So Justin Bieber was arrested, and a fiction writer trying to pile up a series of words that could indicate a character was entitled couldn’t have done any better than the news reports: Lambourghini, drag racing, What the fuck did I do? as a response, the perfect hair and hardly tortured facial expression in the mug shot. And so the interwebs have been aflame. It’s all, according to some, hilarious. In a sense, Bieber’s been a punchline since he bee-bopped into our consciousness and his devotion over the the past year to giving us enough fuel to set fire to an entire society’s worth of teen idols has only exacerbated the situation.
Making Light of Serious Pain
But is it funny? The same question came up with Rob Ford. In our build-’em-up-to-tear-’em-down society, we love it when a public figure melts down in front of us; it makes us all feel so much better about not having all that they do. But addiction isn’t funny. Craig Ferguson pointed this out brilliantly in the wake of a 2009 Britney Spears scandal. This Slate piece, which compares Bieber to Corey Haim in a way that almost but doesn’t quite work, does the same. (Sorry to be disrespectful to those no longer with us but it’s hard to hang an argument on Haim and make anyone care.) But perhaps the most effective way I saw this hammered home was in this simple National Post piece which quoted Bieber’s now-sober mother.
“I started self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. Everything sort of came to a head by the time I was 17, when I tried to commit suicide,” Mallette told The National Post. “I pray that what happened to me will happen for everyone, for people that are struggling with pain, depression and hopelessness.”
Mocking Sizzurp and the Biebs may get a lot of clicks. But there’s a soul behind that pretty face and those ridiculous antics. A soul with a genetic predisposition toward alcoholism and a mother who sees it all. And I think we can all agree that there’s nothing too funny about that.