If you like Aaliyah, you're in luck! Sort of! Lifetime is making an Aaliyah biopic, starring one-named former Disney star Zendaya. And now, everyone is mad. Why are which people mad and how mad are they, though?
If You’re Aaliyah’s family (Except Her Uncle):
You are kind of mad. You have released a statement/posted to her verified memorial Twitter account (did not know that was a thing) that you are not in support of this project. Lifetime hasn’t listened but the fans have. It’s like an R&B Mafia thing.
We saw this last year when Drake and Noah “40” Shebib tried to make an album of Aaliyah’s unreleased tracks. After the family stated publically they were against the project, it went from zero to shut down real quick. The backlash piled up so fast and hard that all Shebib will say about it is, “I was naïve to the politics surrounding Aaliyah’s legacy.” Um, yes, you were.
But if you are Aaliyah's family, you're not actually that mad because you (in this case, you are Aaliyah’s mom and brother Rashad) have stated you're not against a project like this in general, you just feel that her story is too big for a TV movie. Like, you literally released a statement saying, “...the family is not opposed to a big theatrical film, but thinks a TV movie is too small for someone as big as Aaliyah.” I’m sorry what? It’d be one thing if you just weren’t ready for a project like this on principle, but when your problem is that the medium isn’t big enough it just ends up sounding like, “We’re down for exploiting her story for money, it just has to be enough money.” Not a good look you guys.
If You’re Aaliyah's Uncle:
You are not mad at all! Her Uncle, Barry Hankerson, (FYI: Dude owns the record label she was first signed to/was her manager/seems grimy as hell) is in favor of this project (he was into the Drake album collab as well) his only complaint always seems to be that he wants more involvement.
Aaliyah did not have many years on this Earth but in that short time one of the things she did do was leave her Uncle’s record label. That should tell you something. This is the same record company Jojo just successfully sued to be released from the contract she signed SEVEN years ago. Barry: I don’t really know what owning a record label entails but you seem to be shitty at it. Maybe try gardening?
If You’re Aaliyah's Fans:
Most of you are mad because the movie doesn’t have the family’s support. I’m not quite sure how life rights work, but I think the way Lifetime is able to make the movie without the family’s consent is because it’s based on a book about her, so they bought the book rights, not the life rights. I’m not a lawyer but I have watched Legally Blonde so many times and think this is right.
SOME (operative word) fans are also mad because Zendaya is mixed race and Aaliyah was black. The politics of skin color go much deeper than a blog post about a TV movie could ever explore; and when that is the case all you can do is call back to Selena.
When Jennifer Lopez was cast as Selena everyone got mad because she’s Puerto Rican and Selena was of Mexican descent, but then they had to recognize the skill and stepped back once the movie was released. Selena is part of the Holy Trinity of music biopics: Selena, Ray, La Vie en Rose, and nothing else. (Yeah Walk the Line, I see you, but nah) and if it worked for Selena, it works for me.
If You’re Lifetime:
YOU HAVE SO MUCH OF A RIGHT TO BE MAD. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE is shitting on you, Lifetime! No one is letting Lifetime grow as a company. Let them spread their wings! Sure in the past they’ve made shitty (albeit entertaining) TV movies about battered women and women who are abused and women in crisis and women getting injured, but they’re trying to branch out! They reached for the stars with Liz and Dick and yes, they did fall terribly but they’re trying! A Day Late and A Dollar Short had an amazing cast—I didn’t see it and I don’t know if it was any good but how many dicks can a movie really suck if it's got Whoopi Goldberg, Ving Rhames, AND Mekhi Phifer in it? (Don't answer that.) Aaliyah’s family is pushing for the big screen but, as anyone who’s seen Notorious or The Runaways can tell you, a big screen does not always a classic make. People need to give Lifetime a chance.
If You’re Drake:
The Drake/Aaliyah rabbit hole goes very deep and nobody has time for that, but: Drake published an open letter to Aaliyah on the anniversary of her death saying he was in love with her, he got her face tattooed on his back, publically credits her for his success, routinely puts a picture of her face on his earpieces when he does shows…need I go on? I’m sure Drake is mad as hell because when he tried to produce his musical love letter to her, I mean the album of her music, it got the axe pretty quick. They did release one song called "Enough Said," and that’s how I feel about him with this. Enough Said.
If You’re VH1:
So mad. Simmering. You had a market for shitty music biopics and now other networks are horning in on your turf. Music was their thing and Lifetime had tragedy, but a musical tragedy is anybody’s game. Also you know this whole movie is because someone at Lifetime saw CrazySexyCool and was like, “Yassss.”
If You’re Zendaya:
This poor girl. People are telling her she’s not black enough, people are telling her she is ugly, that she doesn’t deserve this role, people keep conducting online polls about who else should have gotten the role (which is rude but Teyana Taylor I see you). And shockingly, in a sentence I never thought I’d write: Twitter seems to be the place where kindness is prevailing. Aaliyah’s mother and brother tweeted very kindly that even though they are not behind the project, fans shouldn’t take out anything on the young star, “We do ask that you are respectful to the artist playing the role” and Zendaya herself showed surprising insight in 140 characters, “I’m just a 17 year old girl who got cast to play one of her biggest inspirations” and “there will never be another Aaliyah, I just hope to share her.” Slow clap.
If You’re a Feminist:
Yikes! K so I love Lifetime but they seem to have a nasty habit of framing female stars’ lives around their relationships rather than their accomplishments—Liz and Dick, as well as their OTHER huge music biopic undertaking this year—Whitney Houston—which is said to mainly revolve around her relationship with Bobby Brown.
Obviously Aaliyah’s relationship/secret marriage to R. Kelly will be in the movie, (age ain’t nothing but a number however 15 and 27 ain’t nothing but a jail sentence) but it shouldn’t BE the movie y'know? I’m just saying I hope this movie doesn’t turn into another Frida.
If You’re Me:
People are all up in arms about who’s playing Aaliyah but I want to know who’s art directing this thing. The video for “Are You That Somebody” was perfect and we need that vision to carry us through. Also are they gonna use the real footage from “Rock the Boat”????????????? That is the biggest question here.
If You’re Timbaland and Missy Elliot:
Timbaland is mad because he didn’t get asked to contribute. Missy Elliot is mad because she hasn’t made a full-length album since 2006.
Julie Mitchell owns an airbrushed Aaliyah t-shirt she bought at the mall. She's on Twitter - @juliepoptart