Tech Now + Beyond

#MuteRKelly is only the beginning of streaming social justice

The Women of Colour branch of the #TimesUp movement began the #MuteRKelly campaign in May 2018 which encouraged streaming services, clubs, DJs and people in general to no longer play rapper R. Kelly’s music. R. Kelly has been accused, as far back as 1994, with links to child pornography, trafficking, sex cults, domestic violence and abuse of minors, including an allegation of an illegal marriage between himself at the age of 27 to the 15-year-old singer, Aaliyah in 1994.

Many people took action – radios and DJs stopped playing his music, but the pressure was put on streaming services, particularly Spotify to stop streaming his music and allowing him to earn royalties. Spotify eventually stopped advertising R. Kelly and allowed for people to mute his music altogether back in 2018 but not because of the allegations against him, rather for the ‘hateful content’ that was present in his works. Despite this, not much has been done to dwindle his streaming numbers on the music app. 

This was also the case with XXXTentacion, a 20-year-old rapper whose domestic abuse allegations hijacked much of his promising hip-hop career and with no remorse for his actions, which resulted in the same punishment as R. Kelly. While many of R. Kelly and XXXTentacion’s fans are angry that their music is no longer promoted through the streaming service, many people have supported the move and praised Spotify for taking action. 

In the wake of the MeToo movement and an ever-growing streaming world, streaming social justice could put pressure on companies and individuals to punish those who use their power for the wrong reasons. It prevents the accused from having a platform to get them the reputation, respect, and power that allowed them to abuse others initially. 

Streaming services have always had the power to determine what they allow for streaming and what they don’t. They have to do what is best for their business interests, even if some people won’t agree with their decisions.

But when stars have unforgiving scandals attached to them, are the companies obliged to continue supporting their own interests or to take action?

With the highly-profiled release of HBO’s documentary, Leaving Neverland, many radio stations are having to deal with the dilemma of whether or not they should stop playing Michael Jackson’s music. Continuing to play his songs could either be seen as condoning or ignoring his alleged behavior. Yet there has been an increase in the number of radio stations boycotting his music – either through their own free will or public pressure as the revelations of his alleged sexual abuse against minors re-emerged in the public. Jackson’s reputation had already been ruined before in 1993 and again in 2004-05 when he was accused of sexual abuse and inappropriate contact of children, but both times, he was cleared of all charges and everything went back to the way it was. He released singles and prepared to go on sold-out tours. The allegations have come to light again, ten years after his death and many fans again, refuse to believe the allegations. In fact, Jackson’s music was streamed at an increased rate when the documentary-movie was released and Spotify continues to promote and advertise his music. Other outlets are not so forgiving. The Simpsons creators have agreed to remove a Michael Jackson episode from ever airing again and a radio station in the Netherlands has also stopped playing his music since the release of the documentary. 

But could this be because Jackson hasn’t been charged with anything? R. Kelly and XXXTentacion have both been charged (R Kelly is awaiting trial and XXXTentacion was killed before he could stand trial for domestic abuse allegations), and while Spotify is no longer promoting the music of the aforementioned men, their music is still readily available with a simple search.

An example of streaming social justice done right is the Welsh rock band, Lostprophets, who formed in 1997 with three albums in the top charts in the UK. In 2012, the lead singer, Ian Watkins was charged with thirteen counts of sexual offenses against children, including the attempted rape of a one-year-old girl. Watkins was sentenced to twenty-nine years in prison in 2013 and the Lostprophets disbanded. Now, their music is virtually non-existent on so many retail and subscription platforms. Should this be the way streaming services follow suit?

Streaming social justice has its positives and Spotify has been adamant on policing content not conduct, but is it enough to just ban those who promote hateful content? Allegations against artists such as R. Kelly, XXXTentacion and Michael Jackson are just as bad, as these stories have not just come out of the blue – they have been known and deliberately ignored for whatever reasons. Bad behavior should never be condoned, no matter who is behind it and streaming services owe it to the victims of sexual misconduct and abuse to not give perpetrators a platform to continue to grow their fan base and power. It was that undying loyalty from fans and the power given to them that allowed for the misconduct to happen in the first place. 

