Editorial: Stop giving R. Kelly your admiration
“You can separate the art from the artist.”
Somehow, that’s what R. Kelly’s fans are still trying to tell themselves.Following an extensive and exhausting investigation, Buzzfeed News reporter Jim DeRogatis published his breaking story Monday morning alleging that R. Kelly is reportedly holding girls hostage in a ‘sex cult’. Several former members of R. Kelly’s staff and inner circle believe this information to be true, and the alleged hostages’ parents are desperate for a formal investigation. Since then, one of the women in question has released a video to reassure the public that she is okay. However, in this video, she claims that she cannot reveal her location ‘for safety reasons’ and cannot comment on whether or not she is allowed to leave said location of her own free will.
This story is developing and no official charges have been filed against R. Kelly or anyone else involved. While it is possible that nothing will come of an investigation, details from former employees and the alleged hostages’ parents overlap and seem to create a cohesive story that, if true, would prove to be one of the biggest cases in recent history. The problem with this story is that it is not the first time R. Kelly has been in hot water. Previously on trial for child pornography, Kelly was found not guilty but has settled several issues outside of court and was married to R&B star Aaliyah when she was only 15 years old. Nothing says creepy like producing a single called “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number” with your soon to be underage wife.
So, why are thousands of fans still showing their love for R. Kelly?
This title is not okay. (R. Kelly and Aaliyah)
While it’s easy to dismiss people’s love for an artist who has such heinous accusations against him, devotion can be blinding. It’s no secret that tons of musicians, actors, and athletes have had their problems with the law. Football player Michael Vick served 21 months in jail for his involvement in a dogfighting ring, and the Philadelphia Eagles signed him a year later for $1.6 million. Actor Casey Affleck was sued for sexual harassment yet received an Oscar this year for Best Actor. Actress Brie Larson, who won an Oscar the previous year for portraying a victim of sexual and emotional abuse, refused to applaud when presenting him with the award. Even legendary guitarist Pete Townsend was a registered sex offender from 2003 to 2008 for admitting he used his credit card on a site that said “click here for child porn”.
In each of those instances, the person in question either settled out of court or served time for their crimes.
But not R. Kelly.
When R. Kelly was dismissed of child pornography charges in 2008, his fan base shifted. Many lost respect for the singer and felt that his integrity had been forever damaged. One of the star witnesses felt that Kelly’s “star power” was the sole reason for the verdict. “I came forward. I told the truth. That’s basically it. That’s all I could do. I’m disappointed.”
In a candid interview with GQ, journalist Chris Keith was quick to point out to Kelly that he was not ‘innocent’, but ‘not guilty’ in the child pornography case, despite what Kelly said. The jurors nearly unanimously agreed that R. Kelly was in fact the person in question in the video, but the young girl’s age could not be verified. This interview was likely meant to be a positive reflection of Kelly’s actions (at least in Kelly’s mind and the minds of his PR people), but Keith uncovered a lot of unsettling behavior and thoughts of Kelly’s.
With all of this evidence piling up against Kelly, common sense should come into play for a lot of fans. The man has more money than any of us could ever dream of, and he didn’t have to take the stand in his own criminal case because he’d bought the best lawyers in the state of Illinois.
Therefore, we are left with two possibilities:
- R. Kelly has been and continues to be ‘innocent’ of all sexual abuse allegations against him, despite the increasing number and extensive investigations.
- R. Kelly is not ‘innocent’ and simply hasn’t been caught yet.
How is he still able to sell out shows? How is he still able to make music that tops the charts? Granted, his name now makes a few people cringe, and he’s been the butt of jokes on South Park, Chappelle’s Show, and all over the internet. But it’s not enough to embarrass a star like R. Kelly; in fact, some of the jokes coming out of this most recent scandal paint R. Kelly as the victim and are downright shameful.
If we do not believe the victim, then we believe the perpetrator. If we continue to buy R. Kelly’s records, we are funding his undeserved fame. If we dismiss these allegations with jokes and anger for those who take it seriously, we’re making light of abuse.
Is R. Kelly ‘innocent’? That’s for a court to decide.
But I know how I’d feel if I was on that jury.