Surviving R. Kelly – Documentary Series Review


Season 1

Episode Guide

The Pied Piper of R&B
Hiding in Plain Sight
Sex Tape Scandal
The People vs. R. Kelly
All the Missing Girls
Black Girls Matter



Fueled by the recent MeToo and BlackLivesMatter movements, Surviving R Kelly is a 6-part documentary series examining the allegations around serial abuser and R&B star Robert Kelly. With a staggering number of victims and a constantly shocking series of revelations brought to light, this documentary paints a picture of a man who’s seemingly got away with murder time and time again, all the while denying every allegation made against him.

The first episode begins with a brief introduction, collating together a number of different victims and a snapshot of their stories. From here we travel back to 1970 where we look at Robert Kelly’s upbringing and tumultuous family life. After cutting forward to 1990, it’s at this point where we catch a glimpse of Robert’s early potential as a singer and the subsequent superstardom that followed.

The spotlight then falls to the victims where they reveal details of their time with Robert across the subsequent 5 and a half episodes and years following his rise to fame. Between the interviews themselves, various snapshots of the man’s concerts and girls in their teenage years paint a bleak picture of one man’s insatiable and dangerous sexual appetite.

Given that R. Kelly has denied all allegations made against him, the sheer number of victims who have come forward along with the provocative issues surrounding this man really speak for themselves. It’s hard to argue with the wealth of evidence against him. While some of these issues are well-known, including the infamous urine drama, other incidents including sexual abuse and girls held captive in rooms is something I was not aware of until now. 

Although the series does adopt an unnecessarily melodramatic tone, with the usual stock music accompanying shocking revelations, Surviving R Kelly is dramatic enough without the need for these stylistic cues. When the series simplifies its premise to just these girls sat talking about their experience with a quick cut to an image of their teenage years, the series works best and it’s hard not to be emotionally stirred by the content here.

Whilst there is a warning at the start of the documentary that viewer discretion is recommended, it’s a point that should be re-emphasized here too. Some of the graphic description of sexual violence against minors, especially those who were 13 and 14 years old, are really shocking and grotesquely moving so do be advised of that

If there was ever a documentary series released at the perfect time, Surviving R. Kelly is just that. Shocking, profound and incredibly disturbing, this 6-part documentary is a hideous trip into the world of entertainment and the predators hiding in plain sight within.

Since this documentary came out, R. Kelly has been dropped by his record label and the story continues to gain some real traction. Let’s hope the victims get some justice if the allegations are true but this is an important documentary series nonetheless, one that should be watched by everyone.


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  • Verdict - 8/10

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