Hollywood has its fair share of abominable celebrities.
While some famous people have used their influence for good, others have used their celebrity status to take advantage of others. Through the years, as the media unveils the dark sides of beloved stars, household names like Bill Cosby or Kevin Spacey have been irrevocably linked with abuse and assault.
But despite discoveries of celebrities’ immoral behavior, fans continue to rally behind them. It can be difficult to renounce one’s love for a star and their work after a shocking headline makes celebrity news. Yet, the contributions that an artist or performer makes to their field do not excuse them from the unimaginable pain that they have caused others.
This might seem like common sense to some. But after the Lifetime documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly” has brought scathing criticism against the singer, lifelong fans have been quick to defend the artist.
The contributions that an artist or performer makes to their field do not excuse them from the unimaginable pain that they have caused others.
The six-episode series aired at the beginning of January 2019, ringing in the new year with a detailed history of the many sexual abuse allegations made against Kelly. Though the artist has consistently denied the allegations, the sheer number of women coming forward is compelling evidence of his guilt.
Although the documentary series certainly sparked new debates on social media, it wasn’t as if the world was shocked by Kelly’s alleged behavior. The singer has been scrutinized in the eye of the public before, but still continued to produce music.
In 1994, Kelly married the late singer Aaliyah when she was only 15 years old. In 2001, a sex tape of Kelly— who was in his mid-30s at the time— and a young teenaged girl was turned over to the Chicago police. And that’s just scratching the surface on the mounting evidence of Kelly’s predatory behavior.
In the wake of “Surviving R. Kelly,” some social media users have criticized other artists for denouncing Kelly’s actions. After watching the Lifetime series, rapper 6lack tweeted that Kelly was “beyond trash.” While the tweet racked up more than 100,000 likes, it also garnered some harsh responses.
“[6lack] thinks he’s big enough to disrespect the legendary [R. Kelly], that won’t be tolerated,” one Twitter user wrote.
Stars, with all of their glitz and glamour, should not be exempt from basic standards of decency.
Legendary or not, fans should not make excuses for their abusive idols. The lasting impacts that a musician has on the industry aren’t erased because of the despicable acts they have committed. But they don’t negate those horrors, either. Stars, with all of their glitz and glamour, should not be exempt from basic standards of decency.
Kelly should serve as an example of the harm that can be done when a celebrity’s perverse actions are swept under the rug. For years after his pedophilic and abusive tendencies were revealed, he continued to sell records and collaborate with other influential artists like Lady Gaga and Chance the Rapper. As Kelly continued to garner success, he also continued to mentally, physically and sexually abuse women.
People are finally recognizing that Kelly’s contemptible history shouldn’t be ignored. Artists are removing their collaborations with Kelly from streaming services and his record label, RCA Records, dropped him after the release of the documentary series. Yet, according to Nielsen Music, Kelly’s streaming numbers have nearly doubled in the same time frame.
Consumers should send a message to the music, film and television industries that abusive celebrities will not be tolerated. Character matters.
Photo courtesy of Suzanne Cordeiro