Kids and Fame and Justin Bieber’s DUI

We live in this amazing age where information is so readily accessible that you actually can’t avoid learning about some things, at least not without going pretty far out of your way. So I guess it’s not surprising that this was one of the first things I heard about yesterday:

Court is a great photo opportunity, apparently.

A lot of people are probably wondering how a little kid who used to dedicate his songs on YouTube to homeless friends he made while busking


turned into the guy who spits on his adoring fans.

Or maybe people aren’t wondering because, even if it was unwillingly, we all saw him transform before our eyes. And what do most people blame? Well I don’t know about you, but I’m often tempted to blame the fame.

While it’s pretty fatalistic to assume that anyone who grows up in the spotlight is destined for trouble, there does seem to be a correlation. Fame has been blamed for causing trouble for centuries, but it seems to me that in recent years young people tend to be the center of the spotlight, while actors as young as 30 try to find a place in the shadows. This could perhaps be linked to an increase in the way youth value fame. On her psychology blog, Dr. Yalda T. Uhls explains how fame for fame’s sake has become more and more important to young people in the last few years [emphasis hers]:

“[In] a study [conducted] with Dr. Patricia Greenfield at the UCLA campus… We found that in 2007, fame was the number one value communicated to preteens on popular TV. In every other year, fame ranked towards the bottom of a list of 16 values, coming in at number 15 or 16… We next examined whether tweens were picking up on these messages… In our discussions, we asked preteens what they wanted in their future. Their number one choice? Fame.”

Since Bieber has been marketed as a famous guy, almost more than as a musician, opinions on his music and his character tend to be split between two extremes. While we, of course, have the Beliebers who have given rather non-threatening death threats to various celebrities who don’t give Justin his “due respect” there is also a large group of critics more than happy to share their less positive opinion about the singer. Seth Rogen, for example, has declared on Twitter that “All jokes aside, Justin Bieber is a piece of s**t.”

The recent news of Bieber’s DUI came not so long after the singer announced he would be retiring, but not really retiring, but then again maybe retiring for a little while, sometime soon. When this news hit I found it interesting, and a little odd, just how many adults began to celebrate the news of his retirement.  Even in my non-internet life random acquaintances excitedly broke “the good news” of his retirement to me. It seems like everyone has an opinion on Bieber: they love him or they hate him, and they all have something to say about him.

This got me thinking about a Huffpost article from last year, where celebrity mother Jada Pinkett Smith spoke out in defense of young celebrities. She insists that it’s getting hard to “differentiate cyber-bullying from how we attack and ridicule our young stars through media and social networks. It is as if we have forgotten what it means to be young.” While I certainly don’t think Smith was condoning drinking and driving by reminding us of our own teen years, she did do what so few of us take the time to do: see them as people.

We are so quick to make a judgement call on people we don’t know, and since the internet has connected us with more strangers than ever before our opportunities to judge have expanded considerably. We’re all aware of the problems like cyber-bullying that have arisen in the age of the internet, but I wonder if the kids around us are learning from the way we are constantly casting judgement on anyone who happens to be in the spotlight.

I’m certainly not one to point any fingers since here at CWR we quite often discuss celebrities. Our recent talk on Jennifer Lawrence, for example, got some fairly strong responses, but I’d like to know what you think so I included a poll below. 

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2 responses to “Kids and Fame and Justin Bieber’s DUI

  1. It’s hard to teach kids not to cyberbully or speak hatefully/with disdain of others when we consistently give them markers to aim at and show them how we despise other human beings. I still remember an article Ms. Lawton posted about Britney Spears, arguing that no matter what “crimes against decency” she had committed, she was still a human being deserving of love. That has continued to challenge me when I’m tempted to mock the “stupidity” of others.

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