We need to talk about the media’s appalling coverage of R. Kelly and White men who kill
Seriously! We need to talk about how we’ve gotten to the place where deplorable acts of violence against women and children are now being fetishized by the media and the individuals who willingly consume the garbage that really needs to be disposed of without a trace.
When the insightfully devastating Lifetime docu-series Surviving R. Kelly made it’s highly-anticipated debut back in January, the scorching revelations heightened the emotional investments of women like me, who are old enough to recall the decade-long rumors of the disgusting exploits of the embattled R&B singer, who managed to escape the jaws of the law, without any pressure from an industry that tends to put profits from hit singles above all else.
The heated conversation around the renewed ire over how the wellbeing and security of Black women has always been the negotiable tactic that allows for the worst case scenario to play out repeatedly was finally in full bloom, with expectations that this wouldn’t just be the season of “wokeness” that passes when viral attributes fade away.
We all wanted justice to be served in the name of the victims past and present, who were serving their time for reasons that were beyond their control, and regardless of the circumstances that led to the hostage situation that they couldn’t break out of, the public outing of their abuser had to lead to an appropriate end.
This is mostly why it’s unbearably tragic to witness the current state of affairs, months after the world got a graphic view of the nauseatingly vile fortress, that R. Kelly created for himself and the innocent lives that he manically poached for his own pleasure.
As the singer, who was born Robert Sylvester Kelly, began to experience the ramifications of his notorious past, there was a very brief and fulfilling spell of gratification that greeted his crumbling existence, with a dash of bitterness for how bloody long it took to rally the troops for a cause that was both worthy and glaringly urgent.
The process appeared to be playing out according to plan, but then it all went to shit, once CBS scored the interview of the month, and recruited star anchor Gayle King as the main attraction.
Of course it makes sense to feature one of the most prominent Black women in the business when you’re staging what is surely going to be an epically dramatic segment, that could either achieve the goal of royally shaming a pathetic sexual predator and pedophile, or disastrously arm the future felon with the upper hand based on his signature unpredictability.
Truth be told, I opted not to watch the viral sensation as it was airing, because I had concluded that basically nothing good would be produced from a high-stakes interview on a major network, that bequeaths the troubled superstar with the kind of reception that he absolutely doesn’t deserve, when you consider the levity of the accusations tossed his way.
Once the clips were available for viewing, my conclusions were validated.
Things did get way out of control, and the pampered singer was given license to leverage his access to the lenses of the world with the same bravado and showmanship that he infuses into his legendary performances.
None of it was impressive, not even the remarkably stoic stance of seasoned interviewer Gayle King, who retained her trending status for more than a handful of days, due to her uncanny ability to weather the rage and emotional duress of her restless subject, who was formally charged with “10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.”
That’s some major shit.
It shouldn’t be converted to “Must-See-TV” with the stimulating draw of ratings gold, that gives the spotlighted perpetrator the golden opportunity to boost his villainous role to the hilt, and at the detriment of those who are being assaulted all over again.
We’ve somehow trained our tolerance to accept the value in gawking at the celebratory downfall of former idols, through the greedy portals of news organizations, that have woefully failed when it comes to the duty of setting high standards, that demand differentiating between investigative news and the branches of it that are worth Q&A sessions, without the exacerbation of ongoing criminal cases.
It is blatantly clear that network executives, and King herself, weren’t at all considerate of just how badly things could go, based on the well-known erratic temperament of the condemned interviewee. Thorough vetting didn’t factor into the process of confirming that instead of annoying theatrics, that badly behaved celebs tend to exhibit once the cameras are focused, this particular episode would be the riveting in depth interview, that could initiate the path to healing and societal progression.
It wasn’t shocking to observe the cheering on of Gayle King’s performance, as most felt that she heroically and expertly managed an otherwise chaotic situation without breaking a sweat.
Those are career-making moments that embed the cultural landscape for years to come, and while I can’t fault King for seizing the prime opportunity to remind us of what she’s made of, there’s the other seedier side of the equation that shouldn’t be left unattended.
We absolutely can’t ignore the utter damage that has been exacted as a result of the grossly negligent coverage of the case against R. Kelly, and how the weak attempts to put him on the spot by holding him accountable with the circus of camera, lights, action — didn’t come close to reducing or validating the pain and suffering of his accusers.
It certainly enhanced King’s viability as the superwoman who doesn’t flinch during volatile interludes, that would otherwise destabilize the most gifted reporter. It also maximized the over-exposure of R. Kelly, who already knew the advantages that would be afforded, via a massive platform that merges star power and the salaciousness that’s never far behind.
The celebrity culture stems from social media’s virus of influencers, and how that blue check mark that was initially reserved for big names in show business has inevitably been flexed to the max to create the falsehood of influence for those who amass bots as followers.
This has bred the present dilemma that makes literally anything and anybody — worthy of the Hollywood treatment.
Popular outlets that are dedicated to the “one-stop shop” presentations, have mastered the blueprint of turning White men who kill into main attractions, with daily updates on front pages, that appallingly convey the mind-numbing display of imagery that recall the happy faces of toddlers, and the mother who died first before they were smothered by their sicko father.
Gone are the days when the only exposure given to convicted killers was the closed courtroom, and the rare chance to leave the frigid cell for scheduled outings.
Now readers get to enjoy real-time engagement with the past and present activities of murderous White males like Chris Watts, Patrick Frazee and plenty more, who’ve garnered the level of fandom that warrants splashy coverage right next to vital items like JLo’s beachfront engagement photos, and the buzzworthy #lovefest between Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman.
Thanks to the latest ceremonious resurrection of America’s most famed serial killers, via anniversary-themed documentaries and upcoming projects starring over-paid A-listers, we are privy to the ravenous appetite of White America, when it comes to the deadly but sexy White males, who are apparently able to command legion of followers with their lethal brand of seduction.
But how can we justify this systemic worship of certifiable assholes, who are being humanized by the desperate climate of click-worthy content, that will stop at nothing to keep the views — fast and furious — at all costs.
Even if it means featuring jailhouse soap operas, that expand to include a plethora of questionable characters, that are all essential to the nefarious plot that involves the gut-wrenching details of how an entire family can be erased by the gutless wiles of monsters, who should be rotting in behind bars, with the possibility of life-threatening interactions — instead of being feted by abhorrently deluded outlets.
We really need to talk about how everything is blending into a pot of cultural disarray, that contains elements of disorder, that we used to be disciplined and humane enough to reject, without hesitation, but due to obligations to algorithms, and the unrelenting need to feed the beast of ambition, and undisputed relevance, we’re helplessly assigning notoriety to those who’ve forever lost the right to fight for our trust and constant attention.
The non-stop updates that are meant to keep us informed on the sexual escapades of child killers, or the increasing support from allies, that has successfully kept a child rapist out of jail, isn’t exactly the award-winning or hard-hitting reporting that the past generation of journalists were trained to execute — back when you could sit through news segments without squirming from the torment of Rated R bites, that CBS delivers on behalf of R. Kelly’s tumultous manifest.
We need to talk about how awful we’ve become as humans, and how the shitty and complacent media prefers to operate without due diligence that is driven by honorable motives, that should be instituted to highlight the good-natured themes, while accurately portraying the bad and the ugly in ways that don’t perpetuate the desirability of evil doers.
We could talk about this shit all day — but for now, let’s end on the sobering note that offers the stormy forecast of how much worse this disease of indecent exposure is going to get.
We are under the influence of stark direness until further notice.