"Aaliyah: Princess of R&B" drew 3.2 million viewers to its home network, Lifetime, over the weekend. This puts the made-for-television film ahead of "The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story," which had 1.6 million viewers. However, Deadline has reported that Lifetime's biggest draws this year were "Petals on the Wind," which got 3.4 million viewers and "Flowers in the Attic," which attracted 6.1 million viewers. Both films are based on V.C. Andrews’ novels of the same title.
“My 'Aaliyah' movie broke the Internet. Whether you love it or hated it, you watched. It was the second-highest-rated movie on cable this year,” executive producer Wendy Williams jokingly told her talk show audience.
The film revolves around the late singer Aaliyah and chronicles her music career from the young age of 14 to her untimely death in a plane crash when she was 22. It also re-tells her sordid affair with R. Kelly, whom she married when she was under age.
The film has been steeped in controversy since production began. Aaliyah's surviving family members condemned the film, saying they were not consulted and that production went ahead against their wishes. As such, the Lifetime biopic was unable to secure the rights to Aaliyah's music.
The film was also accused of “colorism,” with critics saying that the producers selected light-skinned actors to play the role of famous African-American musicians. Their choice for the lead, Disney Channel star Zendaya Coleman, came under fire because of the actress' light skin color.
Coleman also bowed out of production.
“I felt like something with the production [wasn’t] all the way there,” the actress said. “If I'm going to do something for someone I care about so much, I have to do it the right way.” Nickelodeon star Alexandra Shipp eventually replaced Coleman in the lead role.
Since its premiere, the film has received largely negative reviews. In a review from the AV Club, Joshua Alston said that the biopic was a “tabloid take” statutory rape, referring to an older R. Kelly starting a relationship with the young Aaliyah.
“The movie may be named after her, but its production seems more inspired by another one of its characters, one with a tenuous grasp on the importance of consent,” wrote Alston.
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Photo source: Photo source: Wikimedia Commons/Lifetime