Because I’m no longer 13 years old, I haven’t paid much attention to Justin Bieber since he was first hammered into the collective unconscious. But I’ve just seen a photo of him and God, he’s grown. He’s now 36 years old and is played by a gangling miscast Jim Carrey action figure. And none of his costumes fit any more, which means he has to take to the stage wearing trousers that only come down to his knees and a child-size baseball cap optimistically Pritt-sticked to his hairdo.
It’s left him too depressed to sing. His performances now consist of him begging the audience to leave so he can have some time to himself. But they can’t hear his pleas because they’re too busy screaming. Caught in a trap of his own making, he is the loneliest man in the world. The photo of Bieber accompanied an article about his mother, Pattie Mallette, who’s courting controversy with a short anti-abortion film called Crescendo. She’s hoping a series of screenings will raise $10m in aid of ‘pregnancy crisis centres’. This seems unlikely, since most short films lose money. Expecting an abortiony period drama to generate millions of dollars is an act of optimism on a par with trying to pole vault over the sun.
This whole pro-life movie escapade hasn’t gone down well with some. It’s the latest in a series of setbacks for Bieber, who had a bumpy start to the year. First a papa-razzi died while pursuing his car. Then he was accused of smoking marijuana. Then he split from his girlfriend. Then he got his bum out on Twitter and deleted the photo. Now his mum’s made a controversial film. On top of that, he’s ageing at an alarming rate.
He stands at a crossroads. But unlike teen idols of the yesterpast, he doesn’t stand alone. In years gone by, teen idols would quietly fade from view, remembered only by a few devotees. The fallen star would pop up years later in an arch documentary to mutter something bitter about their former manager. But because Bieber has over 30 million followers on Twitter, it’s impossible for him to vanish gracefully. His fans can’t gently forget him over time. They have to actively delete him. If things go badly for him, a huge percentage of the Beliebers will presumably tap ‘unfollow’.
Picture the fan. It’s 2021, she’s at work, she’s stressed and she’s trying to read a text from her boyfriend, when up pops an update from 49-year-old Bieber, griping about the waiting time at a Hertz customer service desk #aintgotalldaydudes. It’s the last straw. She forgets about the hours spent singing along to his music. Forgets the desktop wallpaper she had when she was 13. And with a swipe of her thumb she ‘unfollows’. Thousands of miles away, killing time in the Hertz queue, Bieber notices his follower count drop by one. It’s been heading downwards since the incident with the Nerf gun. So he looks up the username of the woman who unfollowed him and tweets something unpleasant about her and says good riddance. By the time he reaches the front of the queue, showbiz sites are running catty stories calling him ‘Justin Bitter’ and mocking him for turning on fans. As a result, the man at the desk refuses to serve him. Bieber is kicked out of the building. A passer-by films the whole thing and shares it with the world. He is disgraced. His follower count drops below zero. Later that night, alone, at home, he sings a song so heartbreaking you would love him if you heard it. But no one hears it. No one wants to know.
That’s one potential future. The other is this: he reinvents himself as Justin Timberlake 2.0, ages gracefully, makes billions more dollars, and gains another 70 million followers. He designs uniforms for them and teaches them anthems. Gradually they seize control of the towns and cities. Six of them kick you to death in your own home before ransacking the contents and setting the building ablaze. Identical scenarios play out around the globe. The world is plunged into a 1,000 year reign of darkness. I’m sorry. But those are the only two possible outcomes.
Charlie Brooker, The Guardian