Heard the one about Justin Bieber repeatedly asking a guy in a calm and measured fashion to please stop following and recording him on a Dublin street? It’s bloody hilarious, isn’t it? That Bieber, what a prick! He deserved it. How dare he not acquiesce to the demands of a supercilious sociopath with one eye on viral fame. How dare he wander around a city he’s set to perform in. How dare he try and be a normal human being.
But then you see, Justin Bieber isn’t a normal human being. He’s idolised by literally millions of people (many of them still in formative years) who have wildly unrealistic expectations of his personality and character. He’s a brand with boardrooms full of people dedicated to keeping the machine moving. His each and every move has been publicly scrutinised to the point of suffocation since he first broke out singing for Usher at 13 years of age. He’s currently 22.
How together were you at 22 years old? It’s easy to forget that there’s a young adult beneath the dodgy snapback when you see his face everywhere, can’t escape his songs on the radio or in a club, get pissed off when people make a big deal of him deleting his Instagram account, and mock when he struggles at a live show or gets embroiled in dumb shit like having a monkey confiscated by the German government. (Yeah, that happened…)
“My life is a movie, and everyone’s watching / So let’s get to the good part and get past the nonsense,” he intones at the start of ‘I’ll Show You’ – a ludicrously rich pop song, by the way – before going on to break down the pressure he has to put up with on a constant basis and how defiant he wishes he could be about it.
That doesn’t really matter though, right? We own him. We own celebrities. Justin Bieber is far from an isolated case, especially in modern times. Louise Bruton previously documented on this site how Britney Spears has effectively been treated like a shameful reality TV show for many years now, while Kim Kardashian and Gigi Hadid were recently assaulted in the same week by a psychopath who proudly dubs himself a “celebrity prankster” when in reality he should have a prison record. But hey, these are rich and beautiful and famous people who would be nowhere without Joe Public, and they can’t have it both ways. They know what they signed up for. They benefit from social media and tabloid column inches, so it’s fair game.
Only, it really, really isn’t. Celebrities don’t owe you anything, least of all intimate face time. We have a particular problem with the notion of famous people in Ireland, a nation where our own brand of celebrity is a grim joke. Should an internationally-recognised film star have the temerity to grace a red carpet opening here or find themselves cornered by an Irish journalist at a press junket, the inevitability of them being asked if they have an grandmother from the Emerald Isle is genuinely unsettling. Hey, remember that time a reporter practically got in a fight with Russell Crowe because he had no time for a pathetic line of questioning? Not exactly one for the showreel, that.
It’s okay to get star-struck. That’s a natural enough reaction to someone you greatly respect and admire. Hell, years ago I once talked the head off the singer of a band in a bar until he very politely inferred that I was annoying him (seriously, he was ridiculously nice about it) and I became instantly mortified and got the hell out of there. I’m still embarrassed about that but that’s life, isn’t it? Live and learn. Justin Bieber has had his fair share of awkward moments, and you can Google ‘em all.
A better read, however, is his GQ interview with Caity Weaver from earlier this year. There you will find excellent writing and a fascinating portrait of a guy who possibly shouldn’t be in the position he is in, gilded as it may indeed be. At times, he comes across like an immature clown. In other moments, you witness how heavy the crown lies and you wonder if he’d be best served taking a couple of years off, something he may not actually have the autonomy to do. In the meantime, he’d probably appreciate some dickhead not harassing him while he’s out for a stroll.