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Late Singer Aretha Franklin’s Family Calls Out National Geographic for Disrespecting Them in Their ‘Genius’ Series

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Photo Credit: Cropped image of larger trade ad for Aretha Franklin's single "Baby I Love You" - Aretha Franklin.png - CC 1.0 UPDD

The family of Aretha Franklin, the late American singer, writer and activist, has called out National Geographic for “disrespecting” them in the third season of the television network’s Genius series, named Genius: Aretha.

The third instalment in the Genius series, that documents the lives of revolutionary artists and individuals, had announced its work on Franklin’s story in 2018. The first two seasons were based on scientist Albert Einstein and legendary painter Pablo Picasso.

The series has been produced by National Geographic and stars Cynthia Erivo as the late singer. It premiered in the US on March 21.

Franklin’s granddaughter, Grace, posted a video on TikTok about the family’s reaction to the show and said: “As the immediate family, we feel that it’s important to be involved with any biopic of my grandma’s life, as it’s hard to get any accurate depiction of anyone’s life without speaking to the ones closest to them.”

“During the process of writing, directing, and filming this movie, we’ve reached out to Genius as a family on multiple occasions where we have been disrespected and told that we will not be worked with. As the immediate family — emphasis on immediate — we do not support this film and we ask that you also do not support this film, as we feel extremely disrespected, and we feel there will be many inaccuracies about my grandmother’s life,” she said.

 

Grace’s father and Franklin’s son, Kecalf told Rolling Stone that the communication between the family and the television network ended after his cousin Sabrina Garrett-Owens stepped down as the representative of Franklin’s personal estate, NME reported.

“We had our lawyers reach out to them and see if we could have some type of input and see the film and say what we like and what we didn’t like about it,” Kecalf said. “And the report that we got back was saying that it was too late, production had already wrapped up and that they didn’t want to work with us. It was basically too late.”

Stating that it was about “decent respect” for the family, he added, “If I was to do a movie on your family, I would try and speak with you, your sons, daughters, grandchildren and people like that. And we just never felt like we got a shot to speak to them freely from my heart about our family member.”

NME further reported that the National Geographic released a statement, saying that the goal was “to honour and celebrate the life and legacy of Aretha Franklin” and that they had contacted several other people who had known the singer to ensure that the story was told in “an honest and authentic way”.

With Suzan Lori-Parks as the showrunner, Genius: Aretha is available on National Geographic’s website, Hulu, and Disney+.

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