“Every now and then, a footballer or pop star is caught in a hotel room surrounded by hookers and cocaine and everyone goes ‘Oh my God! Oh, the disgust coursing through my veins, you could bottle it. Oh, how could he, how absolutely dreadful. I’d NEVER do that…I’ve never had the chance, though…” – Dylan Moran
In case you didn’t notice, the increasingly hilarious life of Justin Bieber took an awkward-as-all-hell turn the other day when he was photographed leaving a brothel in Brazil. I understand that it wasn’t so much a photograph of Bieber as it was a white man under a sheet being escorted by personal security guards, and this would have been by no means conclusive except that Mr. Bieber has a very distinctive tattoo on his arm.
Well, this is awkward…
Yeah, it’s the kind of tattoo that’s not hard to mistake. It’s official, guys; Justin Bieber went to a Brazilian brothel. It’s true that the bigger they are, the harder they fall, but goddamn it, Bieber. You have literally MILLIONS of girls (and guys!) around the world who would do you for nothing. Hell, they’d probably pay thousands for the privilege. I want to clarify right now that I’m not advocating any of those actions. I’m just saying that if there’s one young man who shouldn’t have to pay for some sexy time, it’s Biebs. Who does he think he is? Hugh Grant?
Let’s just take a moment to look back on Bieber’s list of controversies, because occasionally we need more than a Teen Mom marathon to feel better about ourselves. It started in 2011. Bieber was photographed flipping the bird to some photographers or something. Pfft, whatever. Everyone has brain explosions and does stupid, regrettable things in a moment of frustration. He even had the good decency to apologise via Twitter.
Then he got caught doing 160km/hr in a 100km/hr zone (or 100 in a 65 zone, for all you inefficient proponents of the Imperial system) in July 2012. That’s bad enough to get you an on-the-spot six-month license suspension in Australia. However, this time, he claimed he was fleeing from photographers. While photographers were again involved, it shows a predisposition towards violent or destructive behaviour when faced with intrusive attention. However, more importantly, he shifted the blame for his actions onto other people.
Then, his pet monkey was seized by customs in Germany. All he had to do was submit a vaccination certificate and he would have had Mally the monkey back home, but I far as I can uncover, he never even tried to claim it back. It’s not like you or me where we have a huge workload that we could get snowed under. Bieber has ‘people’. He could have gotten one of his ‘people’ to do it. The monkey now lives in a zoo, but let’s not pass over the fact that capuchin monkeys shouldn’t be separated from their mothers until at least twelve months of age. Bieber’s monkey was fourteen weeks old, which probably qualifies as animal cruelty.
Then we start getting into the juicier stuff. He was photographed in London in March 2013 and was physically restrained by his bodyguard, while screaming to the photographer that he was going to “fucking beat the fuck” out of him. He then went on Twitter to apologise…oh, wait. He said he’d overreacted because of a ‘rough week’. To be fair, he’d fainted on stage and had arrived two hours late to a show at the O2, but that’s continuing the pattern of violent and destructive behaviour, deflecting responsibility and offering ‘apologies’ that are anything but.
He swore he’d never tour England again, and frankly, not many people were sad to see him go. He had staff walk out due to his behaviour, and was reported to have said of his two-hour late arrival, “I’ll go on when I want. My fans will wait for me.” One fan at the O2 show said she paid almost US$1200 to meet Bieber, which she did. For about five seconds.
Then there was the weed incident in Detroit and it’s all culminated nicely in this latest shambles in Brazil. People are already saying that he’ll be dead by 25, that he’s yet another warning of how fame and power affects people negatively – especially when they’re going through puberty, which he apparently hit rather late, because in four short years, he’s gone from this:
This is a definite pattern in child stars and it’s always attributed to the obscene wealth and access to drugs and alcohol that the money and notoriety brings with it. Names like Kurt Cobain and River Phoenix are statistics in a tragic tale that warns of young fame.
I disagree, though. I think it goes deeper than that. I think they’re definitely problems, but drug abuse and self-destructive behaviour are symptoms, rather than the root cause. This is a brilliant article on Cracked.com, written by Mara Wilson. You probably know her as the girl who played, among others, the titular character in Matilda. It provides an insider’s perspective into why child celebrities go downhill. They feel trapped in their profession. They have limited education. They are devastatingly sexualised. They need to rebel, but can’t, because literally millions upon millions of people are watching them.
That article is fascinating. It’s written from an insider’s perspective, and it’s as important in understanding the psyche of a child celebrity as it is interesting. Wilson particularly credits her parents and their level-headed approach to her aspirations as a large part of why she isn’t a train wreck.
The thing is, Bieber is in the same situation. His parents weren’t a couple, but they were supportive of him and his goals and didn’t force him into this lifestyle. Some talent scout clicked on a YouTube video of him by accident and the rest is history, but he wanted this. You only put videos on YouTube to get attention, and that’s what he did. And don’t tell me that Bieber has a bigger fan base, so there’s more pressure on him. Mara Wilson is freaking MATILDA. She starred in a movie based on a beloved children’s classic by Roald Dahl. It’s studied in schools around the world. They’re at least even in fame.
