Lifetime has wasted no time Lifetiming up the recently confirmed Aaliyah biopic.
Backlash to the film was near immediate following news that Disney Channel star Zendaya Coleman, a very fair biracial woman, will be playing the brown-skinned Aaliyah. Coleman responded to the criticism against her after being prodded by a TMZ reporter:
Well, a lot of people say that I'm not black enough, [….] Half-black is just enough. It doesn't matter what color you are; it's how you portray the character.
Bless her. Coleman is only is 17 years old and like many others, is missing the point. No one is questioning her level of blackness. The concern is with the lightening-up of black women almost as soon as they enter a mainstream stage. It's a very real concern that has implications beyond just this film and into the self-esteem of young black girls and the impact it has on what we as a society consider beautiful.
Another loud criticism of the movie was the question of whether or not it will address her relationship with R. Kelly. We now have our answer: yup.
R Kelly — the grossest man on Earth as voted by me — and Aaliyah were secretly married when she was just 15 years old and Kelly was 27. The union was eventually annulled by Aaliyah's parents. With his history of alleged sexual relationships with underage girls, the taste level here is called into question, although it is Lifetime.
Debra Martin Chase, the film's executive producer, is trying to assure everyone that Lifetime — the network that brought you such classics as Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy and Jodi Arias: Dirty Little Secret — will handle what many consider to be child sexual abuse with respect, and nuance:
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. Above all else, it's our hope to inspire an entirely new generation with her music and larger-than-life talent.
Maybe I'm reaching too far into my bag of logic here, but it seems to me like you could give a fairly accurate depiction of their relationship without delving into child abuse.
It begs of the question of whether or not the relationship between Aaliyah and Kelly is being depicted because it was an important part of her life that provides key insight into who she was as a person, or if it just makes for good TV and excellent ratings.
This may all be one big moot point, however, since Aaliyah's family has reportedly hired lawyers to stop the project the from happening. In so many words, they think that their beloved daughter, sister, niece and friend is too good for the Lifetime TV movie treatment.
Aaliyah was more than a singer, she was – and is still – an American music icon whose legacy continues to live on and influence today's music culture, just as Ray Charles, Notorious B.I.G., Selena and Johnny Cash.
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.
If nothing else, the family has vowed to deny any licensing requests of Aaliyah's music to the film—which I imagine will make depicting the life of a professional singer somewhat difficult.
Image via AP.