Real talk time, gang: Why exactly does Justin Bieber piss you off?
I'm not a betting man, but if I were to wager, you hate Ontario's most famous ensorcelled kewpie doll because he's basically Joffrey Baratheon from Game of Thrones.
Step 1: Understand That Justin Bieber = Joffrey
Let's unpack this statement for those readers unfamiliar with the HBO television series, which is based on George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy novels (which is also the show my mother refers to as "that porno show starring Mayor Carcetti from The Wire").
On Game of Thrones, Joffrey (or "Reggie," in mom-pidgin) is the teenage ruler of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. And due to the misfortune of being both a teenager and tremendously inbred, Joffrey is a noxious turdling with diddly redeeming traits. He's an inexperienced, whiny, dense bully who believes he can stab away most of his political problems. Hell, he's so despicable that he only has two real fans: his aunt and his mom, and they're the same person.
Uncle Dad was just in it for the doggy style.
In fact, the actor who plays Joffrey -- 20-year-old Jack Gleeson -- is quitting acting once he's done with Game of Thrones. He's pursuing a career in academia, ostensibly out of a love for knowledge, but probably just to hide in a library for a few years so that thousands of total strangers finally get the urge to slap him across the face out of their systems.
"I may have been a little too good at my job."
The main reason audiences love to hate Joffrey is because he's a chromosomal car crash of a kid who's given all the considerations and respect of a grown-ass adult. His handlers know he's a mewling smegma golem, but they can't defy the king. Indeed, child rulers just don't jibe with our modern sensibilities. Teenage pharaohs like Tutankhamun may not be the norm anymore, but we do like our elected officials to look and behave mildly mummified.
Special shout-out to 79-year-old senator Chuck Grassley and his Twitter account.
So yes, we tend to regard kids who wield the socio-political clout of adults as abominations or oddities -- sort of like Luther and Johnny Htoo, those 10-year-old chain-smoking guerillas who fought the Burmese army back in the 1990s and claimed to possess mystical powers. And sort of like Justin Bieber, a zillionaire teenager who can score an audience with the prime minister of Canada while dressed as a drunk house painter ...
PM Stephen Harper, Flickr
"I brushed my teeth with garlic to reinforce how few shits I give."
... and who cut a track with Ludacris when he was 15 years old. In the real world, a rapper who made his career mapping a constellation of loose women using North America's telecom grid has no damn reason to hang out with a ninth grader with a Prince Valiant haircut, unless that kid's mutant power is to create a force field of THC and cognac.
Ludacris via Disney Dreaming
"Yo, the high gets stronger when he's scared. Put out cigarettes on him."
I'm guessing that it isn't the Bieb's music that gets you frothing at the mouth. It's pretty easy to avoid, unless you work at a job where Top 40 radio blasts all day, like a strip mall funeral home.
Also, ubiquitous, hyper-produced teen pop has been around for decades and will stick around for centuries, once the North Koreans finally breed an unkillable, fungus-based life form boasting the larynx of Off the Wall-era Michael Jackson and the venom gland of Donny Osmond. You may find Bieber's music vacuous, but it's no less intellectual than half the crap that came out of the late 1990s boy band boom.
I'd say that part of the reason Bieber gets so much vitriol is because, right from the start, he's been implicitly marketed not as a teenager, but as a tiny adult. Like, some vague humanoid creature at the intersection of a Gelfling, a Borrower, and a Hobbit.
Step 2: Understand That a Hobbit = Justin Bieber
Look at it this way: Michael Jackson was the baby of the Jackson 5, and their breakout song was about the alphabet. Those other dudes in *NSYNC were more or less Justin Timberlake's court-appointed guardians. But Justin Bieber? The music video for his debut single opens with Usher calling him up for a favor. In what possible universe out there would Usher -- with his millions of dollars and mind-control abs -- need to rely on some unknown kid who goes to Luke Skywalker's barber? It's fucking deranged.
This scenario makes no sense, because we -- i.e., anybody with the ability to grow armpit hair -- aren't the target demographic here. No, the fantasy presented in Bieber's early videos is that your teenage years are a copacetic time where adults are your peers and acne's gone extinct. The worst problem is puppy love, but at least you can call Ludacris for relationship advice.
"Have you tried licking her from her head to her toes? That's how I got invited to my Sadie Hawkins dance."
To illustrate this same phenomenon a different way, think about why the Internet had a field day with Rebecca Black's "Friday." Sure, the lyrics were incomprehensible, and there was the Schadenfreudy thrill of watching some doomed soul achieve pop stardom seemingly through a cursed monkey's paw. But what was the strangest visual of the music video? It was 13-year-old Black and her friends joy riding in a convertible, unoppressed by the highway patrol and a working knowledge of automotives.
"Our licenses are only valid during full moons, because of werewolves."
The same principle applies to "It's Thanksgiving," 12-year-old Nicole Westbrook's paean to mashed potatoes that was written and produced by Patrice Wilson, the evil Svengali behind "Friday." In the video for "It's Thanksgiving," Westbrook and her adolescent friends live in a universe completely devoid of adults, save Wilson, mummering as a turkey.
"Friday" and "It's Thanksgiving" owe a stylistic debt to Bieber in that both songs cast Wilson in the "grown-up arbiter who confers adult credibility to his discovered-on-YouTube protege" role previously occupied by Usher and Ludacris. But Usher and Ludacris are famous recording artists -- 99.99 percent of the planet has no clue who Patrice Wilson is. To the uninformed observer, it's not unreasonable to assume he's a poultry-worshiping cultist who's trapped Nicole Westbrook and friends on his compound.
After the meal, they were all sacrificed to Quetzalcoatl.
Patrice Wilson at least typifies the paradox of teen pop, which is that teen pop songs have never been accurate accounts of being a teenager. If teen stars wrote their own songs -- instead of, oh, one Swedish man -- they'd all have titles like "What Do All These Boners Mean?" and "I Am Still Insecure (feat. Ja Rule)."
But again, Bieber's and Black's songs were never marketed to us liver-spotted oldheads. Anyone who's been a teenager for more than five minutes knows it sucks all sorts of exquisite ass. And the totems of adulthood aren't roadsters and famous rappers on speed dial -- they're slowly failing organs and stained linens because you spilled your Raisin Nut Bran nodding off during Downton Abbey.
So yeah, Bieber's image is that of a frighteningly competent starchild who effortlessly sashays through life's most existentially awkward moments, save those last seconds on your deathbed when you accidentally address your spouse by the dog's name. (And if the best years of your life somehow were middle school, well, you're probably missing all of your original teeth right now.)
So Justin Bieber is the spokesman of a sham reality 99.99 percent of us weren't privy to. Is this reason to destroy him? Perhaps. But history's not on his side anyway.