Why I Don’t Hate on Justin Bieber

Why do we harshly judge a teenage boy for not being man enough?

I never took much notice of the kid until the fourth or fifth magazine cover I saw of him. Rolling Stone declared, in bold block letters, that he was HOT, READY, and LEGAL. A smooth-skinned teenager with a stoic pose popped out of the magazine at me, still decidedly baby-faced but with a more pronounced jawline and cheekbones than the last time I’d seen his photo. I wondered what made this kid worthy of a Rolling Stone cover, what happened to the Backstreet Boys or the Jonas Brothers, and what the great excitement was about his being of the legal age of consent. And more importantly, why were we expending so much energy on watching—and critiquing—his every move?

Advertisers are keen to turn children into miniature adults because maturity (read: sexuality) sells. But what are we reflecting about ourselves when a young boy is so quickly and forcibly morphed into ‘manhood’?

For a while I ignored Justin Bieber, until I moved into a flat with two girls who loved his music. Suddenly I heard his voice, slightly deeper than his older songs, almost every day. His new music sounds similar, catchy-cheesy lyrics over catchy-cheesy tracks. But the music videos and the photographs and the blog posts have changed. The Rolling Stone cover and the article that followed manifested a change that I apparently had missed. Suddenly Bieber had become a sex object, not the puppy-eyed boyfriend of tween idol Selena Gomez.

Our society rules that masculinity is the Holy Grail; girls shall submit to machismo and boys shall aspire to it. Advertisers are keen to turn children into miniature adults because maturity (read: sexuality) sells. But what are we reflecting about ourselves when a young boy is so quickly and forcibly morphed into ‘manhood’?

Any search of Justin Bieber’s name on YouTube or Google yields endless strings of insults. Justin Bieber is gay, a girl, or a baby, the comments say. What this reflects is our socialized belief that it is contemptible to be any of those three things, and a person has to be hypersexual, aloof, deep-voiced, and flashy in order to be masculine and masculine in order to be attractive. This isn’t an isolated incident. An entire subculture of sorts has emerged ever since Bieber came to the public’s attention. From comments on YouTube to the Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber Tumblr page, teasing and hatred of him has become an internet and lunchroom pastime. The image he has presented in the past, the playful tween heartthrob with an equally cute and young girl on his arm, is no longer enough to sate his fans and the media. Before puberty a kid is just a kid. Children are weak, innocent, and moldable. After puberty we want to see men demonstrate possession, hardline beauty, and domination over women. Edward Cullen types.

Perhaps what bothers us the most is that Bieber is in-between. He and his predominantly young female fans are navigating the stage where they are no longer children and they are learning how to conform to adult expectations. For most of us, puberty is semi-private, shared only amongst our friends and family. Bieber, however, is growing up in the spotlight. His actions serve as a guide, positive or otherwise, for other teens. Justin Bieber is not yet a man, but neither is he a 100 percent safe child star. Bieber’s agents know this. If Bieber doesn’t develop an edge, his sales will drop. Innocence appeals to a small audience with a specific age and gender, whereas sexuality and a bad boy image—note press coverage of Bieber punching people in the nuts, hitting a photographer, breaking up with his first love—lends excitement to an otherwise stale teenybopper. Agents don’t want Bieber to linger in puberty for too long. They want him to jump into our familiar, however volatile, ideal of manhood.

I am not a fan of Justin Bieber, and I doubt that I ever will be. But that doesn’t mean I have any reason to hate on him. If anything, we need to have compassion for him. Bieber is no better and no worse than other teen heartthrobs. He is assigned an image by a press agent and expected to live up to that reputation while it is sold to the popular audience. He is told who he is and what he wants, not allowed to grow and figure it out for himself. While Bieber is fortunate to have all of his money and fans, his fame is also his biggest curse.

 

Read more: Twilight, Bieber, and Valentino, By Noah Brand

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About Markus Beyer

Markus Beyer is an undergraduate student at UNC-Asheville, where he is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies. He grew up in a military family and has never lived in the same city for more than four consecutive years.
Markus is also a compulsive journal writer.
The Good Men Project is Mark’s first venture into internet writing.

Comments

  1. Jeanne Shepard says:

    Excellent, Markus!

  2. Noah Brand says:

    I thought I’d traced the teen-heartthrob phenomenon back as far as I could, to the dawn of mass media in the early 20th century, with Valentino and Sinatra being only two early examples. Then someone pointed out Lisztomania (the phenomenon, not the song) and now I’ve had to move the line back to the mid-19th century. The existence of Pompeiian graffiti referring to a certain gladiator as “the one all the girls sigh for” suggests that this phenomenon may be universal, scaling up or down with available information technology.

    So yes, I agree that that poor Bieber kid is just working a shift at a well-established industrial job, and is already being replaced by the next shift. I just hope someone explained the nature of the job to him at the start.

  3. Beiber hate has always been a pet peeve of mine. Even the most progressive people I know will often call him girlish or weak. Every time I hear this, I think “And why is that such a bad thing?”

  4. Carl Menger says:

    I’m always reminded of the scene in “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane” where the record exec says to Dice Clay regarding a teen idol “Look I know it’s crap, and you know it’s Crap, but little girls need somebody on the album cover they can jerk off to!” It’s like the hatred of Barney, why should 30 somethings hate Barney? The show isn’t FOR them. Years ago I saw a documentary on teen idols and they interviewed a former boy toy singer, Tony DeFranco, a one or two hit wonder in the mid 70s. In his heyday, he looked much like Donny Osmund. In the interview he was a bearded, muscular adult man. What he said was the prepubescent girls are drawn to “frankly effeminate looking” boys because they are non-threatening. He felt that as they aged and became more confident their tastes changed to more masculine objects of desire. Bieber’s musical talent isn’t the issue, that isn’t what he was hired for, and the girls that squeal over him could ncare less if he can sing, that isn’t the point.

  5. I believe that people hate on Bieber for other reasons. It has nothing to do with how girly he has or how bad his music is. We “men” hate on him for the emptiness he brings if it makes any sense. I cant go into my point simply cause im horrible at writing my thoughts in a convincing matter that doesnt hurt other peoples fellings, ill once more: pepole hae on bieber because he’s a symbolic manifestation of the dumbnation the media is serving to kids and teenage culture

  6. In many ways I see what some call Beiber hate as ironic comment upon manufactured media. JB may have some talent, but sorry – too many folks wonder about manufacturing and if that talent is real and will last past puberty.

    Whilst some may be happy with latest fashionable flavour of bubblegum – it’s nice to know that some are able to see the manufactured and question it.

    An old mate used to work in the Record Industry back in the 1980’s. As he said “There are two things you never want see how they are made. Sausages and Pop Idols – cos when you see the manufacturing process you’ll never be able to consume them again.”.

    We now have the post MTV generation – and if that hasn’t created a healthy cynicism around media, we are doomed.

  7. Ashiantiiinlove says:

    He’s just a boy, or man now who is making music that he likes and wants to share. No different than any of the other entertainers who are trying to portray something different but something special to them to hold both our attention and to still be true to themselves. There are so many losers out there who get away with their crappy music, yet the boy gets all the punches.

    To sit around and hate on someone when he was a little boy says there are alot of things wrong with people today. How can you hate a child? Yeah so now he’s a man, still- chill out

  8. Thank you, Markus, wish my two nephews were old enough to read and grasp this! But one day they may.

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