Several members of Aretha Franklin’s family have publicly slammed National Geographic’s series “Genius: Aretha” due to claims that the production team refused to work with them to bring Aretha’s story to life.
After being delayed for nearly a year, the popular network finally premiered the eight-part show on March 21 to mixed reviews. While some enjoyed Oscar-nominated actress Cynthia Erivo’s portrayal of the Queen of Soul, others felt the series fell flat in delivery.
A month before the show aired, Franklin’s son, Kecalf Cunningham, was the first to voice his disdain for the project. In an all-caps post on Instagram, he stated that the series was pushed through without the family’s consent and asked Aretha’s true fans not to support it. Later in the post, Cunningham expressed that the family’s pushback was not directed towards the actors, who he knows were just doing their jobs.
About two weeks before the show’s debut, Franklin’s granddaughter, Victorie Franklin, posted about the family’s “Justice for the Queen” protest to her Instagram. According to Victorie, this initiative was created to authentically honor Aretha’s legacy and to combat the series’ dishonest reflection of her career. Another one of Franklin’s granddaughters, Grace Franklin, joined the public criticism and posted a TikTok video of the family chanting, “This movie has to go.”
In a statement to the online magazine, The Root, a National Geographic representative expressed their concern for Aretha’s legacy and noted that the studio worked with music mogul Clive Davis and members of the family’s estate for the series.
“The studio worked diligently to attain the endorsement of Aretha’s estate, which we are grateful to have,” the statement continued. “We think we have a shared goal here — to honor and celebrate the life and legacy of Aretha Franklin. We can tell you that everyone who worked on ‘Genius: Aretha’ approached telling her story with the intention to respect Ms. Franklin in every aspect of the series and in every decision we made.”