In which The Elegant Bastard decides that Barbie and Ken are not the worst the world has to offer.
I have twice used the word “Bieber” in articles posted to this blog, most extensively in Do You Want Bieber Chips With That? [i] His status as a pop phenomenon made my use of him legitimate and, given my readers’ responses, appropriate. In neither article was my subject (or my target) really Justin Bieber. He was simply there, a handy symbol, an easily used allusion.
His name will not be used here again.
There’s an innocuous plastic quality to the “Justin Bieber” product, and it is evident in the manufactured hair, the manicured features and the molded lyrics of the songs. To encounter it was to finally know what happened to Ken after he left Barbie. Mattel would once have loved to own the Bieber ©.
I do not think that would be true today.
As long as the Bieber wasn’t really human, it wasn’t truly offensive – annoying to some perhaps but not fundamentally sick-making. Left in the hands of the worlds’ tweens, it would eventually disappear with the obligatory whimper. Greater crimes than his have been committed in the name of music.
That all changed recently. Bieber’s wish that Anne Frank “would have been a belieber” exposes a disturbing and all too human core corruption. It goes beyond mere arrogance. He imagines himself as “more” than her. She, he hopes, would have followed him.
I suppose given the chance, she might have. Had she remained just a little girl, she might also have loved Sinatra, or Anka, or the Beatles, or ‘N Sync or Mumford and Sons. But Anne Frank is no longer just a little girl. She is a symbol of courage, innocence, faith and love. She is a warning against the power of hate and the cruelty of war. She stands high upon our moral landscape and reminds us of the need to hold on to what makes us really human. For him to suggest she might “belieb” in him is akin to Nike petitioning to have the swoosh engraved on the Washington Monument or a politician suggesting not that he believes in God but that God believes in him. It’s wrong in so many ways.
Some of his fans recognize this and are trying to undo the damage. We are being told “he’s young” and “at least he knows who Anne Frank is.” I don’t buy that. We demand much more of our everyday 19 year olds than his apologists seem to expect of him. Everyday – at work, at school, at play, with family, friends and in the larger world – they get the message that certain things are bigger than they are and that being a real person means accepting that. That’s why they study, work part-time, love their mothers, help their friends and, sometimes, go to war. Bieber doesn’t get it and so, no, even if he knows her name, he doesn’t know who Anne Frank is.
His managers may also be worried. Millions of his fans have read and loved The Diary of Anne Frank[ii] and their reaction may not be universally forgiving.
All the recent loud noise concerning Bieber’s rudeness to neighbours, late arrivals at concerts and barely restrained impulses towards violence really can, I think, be attributed to what I assume are the pressures of a frantic life coupled with materialism gone mad. And who knows what any of us might say while thousands of adoring voices scream our name.
But this wish came in a moment of repose at the end of a quiet hour. He had time to think before he wrote. It speaks far more of the man than of the moment.
And what it says is ugly.