When Lifetime aired [Aaliyah: Princess Of R&B](movie:1518737) this past weekend, the internet was almost instantaneously flooded with responses and opinions. A biopic on the late singer's life, the TV movie has stirred up quite a bit of controversy due to its handling of the beloved star. Naturally, Twitter made its collective feelings known in hysterical fashion.
Before getting into the controversy, it's important to understand just how much beloved Aaliyah was in her heyday and how respected she remains today. After signing onto Jive Records at the tender age of 12, she catapulted to stardom when R. Kelly produced her platinum-selling album Age Ain't Nothing But a Number. After mastering the music world with continued commercial success and gaining a place among hip-hop royalty like Missy Elliott and Timbaland, Aaliyah started making a transition to movies. She received an Oscar nomination for her song "Journey to the Past" in Anastasia, and the singer-turned-actress eventually landed roles in Romeo Must Die and Queen of the Damned. She was 22 years old when the plane carrying her home from a video shoot crashed in the Bahamas, killing everyone onboard.
Because Aaliyah never got the chance to finish her career on her own terms, her fan base maintains a strong appreciation for the work that survives. This past weekend when Lifetime aired an unauthorized biopic on Aaliyah's life, viewers quickly expressed their feelings with a brand new meme.
For some added background, look no further than Lifetime's casting choices. They chose little-known actors in the roles of super-recognizable superstars. Additionally, they cast light-skinned actors with no hip-hop backgrounds to portray both Aaliyah and Missy Elliott, with some arguing that this was outright race-switching. The backlash even led the original actress cast as Aaliyah to back out amid petitions that she was not "black enough." The trending hashtag #LifetimeBeLike, inspired by the Aaliyah movie, confronts these casting issues head-on by imagining a string of fake Lifetime movies with some hilarious results.
Judging by these (often ruthless) responses, fans felt that Lifetime really missed the mark recreating such an icon.
So, where exactly did they go wrong? Let's take a look at some of the controversial choices that the network made.
Aaliyah's family was vocally opposed
According to Aaliyah's family, who still control the rights to her recordings, Lifetime did not reach out to them before publicly announcing plans to make the biopic. Jomo Hankerson, Aaliyah's cousin and record label president, has made it clear that the family actually would approve a movie exploring Aaliyah's short life, but they did not want it on Lifetime. They want her rise to fame to be a full-length feature film.
There was none of Aaliyah's original music
Lifetime could not secure the rights to Aaliyah's extensive catalog of music due to an embargo put in place by her family. A total lack of original music makes it kind of difficult to portray the behind-the-scenes production of the songs that made Aaliyah a star. Lifetime opted to use Aaliyah's covers of other artists' songs for the movie's musical scenes.
The casting process was troubled from the get-go
When young Disney star Zendaya Coleman was originally cast to play Aaliyah, she received some major backlash on Twitter. She ended up dropping out of the movie. Lifetime quickly recast the part with Alexandra Shipp, but critics still pointed to a lack of resemblance between the often light-skinned actors and the superstars they portrayed. The memes floating around Twitter make light of these casting choices, jokingly thinking up new movies if everyone followed Lifetime's lead.
Despite all the criticism, Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B was a hit for Lifetime and the second biggest TV movie of the year (behind Lifetime's own Flowers in the Attic). It appears that all that joking around can actually mean big bucks for the people in charge.
We'll have to wait and see if Lifetime will listen to Aaliyah's fans or if the network will just dust itself off and try again with another biopic.
What do you think of Twitter's response to Lifetime?