Column: We Need to Talk About Ke$ha

By Liam McGurl

[Image courtesy of]

There’s always a strange dichotomy between celebrities’ personal and professional lives—especially when it comes to musicians.

We’re so attached to their pop-savvy lulls that we, sometimes unknowingly, assume their bubbly pick-me-up sounds are a direct reflection of their personal experiences.

Needless to say, this outlook is nothing short of faulty and “Tik Tok” singer Ke$ha is an unfortunate illustration of that.

The star of the television show My Crazy Beautiful Life filed a lawsuit against her producer Luke Gottwald—more commonly known as Dr. Luke—in October of 2014, alleging he drugged and raped her shortly after her 18th birthday in 2006.

Along with this allegation came a long list of legal claims against Gottwald, including sexual assault and battery, sexual harassment, gender violence, civil harassment, violation of California’s unfair business laws, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and negligent retention and supervision.

The 42-year-old producer stood firmly in defense of his innocence, denying all assertions and filing a counter lawsuit against Ke$ha.  According to, Gottwald stated that false allegations were made in order for Ke$ha, her mother (Pebe Sebert) and her new management to “exhort” the singer from her regretful, six-album contract.

Having pled for support of the contract break for months, the 28-year-old singer—born Kesha Rose Sebert—took to the courtroom on Feb. 19, with media spotlights set on her bleach blonde hair and heartbreaking post-ruling tears.

Despite support from fellow industry “big-timers,” who took to Twitter in solidarity with the LA native, the court dismissed the injunction—sparking a whole slew of controversy over the fairness of the ruling.

Everyone seemed to have taken a stance, from Lady Gaga to Demi Lovato,

Ariana Grande to Lorde.  Taylor Swift, who recently won “Album of the Year” at the 2016 Grammy Awards even donated $250,000 to Ke$ha in aid of any impending financial needs throughout the legal process, which is far from over.

Gottwald released his first public statements on Feb. 22 via the social media platform, with his first tweet reading, “I didn’t rape Kesha and I have never had sex with her. Kesha and I were friends for many years and she was like my little sister.”

The following six tweets commended the public on taking a stand against sexual assault, elaborated on his feelings regarding the case and ended with a somewhat cliche, but fitting, maxim.

But I feel confident when this is over the lies will be exposed and the truth will prevail..,” Gottwald said in his final tweet addressing the case.

While it’s likely that the celebrity support eased a contingent of Ke$ha’s pain, the unfortunate judicial decision has left the hit-maker with two disagreeable options: continue recording music alongside the man she claimed to have raped her or stop making music for good.

While we can wrangle over the validity of the plaintiff and defendant’s arguments, the reality is that this isn’t an over-glamorized “celebrity lawsuit:” it’s a rape case.

Too often, we see women and men come forward about sexual assault and the general public’s instinctual reaction always seems to be the same: question, question, question.  For many, it seems logical to view cases in terms of legality before we view them from a moral standpoint; however, until one finds themselves walking across a law school stage—having learned the intricate ins-and-outs of the courtroom—it might be worth taking up a more compassionate perspective.

In these cases, questioning can further the already growing pain for alleged victims—something nobody’s deserving of.

Most can remember a time, probably in childhood, when we knew something as truth but just couldn’t find the words or evidence to fully convince the people we alerted.  While, at that point in our lives, our allegations could have been anything from a spelling-test-cheater to a dishonest, gym-class-competitor, the feeling of having our integrity questioned still hurt.

Imagine that same scenario, but with life-altering trauma, flashing cameras and countless headlines—all publicizing what, for Ke$ha, might be one of the hardest personal hurdles to  surge.  That’s her current reality.

Despite the flashy jewelry, red carpet appearances and hit singles, fame poses a price to pay for its “victims”—that price being a loss of privacy and, too often, empathy from the public.

Most recently we’ve seen this blind “questioning of facts” in the testimonies of the women coming forward, accusing comedy icon Bill Cosby of drugging and raping them.  From soft-spoken Beverly Johnson, the first black model to appear on the cover of American Vogue, to outspoken Janice Dickinson, often dubbed the “world’s first supermodel,” victims’ approaches to enfolding their stories seem to have little impact on public reactions.  

Every time one of these affected women come forward—with pen and paper to quote their every testimony and cameras to photograph each PTSD-induced tear—the public plays lawyer, searching for any possible inconsistencies.

While we live in a society legally committed to the notion of persons remaining “innocent until proven guilty,” we don’t live in a society of remaining “merciless until proven honest.”

We should take allegations such as Ke$ha’s seriously, not immediately condemning the alleged offender, but carefully responding to the claims made—always remembering that despite networth and news releases, she’s a person none-the-less, deserving of the pursuit of happiness.

Assuming Ke$ha’s allegations are true, it seems hard to justify this ruling.  How can a woman pursue happiness—through the development of a career—when she’s bound to her abuser?

Contracts are a legal matter, but a creative one, too; they ensure an artist’s ability to continue their craft with guidance and support.  Needless to say, creativity seldom flourishes in an environment filled with hate and mistrust—something that will be undoubtedly present at the end of this hostile legal battle.

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