The Aaliyah Biopic Causes More Controversy

by Maitri Suhas

Another big misstep from the producers of the forthcoming Aaliyah biopic on Lifetime: the late singer's relationship with R. Kelly will be featured in the film, according to the New York Post. It's just another hide-our-eyes-behind-our-fingers move in the saga of the biopic that is set to premiere in the fall. The film, which will be starring Disney Channel star Zendaya, has its number one detractors in the form of Aaliyah's family, who have been staunchly opposed to the project from the beginning. And putting Aaliyah's fraught relationship with R. Kelly on display so many years after her death is just another extremely disrespectful move from the producers.

When the project was first being developed, Aaliyah's family spoke out against it almost immediately, stating:

Considering the magnitude of her fans’ affection alone, she deserves to have a tribute much more grand than a television network debut that won’t even consider the perspectives of those who were closest to Aaliyah. Disregarding the families and dishonoring the legacies of celebrated figures who have passed on, big networks want to exploit their stories for a buck.

And now, to explore an extremely private portion of Aaliyah's past without the blessing of her family, seems even more low.

Aaliyah and R. Kelly were allegedly married in 1994, when Aaliyah was only 15 years old, and R. Kelly was 27. The stars apparently hid the marriage for years, since it was an illegal one (they supposedly falsified Aaliyah's age on the marriage certificate). But beyond the legal ramifications, the relationship between Kelly and Aaliyah was extremely tense, and the late singer obviously wanted to keep the details private for a reason. For those private details to now to be treated like public domain and fodder for made-for-TV movies is clearly disrespectful, even though executive producer Debra Martin assures the public, "Aaliyah’s personal and professional relationship with R. Kelly will be explored with care in the film as we set out to depict her life with the utmost respect."

It all seems pretty contradictory to claim that private details of a deceased person's life will be treated with "respect" and "care," when her family members explicitly do not want the details publicized.

One possible silver lining to this horrible addition: hopefully the film sheds light on R. Kelly's erratic and terrible personality and actions, and does NOT (I repeat, does not) romanticize him as a star of the '90s in any way. If this film is going to be made — and it looks like it will be unless this petition from fans to stop the production gets enough signatures — it can do some good by portraying R. Kelly realistically, not in the strange, irreverent way he is treated in the public eye today.