At this point, I’m resigned to the fact that Justin Bieber’s supposed downfall will be the semi-story that carries us through the sleepy first quarter of 2014 (it’s either that or the “Sriracha Shortage”), but that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it.
I say that knowing Bieber spent much of the past year making himself a prime target for a takedown. And, yes, he probably deserves a fair amount of the criticism he’s receiving — especially given that he’s currently under investigation for felony vandalism in California, assault in Canada, and will be going to trial next month in Miami on suspicion of DUI.
But I just can’t with this whole thing. I’m no Belieber (he made me work on Christmas ,) but I’ll be the first to come to his defense in one regard: The dude is a 19-year-old multi-multi-millionaire who has been incredibly famous since he was 15. His every move is photographed and the majority of people around him are financially dependent on him. And no one is going to say “no” to the guy paying the bills. So do you expect him to act any differently? Or, really, do you want him to?
To put it another way, Justin Bieber is the pop-star pariah we, as a society, either need, or deserve. Probably both. We’ve basically always expected this exact behavior from our stars. They’ve done time, trashed suites, done unspeakable things with mudsharks in Seattle hotels. They’ve brawled and boozed and broken bones. Shoot, they’ve even killed people. And we’ve enjoyed every single minute of it.
If we’re being honest, the simple fact is we derive a perverse pleasure from the inevitable cycle of success, excess and lawlessness, not to mention all the collateral damage that comes with it. Justin Bieber’s case is no different … yet, for some reason, we seem determined to make him an example of everything that is wrong with celebrity, as if we’ve suddenly become all pious and puritanical. It’s hypocrisy to the max; like we’d really want our pop stars to behave any other way.
The DUI charge aside, is there anything Bieber’s done in recent months that warrants this amount of concern? You know the answer to that already. At worst, he’s been a bit of a punk; at best, he’s displayed the kind of poor judgment not uncommon among 19-year-olds. I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve some blame, though you could easily argue that the media (in all of its forms) does too: From the dumb deportation drama to the mock fury over a stripper photograph that only violates the “no touching” rule, there’s seemingly no limit to the amount of time we’ll spend discussing his “issues.”
Will Bieber actually get deported? Legally, the answer is no, but that didn’t stop NBC News’ Peter Alexander from asking White House press secretary Jay Carney about it during a briefing last week. Is egging someone’s house a serious offense? I guess that depends on whether or not it’s your house, but did the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department really need to deploy a dozen officers to investigate Bieber’s house in connection with the crime? I mean, it’s not like he pulled the old “Flaming Bag of Poop” trick.
So why, all of a sudden, are things different for Justin Bieber? I’d ask if we have nothing better to do with ourselves, but I’m afraid I already know the answer.
When Bieber appeared in a Miami courthouse last month, MSNBC cut away from an interview with former Congresswoman Jane Harman to cover it … and all Harman was discussing was whether or not the NSA should stop collecting our phone records. It was a prime example of how far off track all this handwringing has brought us; regardless of your thoughts on Justin Bieber, you cannot deny that the endless coverage of his troubles is, well, troubling.
Or, at the very least, it’s the height of ridiculousness. Which is why perhaps the best take on all this comes from Adam DeVine, one of the stars of Comedy Central’s “Workaholics,” who summed up the drama surrounding Bieber thusly:
“There’s no problem with this, he’s 19 years old, and he’s throwing eggs at houses? That’s what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to lick stripper titties with your friends when you’re 19.”
And when a dude from “Workaholics” is the sanest voice in the room, you know we’re in trouble. So perhaps it’s time we give the kid a break. Or at least admit that we can’t get enough of his bad behavior. Either way, the end result will be the same: we can finally move on to more important things … like finding Sriracha substitutes, stat.