Too much, too young is the oldest lesson in celebrity. Justin Bieber was never going to escape it

Career disasters like this one are almost inevitable. But they needn’t be tragic

Share

Children, do you still belieb? After the recent arrest of 19-year-old pop sensation Justin Bieber, even his most fervent “Beliebers” are experiencing a sense of disillusionment. On Thursday, they gathered outside a Miami correctional centre, where Bieber was briefly held after being arrested for drag-racing in a Lamborghini. According to the BBC News report, “many were in tears”.

On Twitter, the tone of some fans had switched to mild disappointment. “I am actually happy Justin got arrested,” wrote @MyCrushOnBiebr “Now he will FINALLY think about all he’s being doing”. Perhaps sensing this distress, Lady Gaga also offered her support to the Beliebers: “They deserve, just like any other fan, to feel strong for each other and Justin so they can continue to share the bond they have through music.” To non-Beliebers, however, this reaction to a hardly unexpected turn of events might seem strange. You could see this one coming as clearly as a yellow Lamborghini hurtling down a Florida highway.

Since he was first discovered on YouTube in 2008, Bieber’s massive fan-base has ensured that every dreamy toss of his floppy fringe is headline-worthy. The grown-ups might not understand the phenomenon of Biebermania, but they do understand that 50 million Twitter followers has got to mean something. To American news channel MSNBC, it meant interrupting a live interview with Congresswoman Jane Harman mid-sentence to bring “breaking news” of Bieber's arrest.

People who couldn’t hum a single Bieber chorus will be aware of his recent alleged hijinks: acused of calling a young fan “a beached whale”, defacing the walls of luxury hotels in Brazil and Australia with graffiti; “disrespecting” the Argentinian flag by cleaning a floor with it; throwing eggs at a neighbour’s house; suggesting that Holocaust victim Anne Frank would have been “a Belieber”; abandoning a monkey at an airport – and those are just the fun ones. Along the way, Bieber’s also been accused of mundane misdeeds like drug possession, punching paps, and cancelling performances. Clearly he’s not the messiah, only a very naughty boy – but you just try telling his fans that.

We know that fame isn’t a natural state for humans and the uncritical adulation it brings can reduce even well-rounded adults to tantrum-prone toddlers. But while such career derailments are almost inevitable, they don’t have to be tragic. So many others have done what Bieber is accused of doing – and much worse – that we know the steps to redemption off by heart. A stint in rehab, a mea culpa talk show interview, another life lesson learned, another fat cheque earned.

But the “comeback” route assumes a normalcy to come back to. For Bieber and other child stars the way is not so clearly signposted. If every day since you were 14, you’d been showered in praise, it can’t be easy to be humble. If you’ve amassed a fortune of £35m before your 21st birthday, you’ll find it hard to comprehend the value of hard work. If all the adults who guide you are also financially dependent on you, how can you know who to trust? If, in other words, you’re successful for being a child, how can you ever grow up?

Every celebrity story must also be a morality tale – otherwise why are we interested? – but the moral of Bieber’s is proving elusive. If you recall the sad tales of Judy Garland, Corey Haim, Lindsay Lohan, and all those others who went before him, it’s an unedifying spectacle – just the latest reminder of the entertainment industry’s ruthless willingness to exploit children – both the ones on the stage and the ones looking adoringly up at them.

But then, teen idols were never meant to be understood by grown-ups, were they? Every generation needs a Bieber to call its own. To his fans, he’s a safe way to experiment with intense new feelings, a means to establish an identity that’s separate from their parents. Eventually, they’ll realise he’s a wally and move on.

In the meantime, by watching him remain the ultimate and eternal teenager, those weeping Beliebers have learnt how to grow up. They haven’t been betrayed by their idol, he’s done exactly what he was supposed to. In fact, the only one we should feel sorry for is a little boy called Justin Bieber.

Twitter: @MsEllenEJones

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

2nd Line server support - Microsoft certified

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our large organisa...

Year 1 Teacher

£120 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required...

Year 5/6Teacher needed - Roath, Cardiff

£100 - £105 per day + plus free travel scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The...

Reception Teacher

£120 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The app is due to be launched in San Francisco initially, with other 300 people currently on the waiting list  

Is it too much to ask that people turn up to meet you when they say they will?

Simon Kelner
Dylan Thomas drank himself to death in New York aged just 39  

All this Dylan Thomas fever is telling us only half the story

John Walsh
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?