Bieber's pure image goes up in smoke

By James Penn

If there were not already enough reasons to be frustrated by both Justin Bieber and his fans, this week certainly made that feeling more acute.

Bieber was pictured smoking what appeared to be marijuana with rapper (but it must be noted - a "nobody" in comparison to Bieber's stature), Lil Twist. I mean, the fact that JB is even hanging out with someone who thinks their first name is Lil is bad enough, But choosing to smoke pot with him too? You're better than that, Biebs.

It's now being reported that the 18-year-old may face charges for both possession of marijuana and underage drinking (given the ridiculous drinking age of 21 in the US). Though to be honest, listening to his voice, you'd struggle to be convinced he was even 18.

But regardless of the law, what has devastated so many of Bieber's fans is the apparent immorality of his actions.

Apparently Bieber was well out of line, he let his fans down, and failed to meet the standards they expect of their golden boy.

First of all, at what point was there a code of ethics drawn up by the followers of each pop star? Smoking some marijuana in the confines of a home, a victimless crime if ever there was one, seems relatively innocuous.

And still, let's try to be understanding anyway. It's clear JB struggles to write his own songs, so maybe this was his way of releasing his mind onto a new level, following the trend of artists such as The Beatles (allegedly) and Lady Gaga more recently, who stated that "I smoke a lot of pot when I write music."

However, these fans have now made themselves the victims of this victimless crime. The Twitter hashtag "cut for Bieber" was initiated as a hoax by an internet comedy website called 4Chan, who posted photos of cut wrists as protest against Bieber's actions.

What started as a hoax soon became trending on Twitter and it appears that some fans may have followed the lead of these dotcomedians.

Let's acknowledge how serious, foolish and how little comedy lies in such a prank. The 4Chan members who initiated this should be ashamed of themselves for using their power and prominence on the net to trivialise a serious issue among adolescents, and to promote a hashtag which explicitly encourages self-harming. This is an environment of young, vulnerable and hardcore fans and let's hope this teaches dotcomedians a lesson about the fine line of comedy and external ramifications; the exact same line that required a prank call-caused suicide in order to be exposed only a matter of weeks ago.

But perhaps more worrying should be that so many young people picked up this trend and engaged with it. To become the top trending subject on Twitter is no mean feat and is a mark of how many users were eventually involved.

If our world is at the point at which the happiness of young girls is dependent upon a "pure" image of Justin Bieber, we are at a rather low stage. Our consumption of media needs to remain rational and this is an example of where rationality is either absent or at least has been usurped.

It's easy to make jokes about serious issues on the internet, and it's been easy for jokes to be made in response to what really has been a crisis for many young people around the world. The fact that such a crisis has been spurred by such a meaningless and innocuous, even if foolhardy, action by one young boy (calling Bieber a man just still doesn't fit) should prompt our generation to bring our fandom into check.

Despite JB in the lyrical masterpiece Boyfriend singing that, "I can be a gentleman, anything you want," this is sadly no longer the case. Bieber, in an equally eloquent remix of one of his songs, Baby, raps, "I'm sixteen and I thought that you'd be mine; I used to tweet you and text you and call you and hit you on Facebook all the time."

Perhaps it is this feeling of ownership that is in part created by a virtual online connection with popstars such as The Biebs which is the problem. It means that when the star parts from his fans' idyllic view of how to live his life, they are suddenly dejected and truly (as our modern day prophet himself puts it) "can't believe that you did me wrong".

James Penn was deputy head boy at Wanganui High School in 2012 and is captain of the New Zealand secondary schools debating team.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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