Why Americans Are Muting R. Kelly and Not Michael Jackson
THE FOLLOWING IS AN OPINION PIECE:
I don't care so much about ratings... The most talked about show this week is HBO's documentary "Leaving Neverland," a four-hour expose' of sorts that goes into incredibly uncomfortable amounts of detail regarding sexual abuse allegedly against Michael Jackson on to young boys. This is only about two months after Lifetime's highly-discussed "Surviving R. Kelly," a similar style of docu-series exploring allegations of sexual abuse, brainwashing, and kidnapping allegedly perpetrated by R&B superstar R. Kelly. The level of disgusting in both series is pretty similar, but the outcry against R. Kelly seems to be many times more than that against Michael Jackson, who has actually been getting a strange level of support in the court of public opinion... But why?
Admittedly, my sources for this claim are my own personal social circles and comments I've seen on articles shared by BuzzFeed. But why did the #MuteRKelly hashtag take off with so much success that the artist was actually dropped by his label and Jackson's music sales are actually UP throughout this scandal? I have a few theories:
Full disclosure: I LOVE Michael Jackson's music. I like R. Kelly's, but like many people, Michael Jackson was my first musical love. My hatred for rapists and pedophiles exceeds my love for the King of Pop, but it's worth noting that I don't WANT to believe that either Michael Jackson or R. Kelly are capable of the crimes of which they're accused. That being said, I'm trying to remain as honest as I can with both myself and anybody reading.
I think, for starters, we've already been warmed up to the idea that Michael Jackson potentially had inappropriate relationships with children. That doesn't make it any better. At all. But we've been privy of allegations against Michael since the early 1990's. Which brings me to my second and probably biggest point... Michael has been tried for the crimes in which he's accused of. Twice actually, and wasn't convicted. And yes, I know that R. Kelly was also tried for a specific crime for allegedly videotaping some disgusting acts with a 14 year old girl and also wasn't convicted, but the more than a dozen accusers in Kelly's story are separate stories independent of the one he went to trial for in the early 2000's. That case also had videotaped evidence that PEOPLE HAVE SEEN that is treated as a smoking gun of sorts. "Surviving R. Kelly" also offers an explanation as to why Kelly wasn't convicted in that particular case. So while I think Michael Jackson had reasonable doubt in his case, R. Kelly's acquittal was more reminiscent of OJ Simpson's in that LEGALLY, you got off, but most of us real people will never be convinced.
It's also very much worth mentioning that, while I absolutely don't want to rate the credibility of the accusers and I do believe that every accuser deserves to be heard, the accusers in "Leaving Neverland" have TESTIFIED IN COURT as to their experiences with Michael Jackson... And their testimony is the complete opposite of what they are claiming in the docu-series. This creates a huge credibility conflict for the viewer. It's not them asking themselves, "Do I believe this person" it's them having to ask themselves, "Do I believe what this person is saying NOW, or what he testified to years ago?" I don't think people experienced much of that while watching R. Kelly's accusers.
Finally, R. Kelly is still alive to defend himself. Which he attempted to do last week with Gayle King on CBS and likely didn't win anybody over. Michael is not, and his family seems to be doing all they can to fight on his behalf. And it's worth mentioning that when he WAS alive, he DID defend himself over and over and over again... Publicly and in the legal system. As for the court of public opinion, well, some people are unable to get past just the allegations.
What do I think? I don't know. I don't want to think ANYBODY is capable of doing the things both of these entertainers are accused of... But I know better. I've settled on the fact that I DO believe the R. Kelly accusers. The Michael Jackson accusers are a tougher pill for me to swallow, both for my love of the man's music and the merit of the accusations. I mean, even the stuff we know to be true, like how much time he spent with these kids, even if he didn't molest them, is so odd that it could likely be considered INSANE. So would returning to the behavior that nearly brought down your entire legacy. So much of Michael's public persona was incomprehensible. I don't know any more about this story than the average Joe, and most likely you reading this don't either. I know that prior to "Leaving Neverland" I would defend Michael as much as I could by saying, "I think he was a weirdo that loved children, but didn't molest them." After watching "Leaving Neverland," I guess I'll just say it's much harder to stand by that opinion.