SHOULD We Be Removing R. Kelly’s Content?
If you haven’t heard yet, R. Kelly is a pretty shady guy. He married a 15 year old in 1994 and has been accused of a sprawling range of abuse and sexual misconduct from dozens of victims since 2002. Yet (despite the news stories, the court cases and the widely available sex tapes) people have continued to ignore these accusations and support R. Kelly’s career.
Recently, a docuseries titled “Surviving R. Kelly” was released that seems to have brought everyone to their senses and as a result, Kelly is under investigation. As an added bonus, other celebrities are now speaking out against Kelly. Lady Gaga has even announced that she will be removing “Do What U Want”, her song featuring R. Kelly, from all streaming services. However, this seems to bring up a new and unexpected issue: should we be removing this content at all?
I have conflicting feelings on this idea – on the one hand I don’t want R. Kelly to be rewarded when well-meaning people happen to listen to his music without knowing what he’s done. On the other hand I’m not sure it’s right for us to act like he’s never existed. If you were to remove R. Kelly’s music from streaming platforms, stop selling his albums, and ban him from releasing new music, it would end his career, without a doubt. This would also alter history in an odd new way. Suddenly it looks as though dozens of celebrities had nothing to do with R. Kelly even though they had worked with him years after accusations were first made. It almost gives celebrities a free pass to work with whoever they want, whenever they want, regardless of that person’s past. Want to work with an abuser? Go ahead! If people complain, you can just delete it. That’s a dangerous mindset to have and it’s certainly not one we should be encouraging.
I want to make it clear now that I DON’T support R. Kelly, and I understand that Lady Gaga has good intentions with removing the music they made together. I’m just not entirely certain this practice is something we should get comfortable with. There’s a fine line between censorship that helps and censorship that hurts, and I’m just not sure what side of that spectrum this issue is on.