Hello everyone, and welcome back to Common Culture! Today, my topic is one that might cause a roll of the eye at first glance: teenybopper stars. And I’m going to start with the most famous of them all, Justin Bieber.
See, in general, I am, and always have been, indifferent about Justin Bieber. I’ve never particularly loved him and I’ve never particularly cared about the guy. That seems to be unusual, because in my experience, around the time when Bieber was just coming onto the music scene, whenever his name came up in conversation, undoubtedly a barrage of unnecessary criticisms followed: he had the horrible swoopy haircut that eventually became known as the “Bieber” haircut; his only fans were obsessive teenage girls; he seemed “gay” or “girly” or “high-voiced” to people (which are not actually criticisms at all, but are constantly used as such against him). We all know what I’m talking about. Justin Bieber, for a LONG time, was the “scapegoat” celebrity. The one that everyone loved to hate just because he was Justin Bieber and it’s “cool” to hate whoever is cool.
I was never on that bandwagon. I always felt that he was a talented kid who had come from nowhere and made a career for himself. He was the same age as me, selling out arenas and changing music. There is nothing lame about that. Yet, his YouTube page was filled with mean and untrue comments. I saw the same thing with celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato and Lindsay Lohan.
Fast forward a few years: Justin Bieber has one of the worst attitudes in entertainment and is always in the news regarding some sort of legal entanglement; Miley chopped off all her hair and is a completely different performer; Demi has come and gone through rehab for self-mutilation, an eating disorder and depression; and Lindsay has just fallen off the scene after various issues with substance abuse.
Now, I am not the biggest fan of any of these people, but I think we can all see a trend. All of these people started their careers very young and all of them have gone through some sort of big change in terms of attitude or behavior. I wonder why.
Everyone told Miley that Hannah Montana was dumb, that she couldn’t act, that she was stupid; we told Lindsay she was a drug addict and worthless; Demi, that she was overweight and unbeautiful; and Justin, that nothing he did was right.
I don’t condone bad behavior. But I do understand that people are driven to make bad or unusual decisions based on their situations in life. And for these people, and many other people in show business, they are bombarded, day after day, with criticism, founded or not. As a teenager or young adult, a person should know right from wrong, so there’s no excuse for being a jerk, but really, maybe the question should be why have they become this way. If we see it over and over, celebrity to celebrity, maybe it’s time to question how we are treating celebrities. I know if I lived my young adult life under a microscope with my every move mocked and questioned—if I was trying to build a career for myself that was constantly crapped on by anonymous faces on the Internet—I might have my own sort of breakdown.
It seems to me that we treat our celebrities like they are our toys to do with what we choose, that we built them and their careers and so we can discard them when we see fit. Even worse, this happens so much more often to young celebrities than older ones who are more prepared to handle this kind of pressure. We write stories about how charitable Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are, we talk about their family and marriage—and not that those things aren’t great; they are and I would rather read about them than about Justin Bieber egging a house. But we also didn’t read about the many Make-a-Wish events Justin has taken part in, the money he has donated to charities and organizations, the positive message he has tried to spread among his fanbase, built mostly of young girls. These are the things we don’t see in media. We spin a story of how Justin Bieber is untalented (when really it was his talent that even got him to where he is), to the point that this kid literally loses it and goes on a rampage. The Justin Bieber I see in the media now is not the Justin Bieber I remember coming onto the scene a few years ago.
There is some unspoken rule that whoever is cool, we must crush until they are uncool. We must look at their every flaw—we must call out everything we don’t like about them like it’s our right—until they break. And when we do, we must ask, “What happened to them? Why did they become a jerk?” And we must stop buying their albums, supporting them, helping them, because no one wants to support a jerk. We must build them and then destroy them, because after all, a creator is in charge of its creation.
I hate that rule. I see myself in Justin Bieber. A kid that was born at the bottom, and through hard work and (yes) talent, he made something of himself. And what has happened to him and other celebrities long before he was around makes me really sad. It makes me wonder how compassionate we really are. Have we forgotten that celebrities are people? We say it but we don’t act like it. Maybe next time we post a “Why is Miley wearing so little clothing? What’s with her hair? What’s with her tongue?” online, we should look deeper—look at a girl who was mocked mercilessly for what she was doing; who felt that she had to turn a 180 into a different person the moment she grew up to prove that she isn’t Hannah Montana. To prove she’s worthy of some support.
That’s not pathetic. That’s not weird. That’s what any of us would do who received so much hate—to change and try to receive some love. I vote that we try to give it to them. Let’s support instead of destroy, you guys.