First, O.J. Simpson, then JonBenét Ramsey, and now . . . R. Kelly? America has always loved a true-crime story, but in recent years that obsession has been funneled into waves of documentaries and docuseries surrounding various high-profile crimes. This week, as a victim came forward to sue R. Kelly for sexual battery, false imprisonment, and failure to disclose an S.T.D., it appears that the three-time Grammy winner could be the next subject to inspire a lurid TV obsession: BuzzFeed and Hulu are reportedly making a documentary about him, in the wake of another two projects already on the way from Lifetime.
R. Kelly has been accused of sexually abusing women numerous times over the years and was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008. Kelly and his team have denied the allegations against him, including the notion that he is running a “sex cult,” writing in a statement earlier this month, “R. Kelly has close friendships with a number of women who are strong, independent, happy, well cared for and free to come and go as they please. We deny the many dark descriptions put forth by instigators and liars who have their own agenda for seeking profit and fame.” Kelly and his representatives did not respond to V.F.s request for comment when news of this weeks lawsuit broke.
On Thursday, Deadline reported that BuzzFeed and Hulu are developing an upcoming feature documentary about the singer, which will explore his alleged serial abuse of young black women. Per Deadline, Lyric Cabral ((T)ERROR) will helm the project, with Oscar-winning producer Laura Poitras (Citizenfour) set to executive produce alongside Charlotte Cook. BuzzFeed will produce the project, which will stream exclusively on Hulu.
Earlier this month, Lifetime also announced that it will produce both a docuseries and a feature-length film focused on Kellys alleged victims. (Both projects remain untitled, with release dates still unknown.) In a statement, the network said, “Partnering with advocacy groups and influential thought leaders, Lifetime will provide a platform to give women a voice where they have previously been unheard.”
It seems inevitable that more projects like these will be announced in the coming months, though its also worth wondering what tone these documentary films and series will strike. When JonBenét Ramseys case took over TV in 2016—20 years after the child beauty queen was murdered—the projects ranged from traditional to downright grotesque. CBSs The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey, for instance, asked a 10-year-old boy to bludgeon a replica of a childs skull—covered in pigskin and wearing a wig—with a heavy flashlight in order to determine if Burke Ramsey could have murdered his little sister in 1996. The key difference between R. Kellys alleged crimes and the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and JonBenét Ramsey is that in Kellys case, the alleged victims are still alive—which will make such TV spectacles more fraught.
This post has been updated.
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