This past Saturday, Lifetime’s biopic on Whitney Houston, titled Whitney, aired and ended. But to the channel’s surprise, her family did not appreciate the portrayal very much. Family, and friends of the family both publicly protested the way the film made Houston appear, as well as her husband, Bobby Brown. One reporter at The Daily Beast had a clear position on his thoughts of the movie. He found it utterly boring.
Lifetime has done these sort of made-for-TV films before, ranging from the sordid and farcical The Brittany Murphy Story to the mortifying and dry Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B. There was hope that Whitney would bring Lifetime’s normal achievements in campy cinema to an end. The one thing it has done is enrage her family.
Pat Houston, sister-in-law of legendary singer, delivered a scathing response to the film. She ranted how deceitful it was to target the legacy and life of someone who could not correct their mistakes. The sister-in-law was especially perturbed by the fact the film crew did not receive or request consent to shoot the film from anyone in the singer’s family. Not even her mother, Cissy Houston, was told about the project.
Cissy reported to People saying that she is simply glad that the film is done and over with. She wants nothing more than for people to leave her daughter’s name alone, and to stay away from her granddaughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown. In the same article, an anonymous family friend stated that not even Houston or Brown’s loved ones knew much about their relationship, so the attempt to portray that without any inside knowledge was immensely disrespectful.
Whitney, according to the writer from The Daily Beast, was done in a matter-of-fact style that did little to help the film’s overall quality. Angela Bassett was the director, but she was also Houston’s friend and they both starred in Waiting to Exhale. Pat gave remarks on Bassett’s relationship with her sister-in-law, as well, saying how using a friend in the hope to advance one’s own agenda is a betrayal to that friendship. Pat ends her rant, telling those who plan on watching the Lifetime biopic on Whitney Houston’s life, like all the other ones they have produced, should be prepared for the worst.
Bassett spoke up to defend herself and the crew that put Whitney together. She said that they merely wanted to tell the story using the facts as they knew them. Although, Whitney was good about exploring the more stormy pieces of Houston’s life at the time, from her drug addiction combined with her volatile relationship with Brown to the impact it had on her singing.
However, most of those pieces can be researched online. The more mysterious elements of Houston’s life, like the rumored affair she shared with childhood friend, Robyn Crawford. Looking at the film just as a work of cinema, it lacked a lot of fuel for drama. Nothing about the film, including the affair and drug addiction, raised suspense. Questions about Houston’s sexual orientation, her relationship with Brown, or her drug addiction could all be answered in black and white terms. There were no complexities to the topics brought up throughout the movie.
Lifetime has experience in biopic features, so excuses about whether they received consent or not cannot be taken to heart, most of all for Whitney Houston’s family, who just want all of it to end. The film Whitney premiered and it does not appear to have been well accepted anywhere. May her family be at peace with the situation now that things have concluded.
By Matthew Austin Bowers
Photo by Frank Micelotta – Flickr License