Feminizing Bieber: Celebrity and Shame Culture

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So, Justin Bieber gets arrested and the internet goes crazy. Which is fine, until crazy equals more than crazy. Then it becomes dark. Which is what happened.

In case you didn’t know, Bieber was arrested for a DUI, expired license, resisting arrest, and suspicion of drag racing. So, instead of exploring what led to this sad situation, the internet decides to mock, as usual. Love him or hate him, Bieber is young and human and has been put on a pedestal by the very people who are now tearing him down. This celebrity culture that we condone, by participating through sensational websites and magazines, brings out the very worst in all of us and eliminates our perception of celebrities as people just like you and me.

Bieber was built up, by his fans, by the media, by the internet, without any boundaries to keep him grounded. He was not an adult when he chose celebrity, and it is obvious that he has not been parented through such a lifestyle shift. He may be technically an adult, but I would argue that his intellectual and emotional maturity needs more guidance. Hitting that brick wall at his age is hard enough, without the added humiliation that he is currently experiencing. Celebrities ask for it, you might say. I would argue that there is a limit to the access we should have to their personal lives, especially if the mirage of truth then exposes and harms others who are innocent.

If that weren’t enough, the internet took its fun to an even darker place. Pictures sprang up on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and more, of Justin Bieber in make-up or Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus as a mash-up, illustrating his feminine features as trans or gay and laughing at the thought of him getting raped in jail. Some even Photoshopped Bieber’s face on top of the faces of trans women in pride parades and titled them “drag races.”

This is the line that should not have been crossed.

Whatever his transgressions, to publicly mock Bieber in such a way is inappropriate, ugly, and unnecessary. Even Buzzfeed, which ironically actually has a LGBT section, thought it was hilarious. We live in a world that intensely focuses on body image and categorization. It is in our constructed culture that we fear androgyny or difference. So we make fun of it. Until it’s your life we mock. There is nothing funny about it.

Decades have been spent trying to overcome homophobia and transphobia. People have died, either through hate crimes or shame suicides, just at the suggestion of a lifestyle different from convention. With the freedom to post whatever one will on the internet comes great responsibility, and we absolutely need to start thinking about how, by making certain jokes, we are not only perpetuating but validating not just opinions but actions. Actions that are at best hurtful, at worst violent.

Recently there was another picture floating around of a Russian socialite perched on a chair that took the form of a black woman in bondage. The internet was immediately outraged and demanded the photo be pulled with an apology, which is was. Rightfully so. The image was a gross example of how little we pay attention to our history, to the suffering of those around us as well as those who came before us.

I don’t see this as much different. Attacking whether one is masculine enough, making light of someone experiencing a horrific violation, imposing drag and trans culture on someone as an insult.

Is this the kind of community we want to be?

You might say that blaming the internet is ridiculous. Either there are a few bad apples who ruin it for everyone or the internet is like Mos Eisley (you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy) or you can’t take everything so seriously. But it is this kind of excuse making that pulls us from the responsibility we have to stand up and demand an end to the casual acceptance of such behavior. It doesn’t matter if it comes from ignorance or bigotry, it needs to stop.

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1 thought on “Feminizing Bieber: Celebrity and Shame Culture

  1. I couldn’t agree with this more. We talk a big game in our communities about inclusion and respect, but when it comes to celebrities (whom we put on pedestals only to feast on them like animals when they fall down), all bets and boundaries are off. It is such an obvious and vicious cycle. We are better than this.

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