Justin Bieber is having a public meltdown, or as Charlie Sheen would say, he’s #winning in a very flagrant and annoying way. At the tender age of 19, Biebs is going down the path of so many fame-addled stars before him; that is to say, taking off his shirt a lot and publicly stroking his monkey, all the while displaying the true glamor of celebrity debauchery by sporting the perennially dead eyes of an attractive drug addict with perfectly plucked eyebrows.
Biebs used to be a real sweetheart, sort of like Hanson with really dumb girl hair, singing stupid cutesy songs with meaningless lyrics, like “Baby,” a song complied of one word (“baby.” duh) repeated over and over again to an artificially catchy pop tune. Sounds like The Best, right? He also dated the adorable Selena Gomez who is, as far as earth is concerned, a tiny little doll sized angel who fell down from heaven and somehow made ripping a bong in a Harmony Korine film look like the most dainty, delicate act imaginable. But now Beibs is in a downward spiral, trying to ingratiate himself as a rapper, or something, sans Selena, and developing a severe case of the crazies, including recent bouts of Not Wearing A Shirt Ever and Getting A Pet Monkey.
The world first started noticing Justin’s questionable behavior back in March, when he rocked around in London’s winter weather wearing no shirt and with his pants falling down. After his underage mates were turned down by some London club (if you want to have the biggest cringe ever, just imagine Biebs standing there casually bellowing, “Don’t you know who I am?” at a bouncer while half nude in the freezing cold), he Tweeted that he’d had the “worst birthday ever.” Ahem. Last year the bar I went to for my birthday, unbeknownst to me, had “local” “punk” “bands” playing, so I can tell you a thing or two about the worst birthday ever.
I don’t want to boast, but I was on the Batshit-Biebs train way back in 2011, after he bizarrely freestyled on the radio while looking exactly what your conservative parents imagine lesbians look like i.e. wearing a fedora. The kid seriously has a dire case of Unchecked Ego and Privilege, and you can safely sound all the alarms when someone tries to “cross over” in their career. I mean, we all saw Beyoncé in Obsessed right?
Anyway, Biebs got shirtless again last week, this time in an equally inappropriate place of Wladyslaw Reymont Airport in Poland. Sure. Maybe he was wearing a metal shirt and needed to remove it before going through security, but that would still make him crazy. A. Who the fuck wears a metal shirt? B. Especially when they doing international air travel? And if he wasn’t wearing a metal shirt, I’m curious to know when his shirt came off. I mean, was it “part of his outfit” and that’s just how he left the house? Or did he get to the airport and decide it was time for a costume change? Whatever was happening here, there’s no way it was sane.
The latest is, of course, that Bieber got a monkey that was subsequently detained in Germany because, you know, Bieber didn’t have the paperwork that would legally entitle him to own said monkey. This is way weirder than that time Kim Kardashian carried a tiny kitten named Mercy around with her everywhere (IT”S NOT A DOG, KIM). So Justin Bieber stole a monkey. Or bought it illegally through some black market animal trade. Or his sense of entitlement has driven him mad to the point he just thinks he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and not have to answer for it.
He apparently also spat on his neighbor, and while I take celebrity gossip with a bathtub of salt, there’s normally a reason why a certain celebrity has so much tabliod smack talked about them. I mean, no one is accusing Justin Timberlake or Bruno Mars of brutalizing them—so it follows if you’re being a full nut-job then nutty things will be said about you, a sort of cyclical celebrity ouroboros.
Here’s the thing about Bieb’s apparently public melting down: We don’t treat it the same way we treat female celebrity breakdowns, and I’d apply that as a blanket statement to every celebrity that has ever broken down publicly. The best comparison to Bieber right now is probably Amanda “I Want Drake to Murder My Vagina” Bynes. Like Biebs, she’s doing the crazy on her appearance, wearing a truly creepy selection of wigs, having her cheeks pierced and very possibly doing black face with her super tan new look, it’s hard to tell for sure, but I’m pretty sure I’m right.
I think, collectively, we’re sneering at Amanda. There’s something horrifying about the way we indulge in a woman’s descent into madness, and already in my adult life I’ve seen the media descend like vultures on the likes of Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. They become signifiers, warning beacons: DO NOT BECOME LIKE THIS WOMAN. LOOK HOW UNATTRACTIVE BROKENNESS LOOKS. IT’S UNBECOMING FOR A WOMAN TO STRUGGLE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS. WHAT A WHORE. It’s different with Bieber for some reason, as it was with Charlie Sheen. Overall, I think we just want to put troubled men cages and point and laugh while they do dumb shit, because it’s sort of charming and endearing.
There’s something inherently violent in men that’s absent in women. It’s almost like we’re aware that any second Biebs could flip Chris Brown style and shit could get very real, very fast, so we keep a comfortable distance, while applauding them. We see men as primarily having the potential to hurt others, and women as primarily predisposed to hurt themselves. Which is an incredibly gendered approach to mental health, and is disenfranchising to women whose “self” is not as important as the masculine “other,” perpetuating The Power men have by virtue of their physical strength. Justin Bieber’s malcontent could hurt others, ergo we allow him to have dignity in his indignity. Amanda Bynes is only hurting her unimportant self, which is an egregious act of hubris for a woman to engage in, so, by and by, we strip her of her dignity.
Moreover, we excuse men for acting crazy on some nebulous merit that I can’t seem to put a finger on. Great music? Hardly. Good looks? Debatable. The only conclusion I can logically draw is that we reserve a special sort of “bro-ish” judgement for men is but for the simple fact that they are men. Women in the same boat, unfortunately, are still subject to a Blanche Dubois treatment; they’re more of an ugly inconvenience. Men are allowed to be crazy because, at the end of the day, they are men. Women aren’t given the same leniency because it’s “unbecoming” or “unladylike” to behave in a certain way, and it makes us uncomfortable when women can’t maintain a level of antiquated propriety in the public sphere.
So fuck the patriarchy for elevating Justin Bieber's meltdown. Fuck it for ridiculing Amanda Bynes. And thank you to the German government for taking a stand and saying, "NO MORE MONKEY FOR YOU, BRO." Which monkey, might I add, looks suspiciously like a shaved version of the Ikea Monkey.
Kat George hates pop so much because she loves it. She's on Twitter - @kat_george