Alice Jones: Hot, ready, legal - Bieber the next teen paradox


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The Independent Online

It's the kind of headline one might expect to find nestling on the top shelf, not on the cover of one of the world's most respected music magazines.

And yet there it is, splashed across the nascent six-pack of Justin Bieber on the front of Rolling Stone. The Canadian pop star, who was discovered on YouTube aged 14, is the cover star of the August issue. And he looks, frankly, terrified.

As well he might. Having turned 18, he has given the customary "coming-of-age" interview to Rolling Stone. In return, the magazine has proclaimed the pop star Hot Ready and Legal; or in other words, Fair Game. The last teenager they proclaimed to be HRL was an 18-year-old Lindsay Lohan in 2004. Which turned out really well for her. Since her glossy graduation, the actress (who began her career aged 11) has been in and out of rehab and prison, arrested numerous times for drink-driving and is widely held to be Hollywood's loudest ticking time bomb.

Five years before that, the magazine celebrated Britney Spears' entry into adulthood with a cover splash featuring the pop star lying on pink silk sheets in her underwear, hugging a Tellytubby with the headline "Inside the Heart, Mind and Bedroom of a Teen Dream". You get the picture: Rolling Stone likes birthdays.

It's not alone. In the UK, Tom Daley's 18th was marked with a slew of salacious swimming trunk pictures and a rummage around for kiss and tells.

That there's something unsavoury about the world waiting for teenage stars to be "ready and legal" goes without saying. Aged 17 and 364 days they're treated with faux propriety, but the minute they turn 18, the gloves are off – often along with the rest of the young talent's clothes.

There's also something macabre about the pursuit of the child-star-grows-up narrative. The path from teen dream to adult nightmare is as well worn as the plot of a girl-next-door rom-com; these covers, capturing stars on the cusp, are the opening credits, setting the scene for it all to go wrong. And when it does, there will be a semi-prurient magazine profile ready to tell the story.

The possessive tone of Hot Ready Legal is no coincidence, either. The public has a proprietorial attitude towards stars; the younger they are, the fiercer it is. It's the reason why Kristen Stewart's affair with her film director Rupert Sanders has caused such furore this week. The actress, 22, who shot her first Hollywood movie aged 12, has famously been dating Robert Pattinson, her on-screen vampire lover in the Twilight films, for three years. Sanders is 41 and married. But it is Stewart's wanton destruction of a real-life fantasy which has drawn the most dramatic opprobrium.

Stewart broke the golden rule that states that child stars must remain teen dreams for ever, while simultaneously embracing the world's salivating interest in their growing up. No wonder so many of them crack under the pressure.

All the pleasures of the rave in comfort

Put your hands up in the air, put your hands up … Hang on. Where's the remote control? Actually, sorry, could you all put your hands down? I can't see the screen. Channel 4 has announced its plan to broadcast a six-hour house party to mark the 20th anniversary of the Castlemorton rave. In 1992, the illegal gathering drew 40,000 people to a field in Malvern where they danced for a week. In 2012, House Party will run from midnight to 6am on television. It will not, they say, be repeated or made available on 4oD. So don't even think about making it an all-weekender.

The show will feature sets from international DJs and state-of-the-art visuals and there will be no commentary to break the flow – just like a real club! If, that is, your idea of a real club is somewhere that looks like your sitting room, with a dancefloor squished between the bookcase and the yucca plant and a television in the corner turned up REALLY LOUD.

Once, ravers flocked by the thousand to dance in subversive parties massed by little more than Chinese whispers and furtive note-passing. Now we're invited to roll back the Axminster and shuffle around our flatscreens while tweeting into the ether. And people say the Nineties were boring.

Gratitude starts at home, Rick

It's not easy being a millionaire fish pie magnate. Rick Stein has been lightly roasted this week for saying we all need to "eat less, moan less and actually value what we eat more". Some have found this hard to swallow from a man who makes his living from shilling £50 lobster and £30 seafood curry to hapless tourists but, leaving aside the question of how much we should pay for food, he has a point about how much we should value it. Bogof-greedy Britons throw away £12bn worth of food every year (or around £165-worth per person). Perhaps Stein should start a "waste not want not" drive. Come on Rick, it's time to put your money where your mouth is.

Twitter: @alicevjones