Genny, R Kelly and the art of agreeing to disagree


Last time I checked I wasn’t paying your bills, thank you very much; so my opinion of your opinion ends where your opinion begins. Nor are you paying my bills, so my opinions you disagree with need not cause you unproportionate offence. As it happens, Mr O is the only person who has half the share and responsibility of our joint bills, so it is fortunate that most times we share similar views on most matters such as Genevieve Nnaji’s directorial debut, Lionheart and R Kelly’s long record of molesting underage girls. There are of course other matters we disagree on, in which case we choose to agree to disagree. A skill I have found in the last few weeks lost on many.

Firstly, let’s start with the case of Lionheart.
“Genevieve Nnaji’s directorial debut, Lionheart, is destined to be remembered as the film which changed the face of Nollywood,” decrees Premium Times, before moving on to commend “a tight script.” True, Not only is it the first Netflix African original, it’s the first African movie to be distributed exclusively on Netflix. These are mere facts, however, not accolades. A Netflix original does not a seal of approval make, nor the fact that the film is solely distributed by Netflix proof that it is exceptional. We’ve seen quite a few Netflix originals over the years which have been harangued and ridiculed.

Take Netflix’s debut Turkish production, The Protector; released mid-December following high expectations. While very watchable with the universal tale of good versus evil with a good dose of mystical elements thrown in set against the backdrop of contemporary Istanbul, it’s nothing to write home about. With a slow-burning pace, and a protagonist you want to get into the screen to slap at least once every episode, the villain and the potential season 1 cliff-hanger ending signposted miles away, after binge watching ten episode, you can’t help but leave underwhelmed. So Stranger Things, it ain’t – despite the hype, and the ‘first Netflix Turkish original’. Neither does it prove itself any worthier than the thousands of original Turkish series broadcast across Turkish TV over the years.

So far, so Lionheart.
The difference? I can freely express my opinion on The Protector without every Ahmet, Mehmet, Ayse reminding me that it is the first Netflix Turkish original or that it stars one of the top Turkish actors. Why is it that almost any Facebook post I have read since the film’s Netflix debut is followed by rants and commentary from detractors that descend into personal attacks and insults.

Worse still were the debates raging on social media following the Surviving R Kelly documentary. I enjoyed the erstwhile R Kelly hits as much as the next person, but also saw the bizarre home video which was presented as evidence on his predatory behaviour. Yet, there are many, not only the crooner’s fan base, who defend his innocence despite the allegations.

In her piece ‘The Flawed Logic of R. Kelly’s Most Unlikely Supporters’ published in The Atlantic, Sauda Grundy writes, “For many African Americans, the individual successes of celebrity talents are worn as badges of accomplishment for the race as a whole. When the Grammy Award–winning singer Erykah Badu introduced R. Kelly at the 2015 Soul Train Awards—a show that draws mostly black audiences and celebrates mostly black performers—she lauded him, saying that Kelly “’has done more for black people than anyone.’ Badu struck at the heart of one of the most injurious racialized rape myths of all: that representing one’s race in the mainstream by achieving individual, odds-defying success absolves people from harm they have perpetrated against other members of the race.”

The comments on social media defending R Kelly’s behaviour were of a similar sort, as well as many justifying and excusing his behaviour as an upshot of the abuse the artist himself suffered. Potentially legitimate claims, if and when argued sensibly. Yet there were columns and columns of Facebook debates where disparate parties began hurling abuse at each other over – of all things, a child molester.

When did we start withholding the right to disagree from our friends on and off line? How is it that we can feel so emotionally attached to a celebrity for whom we are of no consequence that we freely attack people we deem friends or at the very least acquaintances? Or has life got so stressful that the only way to keep ourselves tipping over the edge is to take up keyboard wars?

As for me, I do have my opinions, and given an opportunity I am happy to share, discuss and debate on a platform that encourages and inspires adult communication. As for sharing them on Facebook and being torn to shreds for the very liberty of having them, I’d rather spend time writing my book The Lost Art of Agreeing to Disagree.

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