Is Justin Bieber okay? In the days surrounding his nineteenth and "worst birthday," Bieber wore a gas mask to evade the paparazzi; ripped his shirt off in front of the paparazzi; stormed out of (or was kicked out of) his own "weak ass" birthday party; went on two Twitter rants about persecution; arrived two hours late to a concert; was hospitalized after a concert collapse; shared a sexed-up picture from his hospital bed; and threatened to "fucking beat the fuck out of" a foul-mouthed photographer.
"Ahhhhh! Rough morning," Bieber tweeted after video of the threat appeared online this morning. "Sometimes when people r shoving cameras in your face all day and yelling the worst thing possible at u ... well I'm human. Rough week."
Given the level of chaos surrounding Bieber — two months ago a paparazzo died trying to photograph the teen idol's car — he'd be inhuman if he didn't crack. A person with an ordinary psyche, thrust into extraordinary circumstances, will react. The true psychopaths of show business are those capable of staying calm as paparazzi plunge to their deaths and rumors swirl about teen girls carving song lists into their forearms.
Still, the cracks follow an alarmingly familiar pattern. Like Britney Spears, he alternately lashes out at a curious public and courts our sexual attention. Like Michael Jackson, he hides his face behind elaborate masks. Like Chris Brown, he responds to perceived threats by thumping his chest.
Unlike most of his teen idol peers, though, Bieber is not the product of a lifetime of rigorous training at a child-star finishing school like Disney (Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez) or Nickelodeon (Miranda Cosgrove, Amanda Bynes). He was a YouTube upstart who drew the eye of first-time talent manager Scooter Braun, who became Bieber's de facto parent figure and encourages testicle-punching. The cult of Bieber is, at its core, about improbability. Just as Braun plucked Bieber from YouTube obscurity and thrust him at the feet of (former child star) Usher, Bieber encourages fanatical devotion by plucking random followers from his Twitter feed for retweets and direct replies. (Members of his entourage, including Braun, have been known to do the same.) Bieber documentary Never Say Never was a feature-length celebration of disbelief at the heights "regular kid" Justin Bieber had reached. Or, as the Observer explained, "Fame itself is the star, it seems; Bieber just the vehicle."
So it's no surprise that the improbably famous Justin Bieber is, in the words of former child star, Drake, "having a hard time adjusting to fame." Even though fame is his defining feature. And, as Bieber becomes an adult, all that he knows.
We praise stars when they escape the gauntlet of our attention with the gestures of normalcy intact. Witness the hyperbolic enthusiasm incited by Jennifer Lawrence admitting she's "starving"; Beyoncé sharing her video diaries; Mila Kunis flirting with a non-famous person. Those who watched Kunis's gentle conversation with a "petrified" young reporter marveled at how down-to-earth the A-lister remained, in spite of fame, beauty, and wealth. In spite of twenty years in a superficial industry that she conquered, in part, by lying about her age to land a sexpot role in a primetime television show when she was just 14. Tied up in our worship of the miraculously sane Mila Kunises of Hollywood, is relief. Celebrating those who survive child stardom eases our guilt over those who don't.
Nonetheless, even as Bieber's every move makes headlines, coverage of his so-called "meltdown" remains relatively measured. Compared to the widespread panic that broke out every time Britney Spears went shoeless — or that still breaks out every time Lindsay Lohan goes braless — Bieber's life is relatively light on concern-trolling. (Though his choice in friends, particularly the one driving his Ferrari the day that photographer died, has furrowed some brows.) Is this a sexist response? Probably; we don't fear for the purity of young men the way we do for young women. But it also may be what saves Justin Bieber. Discussing this morning's tussle with the paparazzi, Bieber made the kind of vow we only wish our stars could keep: "Not gonna let them get the best of me again. Only way someone can break u is if u let them."
* An earlier version of this article misstated where Selena Gomez got her start. She was a Disney star, not Nickelodeon.
Most Viewed Stories
The Fashion Executive Who Doesn’t Wear Underwear on Dates
Mary-Kate Olsen Strains Every Muscle in Her Face in an Attempt to Smile
25 Famous Women on Being Alone
22 Intimate Lost Photos of Marilyn Monroe
Prince George Has No Time for Justin Trudeau’s High Fives
How Angelina Jolie Won the First Big Battle in Her Divorce
It’s Time to Get Over Your White Feelings and Start Taking Action for Black Lives
The Will & Grace Reunion Was Intensely Documented for Social Media
Madame Clairevoyant: Horoscopes for the Week of September 26
Los Angeles Police Confirm Active Criminal Investigation Against Derrick Rose
From Our Partners
The Zoe Report
powered by PubExchange
Latest News from The CutVanderpump Rules Drama Is the Only Constant in This Crazy Thing We Call Life
Season five arrives on November 7.Emily Kinney on Life After The Walking Dead
Her new show Conviction premieres next Monday on ABC.5 Things on Sale That You’ll Actually Want to Buy: From Saint Laurent Jeans to an Isabel Marant Sweater
We dug through the internet to bring you some great deals.Here’s One Reason Why Women Are Underrepresented in Politics
It starts at the local level.Rob Kardashian Meets Chyna’s Parents and They All Take a Trip to a Strip Club
They also have a Fourth of July block party.My Favorite Fruit-Shaped Hand Cream Doubles As a Pill Holder
Can also hold gum, almonds, and paper-clips.Mary-Kate Olsen Strains Every Muscle in Her Face in an Attempt to Smile
It was a good effort.A Weekend of Hair Envy With Rubi Jones
Including an impromptu Weasley family look for a Potter-themed party.All It Took for Anti-Vaxxer to Admit She Was Wrong Was Her Entire Family Getting Sick
Rotavirus made her change her tune.Aparna Nancherla on Sad Girl Twitter, Period Tech, and Vocal Fry
The comedian has a new season of Womanhood coming out soon.
Hiddleston's canine companions steal the show in his new Gucci ads.More of the Best Street Style From Milan Fashion Week
Sleeveless fur, seashell coats, and Jourdan Dunn in schoolgirl plaid.To the Eternal Relief of Amanda Chantal Bacon, Father John Misty Has Deactivated His Twitter and Instagram
Amanda Chantal Bacon’s good crystal vibes have worked in her favor.Decadent Jewels in the Midst of Destruction
Where diamonds and rubies collide with the grotesque.Desperate Tom Hanks Scours City in Search of Weddings to Crash
He’s at it again.A Brief Encounter With the Screaming Reality Stars of Marriage Boot Camp
Jim and Amber Marchese explain that alleged domestic-violence incident, while Jade and Tanner Tolbert promise to make more reality TV.Imagine Being Able to Get a Year’s Worth of Birth Control at Once
California women can, starting in January.Adele Could Not Care Less About the Brangelina Divorce
So please don’t pretend like she does.Los Angeles Police Confirm Active Criminal Investigation Against Derrick Rose
It’s separate from the civil suit, which will come to trial next week.Renowned Founder of Pussy Posse Goes to Washington
Leonardo DiCaprio met with President Barack Obama for another historic hotness summit.