I think part of the issue here is that some people are more predisposed to destructive behaviour than others. If you look at Bieber’s history, there’s an evident pattern of deflection of responsibility and false apologies. It’s like when Tiger Woods ‘apologised’ for sleeping with the entire Eastern seaboard and said he was seeking therapy. Read this, replace the words ‘Tiger Woods’ with ‘Justin Bieber’ and you’ll understand what I mean.
Bieber is surrounded by people who do not criticize him, and even if they do, hundreds more will gladly take their vacant position. The terrifying thing is that he’s not really been in the public eye that long. It’s been, what, maybe five years? He’s spiraled out of control at an incredible velocity in less time than it takes to pay a small car loan. It’s not impulse control. It’s that he’s JUSTIN FREAKING BIEBER. It’s a lifestyle that you or I could never hope to comprehend. Besides, even if impulse control was a problem, let’s compare him with someone who has literally grown up being idolized by BILLIONS, been the subject of the most disturbing minds of the internet (I’d link to something, but it would be unbelievably NSFW), been surrounded by biblical proportions of literal witchcraft and who has a severe, diagnosed impulse control disorder:
You all know her as Hermione Granger, the chick who winds up boning the ranga in Harry Potter, but in real life, Emma Watson has severe ADHD. Now, I don’t want to surprise you, but I have shockingly bad ADHD. I am not making this up: my specialist told me that, due to the severity of my case and my high intelligence, I fell into what he colloquially referred to as the ‘Evil Genius’ category.
Emma Watson is, as far as I can tell, pretty much on par with me in terms of her ADHD. The difference is that while I grew up in a dodgy suburb in Western Sydney where no one really cared what I got up to, she has been surrounded by obscene wealth, limitless resources and literal idolatry for over a decade, and it’s all been documented by the press. She has literally had theme parks based around the franchise in which she starred, and in spite of this, she comes across as one of the most balanced, respectable people you could ever meet.
She’s the kind of girl who you want your daughter to grow up like. She did all that with a disorder that inhibits her impulse control to levels where it’s almost impossible to stop yourself doing anything, and yet, she’s not in rehab. She’s not in jail. She’s not dead. She’s not making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Quite the opposite, in fact.
So what is it that’s made Bieber go off the rails? It can’t be the fact that he’s a guy, because, well, look at Lindsay Lohan. It can’t be that his parents forced him into it, because they really didn’t. It could be an impulse control thing, but I think it’s more than that.
Bieber left school at thirteen. He went from a healthy environment where he was surrounded by kids his own age and went into the music industry, one that isn’t known for being overly kid-friendly. It’s hideously sexualised and full of all the drugs. It’s cutthroat, it’s ruthless, it’s unbelievably competitive and if you succeed at the level he has, you have literally MILLIONS of people telling you how amazing you are. Imagine all the times you wanted to do drugs, get laid, get wasted and just do unbelievably stupid things when you were a teenager. Now imagine you had the ability to do all of that, and more, and you were surrounded by people who won’t dare say no, because your happiness determines your income, and your income determines their income.
Most teenagers already have an ego so large it could feed a small African nation for a fortnight. Is it any wonder that Bieber wound up feeling like he could do anything, say anything? Because let’s face it, he totally can, because he’s JUSTIN FREAKING BIEBER.
So what made Emma Watson so balanced you ask? I think I know the answer. Look at what she was surrounded by:
She, and every other kid on that set, was surrounded by tonnes of other kids. Yes, they had fame, fortune and were idolised by millions of kids around the globe, but it’s hard to think you’re awesome when your mates are always around to hold you accountable. Essentially, Emma Watson and every other kid in that movie was surrounded by other kids their own age, every second of every day, like being at school.
There’s more, though. In the books, it’s made quite clear that, even though it’s called Harry Potter, Harry could never have survived without Ron and Hermione. Even the titular character has two indispensable comrades. He literally couldn’t survive without them, and vice versa. Voldemort, on the other hand, is a total lone wolf who only has people around for convenience, and that is, ultimately, the cause of his demise.
What I’m trying to say is that the story itself teaches that there’s strength in community, and that’s the key difference between Bieber and Watson. Watson has a disorder that affects her impulse control i.e. the thing that stops you doing stupid things. I really can’t stress this enough: there are literally theme parks based around the franchise she starred in. She has more money and fame than the Catholic Church. But, she has flourished, while Bieber is a train wreck, a tragedy waiting to happen, and I think the difference is the environment she spent her most important developmental years in.
I believe that Justin Bieber is a desperately lonely kid who is a product of an exploitative industry. I think he’s a victim, someone to be pitied. I’ve focused on Emma Watson here because she has a disorder that affects her impulse control, but the fact is that the Harry Potter franchise was in production for over a decade, and the cast have come out incredibly well adjusted.
So say what you want about Bieber. Say that he’s self-entitled, aggressive, volatile and arrogant. But just think of how you would have turned out if you’d spent puberty being worshiped by millions of people and not surrounded by your mates every day at school, kicking you into line. If you or I were in his situation, we’d be no different. Justin Bieber is a victim who had his childhood taken from him. He’s a train wreck waiting to happen and he desperately needs help.
I just hope he gets it before he becomes another statistic.