My my my, how fickle is public opinion. After the incredible wave of “Bieber Fever” that swept the country a few years ago, a poll recently identified Justin Bieber as the nation’s most hated artist, beating out the likes of Chris Brown, Rihanna and Lady Gaga for the not-so-coveted title.
The crazy thing is, it’s hard to put your finger on what we don’t like about him just now. We can point to a general dislike of Chris Brown for beating up Rihanna, and we can point to Rihanna for being dumb enough to go back to him. But it seems for the most part, the public’s current disdain of the Biebster is mainly because he’s had a run of bad luck with the press, and because he has been less than gracious with the press as a result.
To be fair, Justin Bieber has had more than his share of bad press lately, and much of it wasn’t even his fault. Everything he does gets reported on, to the point that his music is now secondary—a plight most serious musicians wish to avoid. His celebrity has quickly turned to notoriety, due in part to reports about Bieber’s run-ins with the paparazzi, swirling rumors about his on-again-off-again relationship with Selena Gomez, reports about his pet monkey being confiscated in Germany, reports of him getting caught smoking pot, reports of his poor word choice in the guest book at the Anne Frank Museum, reports of him getting booed at the Billboard Music Awards (even though he won a fan-voted award), and even reports about photographers being killed while trying to take his picture when he wasn’t even there. And with every negative report—whether or not it’s his fault—public opinion of Justin Bieber gets whittled down, and an image emerges of a young, narcissistic celebrity who is spiraling out of control on a path of self-destruction, following in the footsteps of Lindsay Lohan, Brittney Spears, or Amanda Bynes.
But wait just a cotton-picking minute. Is this all really fair?
Granted, when Bieber gets into a fist fight with a paparazzo, or gets defensive when a crowd boos him, it doesn’t look good on him. But I don’t see this happening because he is on a rampage, a violent streak or a drunken binge. We’re not seeing Bieber emerge from a different club every night, drunk or stoned out of his mind. We’re seeing him lashing out at the media for continually harassing him and scrutinizing his every move. And that’s not happening because he’s out of control; it’s happening because he’s a nineteen-year-old kid who has spent most of his teen years under a microscope of scrutiny. Given the flurry of bad publicity—again, much of it not his fault—I wonder how many of us would have reacted any better at his age.
And yet, with celebrity comes an inherent pressure to be perfect, to be mature, to be the ultimate role model. The fact is, the public demands that Justin Bieber have a wisdom well beyond his years, not because he is mature or wise, but just because he is famous—and we punish him when he fails to measure up. And the press and tabloids of course, magnify each misstep, because that’s what sells product.
We see the effects of media scrutiny and fame on young celebrities all the time. Often, it is more than they can handle, and they do turn self-destructive—which is why we hear the common tales of Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. But in this particular case, I think the media actually is contributing to the problem. Justin Bieber is coming of age, so there is now an anticipation building that he will fall—and because it’s news when a young celebrity does that, I think there are people in the media that actually want to see it, and are building things up toward that end. Pot-smoking pics aside, I think much of what we have seen as “acting out” on Justin Bieber’s end has been more the result of provocation than actual wrongdoing.
But the truth is, Justin Bieber is not lost—not yet. He is, however, young, immature, and understandably a bit ill-equipped to handle all of this. He could head down the wrong path if he is pushed. And I think the press could very well do just that.
My point is that there are celebrities who are bent on self-destruction, and there are those who are pushed that way. Justin Bieber does not have to become a casualty or a statistic. He has charisma, and he has genuine talent. He has the potential to have a long and rewarding career in music—if it is not snatched from him by a bloodthirsty media bent on seeing him mess up so they can get a story out of it. Justin Bieber could actually come out of this okay if we’d just call off the dogs and leave him the heck alone for awhile.