(Damon's latest at EBONY wonders if it's a good thing that the iconic comedy show ended when it did.)
The news of the upcoming Lifetime Aaliyah biopic — and the casting of Zendaya Coleman — stirred another round of conversation about the deceased starlet, much of it focused on her status (the Haughton family apparently thinks she’s too big for a Lifetime bio) and how famous she’d be today if she hadn’t died. And I get this as well. I get the urge to idealize a person’s memory, especially someone with such a promising future. But at the risk of sounding blasphemous, we have no idea if Aaliyah trajectory would have continued. No idea if her subsequent albums and movies would have flopped. No idea if she would have faded into obscurity.
This idea might be a difficult one for Aaliyah fans to grasp, but let me say this. You who was an even bigger star than she was in 1999? Who sold millions of records — including two platinum albums in one year — starred in multiple movies, appeared on multiple magazine covers, and might have been the hottest Black artist alive at that time? DMX. He’s a punchline now. An an episode of Law and Order SVU. But let’s say he dies in a car accident in 2000. How different would the cultural conversation about him today be? And his place in our cultural zeitgeist?
Perhaps the short-lived Chappelle Show wouldn’t DMX-ed and gotten stale and/or irrelevant. Maybe it would have been as funny in 2014 as it was in 2004. But the type of creative energy and kineticism that makes a sketch comedy show great — especially one that depends on one person as much as the Chappelle Show did — is rarely sustainable. Who remembers the last couple seasons of In Living Color? Or Mad TV?
Also, considering our 24-hour outrage cycle, would some of Chappelle’s bits even fly today? Would the time and energy he’d have to devote to apologizing and responding to thinkpieces take away from his creative process? Would the first Change.org petition about one of his sketches convince Comedy Central to give him less leeway?
(Read the rest at EBONY)