exploit and abuse women for decades.
The allegations against R. Kelly are disgustingly numerous. His first lawsuit involving sexual assault was settled for $250,000, where he married 15-year-old Aaliyah, his protégé. The docuseries reveal that this had been done by the singer forging documents for the marriage.
Perhaps his most infamous alleged crime occurred in 2002, where a video began circulating showing him having sex with a teenager, and urinating on her. Kelly was arrested on 21 counts of child pornography, and has been accused of committing underage rape on film and other sexual misconduct.
But what has stood out for the world about Kelly’s story as compared to other cases, is the race of the accusers, being all black women, and what that has revealed about society today.
Why has it taken two decades for action to be taken against him? Why was he not expeditiously rebuked and shunned the way other men of the #MeToo Movement were? We, as a society, should be ashamed that it has taken this long for women like Lisa Van Allen to be heard. We have failed them when they needed us the most.
The docuseries has sparked larger conversation on black women, and how their abuse is not often believed. R. Kelly is a shocking testament that cases of sexual assault are treated jarringly unequal to other stories, when told by black women.
Teresa Stafford, of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, said
“We have to get into a point in our society where we feel that black girls deserve the treatment and protection of other young girls in our community.”
Hollywood speaks out
Artists that have previously collaborated with Kelly, like Lady Gaga, Chance the Rapper, and Celine Dion, to name a few, have removed their songs with the singer from music streaming services and retailers. Sony Music has also decided to terminate its working relationship with R. Kelly.
Despite all of this, Kelly has not yet been convicted of any actions, has repeatedly denied allegations of misconduct, and has not commented for the docuseries. It still gives us hope, however, that more women are starting to garner the courage to come forward and have their voices heard by a society that will refuse to succumb to the misogynistic ideals of men in power. We are here for you.
What was your reaction to the Surviving R. Kelly docuseries?
Text: Crystal-Lee Ramlukan
Images: Buzzfeed, Marie Claire, Rolling Stone, CBS Chicago, Entertainment Weekly