Press Pop Culture

Best of The Tempest 2018: 9 Stories from Pop Culture

It’s been a peculiar year in the realm of entertainment. We’ve had such big, progressive victories and such big setbacks and anachronisms in terms of representation, transparency, and inclusivity. Many LGBTQ+ artists thrived, and 2018 was dubbed 20GAYTEEN by singer Hayley Kiyoko. It was the year of Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians, and yet big name studios are still out there producing films that are imbued with racism, sexism, homophobia, and fatphobia as well as often promoting rape and hate.

We’re still light years away from consuming the egalitarian entertainment we deserve. I knew that very well when I became Pop Culture Editor at The Tempest. I understood that I would have to look closely at many media products that would make me mad, which I would rather ignore and avoid at all costs, but I gladly accepted the challenge. I believe our mission is to shed light on everything that is going on, and that includes denouncing the many injustices that occur in the entertainment industry. We can’t possibly stay silent about the things we deem wrong, because silence is complicity.

But we also don’t like to only see the glass half empty, and we love to admit that there are many things to praise and to celebrate. Without further ado, I present to you 9 of my favorite Pop Culture stories we published in 2018, a mix of the good and the bad.

1. Why are blockbuster films pretending that lesbians and bisexuals don’t exist?

Why are blockbuster films pretending that lesbians and bisexuals don’t exist?

Despite the good representation that television and the music industry gifted us with this year, blockbusters are still actively promoting the erasure of female queerness as well as employing queer bait. This is a trend that needs to stay in 2018.

2. What time is it, Hollywood?

What time is it, Hollywood?

What about what happens behind the camera? This article explores some trends of the entertainment industry from the inside out, because actresses are not the only people we need to protect. Let’s say #TimesUp to all kinds of discrimination.

3. Dislikeable female characters aren’t inherently feminist – but that’s okay

Dislikeable female characters aren’t inherently feminist – but that’s okay

There is a big misconception in fiction and in critique: that a female character who dares be different and dislikable is automatically a great feminist heroine. She’s not, and that’s okay.

4. Why I’m boycotting J.K. Rowling and her “Fantastic Beasts”

Why I’m boycotting J.K. Rowling and her “Fantastic Beasts”

We are tired of people giving J.K. Rowling a free pass for everything just because she wrote a beautiful book series 20 years ago. For a while now, she has been twisting things to appear “woke” instead of honestly admitting that as the times progressed, she also wants to be more inclusive. There is no need to say that she was planning plot twists all along when in reality the implications of that make her way more problematic. Read why in this piece!

5. Bollywood item numbers are more dangerous than we think

Bollywood item numbers are more dangerous than we think

If you don’t know what an item number is, you need to read this piece. If you do know, you need to read this piece. It’s eye-opening and I will never look at a Bollywood film the same way again.

6. This director’s approach to diverse female characters completely changed my movie-watching experience

This director’s approach to diverse female characters completely changed my movie-watching experience

Contrary to what some haters will have you believe about feminists, we do celebrate the accomplishments and achievements of men, when they deserve it. This article is a clap on the back of an Oscar-winning director for an amazing film that contributed to making 2018 better.

7. Yes, The Bold Type is unrealistic… just not for the reasons you think

Yes, The Bold Type is unrealistic… just not for the reasons you think 

You may or may not know this show, which was a true revelation for its honest representation of working (and woke!) millennial women. However, the show has been accused of portraying a utopistic world of equality (but it really doesn’t, the protagonists deal with misogyny, racism and homophobia every day). This article cleverly responds to that claim, contextualizing it particularly within the journalism world (where the main characters spend most of their time) that we know too well.

8. Karma has finally come for Chris Brown, and we can thank women for that

Karma has finally come for Chris Brown, and we can thank women for that

Abusers deserve to be held accountable for their actions. After the tidal wave that was the #MeToo movement, it’s good to see that celebrities are still being taken down after abusive behavior.

9. My mind tells me to read, but my body is overwhelmed and overworked

My mind tells me to read, but my body is overwhelmed and overworked

A constant struggle in the transition to adulthood is that we are burdened with too many responsibilities and we have too little time to do the things we actually want to do out of sheer pleasure, like reading. It does not help that books have gained a very strong competitor for our time and attention, the “monster” that are streaming services.

We’re ready to kiss 2018 goodbye. In the hope that 2019 will be a more satisfying year for women, people of color, and all oppressed minorities, happy new year from the staff of The Tempest!