Hulu’s R. Kelly Documentary Is Part Of A Larger Trend Of Not Brushing His Allegations Under The Rug Any Longer
As accusations against the singer continue to mount, a documentary about R. Kelly is coming to Hulu to shed light on his widely-reported controversial background. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film is being developed by BuzzFeed News and will be based on the outlet's ongoing coverage of Kelly's alleged sexual misconduct involving young women. R. Kelly has repeatedly denied the allegations against him. (Bustle reached out to Kelly's team for comment on the documentary, but did not receive an immediate response.)
Over the past few decades, Kelly has been the subject of several accusations of sexual coercion and exploitation, and more recently, has come under scrutiny for allegedly running a "sex cult," per a BuzzFeed report in July 2017. According to Billboard, the singer, whose full name is Robert Kelly, was also acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008. In that trial, prosecutors presented a videotape, which they alleged showed Kelly engaging in a sexual act with a girl estimated to be approximately 13 years old, according to Billboard. The Chicago Tribune reported that the alleged victim declined to testify in the case. Kelly pleaded not guilty to the charges being brought against him during that time, according to People.
Although Kelly has never been convicted of a crime, THR reported the documentary will feature interviews from insiders with close knowledge of the situation, including survivors of the alleged "sex cult" and others associated with the Chicago-born entertainer. BuzzFeed contributor Jim DeRogatis, who reported in-depth on Kelly’s alleged transgressions, will provide commentary in the movie. DeRogatis' 2017 exposé brought national attention to the situation, prompting the cancellation of several of Kelly's concerts in the months following.
For his part, Kelly has vehemently denied all claims of sexual misconduct that have been lodged against him, describing them as an “attempt to distort my character and to destroy my legacy." He also denied these allegations through his lawyer in July 2017, who shared that Kelly would "work diligently and forcibly to pursue his accusers and clear his name."
However, his name continues to be brought up lately, as the film's announcement comes on the heels of a larger push to #MuteRKelly by the Time's Up Women of Color Committee, which urged those in the entertainment industry to cut ties with the artist. The #MuteRKelly movement — which according to Billboard, was started in 2017 by Oronike Odeleye and Kenyette Barnes — has been backed and supported by several major powerhouses in the entertainment industry, including Ava DuVernay, Shonda Rimes, Viola Davis, Lupita Nyong'o, and Jurnee Smollett-Bell.
As a collective, they've recently teamed up to put increased pressure on Kelly's record label RCA, streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music, and other companies associated with the singer to stop producing, promoting, and distributing his music.
In April, in response to Time's Up's efforts, Bustle received a statement from R. Kelly's management team (which can be read in full here). Here's an excerpt:
"R. Kelly supports the pro-women goals of the Time’s Up movement. We understand criticizing a famous artist is a good way to draw attention to those goals---and in this case, it is unjust and off-target.
We fully support the rights of women to be empowered to make their own choices. Time’s Up has neglected to speak with any of the women who welcome R. Kelly’s support, and it has rushed to judgment without the facts. Soon it will become clear Mr. Kelly is the target of a greedy, conscious and malicious conspiracy to demean him, his family and the women with whom he spends his time."
While this call-to-action against the singer has seemingly been a long time coming, Spotify recently made a move to change they way Kelly's music is played on their platform, removing his songs from their promoted playlists and recommendations on May 10, according to Billboard. Under the terms of a newly announced Hate Content and Hateful Conduct policy, Spotify will no longer feature the R&B crooner's songs on playlists including RapCaviar, Discover Weekly, New Music Friday, and its other genre or mood-based playlists.
Kelly has sold close to 60 million albums during his nearly 30-year career, and has been nominated for 26 Grammys and 11 American Music Awards, according to BuzzFeed. Accusations of misconduct have been in circulation since 1994 when, at the age of 27, he reportedly secretly married 15-year-old Aaliyah, according to The Cut. Rolling Stone reported their marriage was annulled the same year, and the two agreed to never speak of it, including claims they used a falsified marriage certificate saying she was 18. (In 2016, Kelly told GQ he wouldn't discuss the marriage, "Out of respect for Aaliyah, and her mother and father who has asked me not to personally.")
With this latest project, Hulu joins other networks who reportedly have plans to bring R. Kelly's story to life. Vulture recently shared that Lifetime is gearing up to create a docu-series and film about his alleged abuse. A release date has not been announced for either project.
This new focus on R. Kelly's alleged abuse claims, along with many other stories which have recently come to light, will hopefully help change the narrative for how sexual misconduct issues are treated within the entertainment industry going forward.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.