NOTE: This post is NOT about Justin Bieber. It’s much deeper than that – it’s about our social behaviors, including of course zombie consumerism, and what I now like to call “reverse zombie consumerism”. You might have to read between the lines, so stay with me on this.
I’m not one to have Bieber Fever. Let me just clear that up right now. But it’s hard to not notice Justin Bieber nowadays. He’s in the news, he’s on interviews, night time talk shows, everywhere. He’s getting more exposure recently because of his new movie “Never Say Never”, of course. The biggest thing for me though, is my wife has recently begun tracking Bieber. A lot.
Even your grandmother has probably heard of Justin Bieber. This kind of phenomenon hasn’t happened since Michael Jackson became a child celebrity.
So at the beginning of the week, (just a few days after Bieber’s movie opened at the box office, and his rather disappointing defeat at the Grammys), I painted a portrait of The Biebs, and posted it on youtube.
The reactions I got from my regular viewers were mostly “Hate Bieber, but I love your art.”
So I began to think “Why do people hate Bieber?”
I used to be a Bieber hater myself, but my wife pointed out something interesting – to hate someone, you need a reason. Otherwise, you’re just hating because other people hate too. This leads me to the main discussion here: How our society works.
I found out what I hated about Justin Bieber.
I started tracking Bieber, followed him, checked out his periodic tweets, his interviews, and his background. I must say, he’s a rather interesting subject. He started off singing on street corners before he was discovered by a talent agent who pushed him to Usher. Usher saw his talent and promoted him to what he is today. When I saw that youtube video of him singing on the street corner, with that sort of hopeful look in his eyes, I saw what it was that attracted people to him – his voice. It was a bit raw and inexperienced, but his voice was incredible, especially for his age. I’m a pretty good judge of voice talent, so I know this was genuinely good.
I heard he made about $500 a day doing this, and he used that money to treat his mom to a vacation. He reminds me of Michael Jackson when he was a child singer.
Check out the comments – there are a lot of one-liners insulting him, and expressing general hate.
People say that his voice sounds like a girl. Sure. But the kid was like, 14 years old or something. But on a performance level, he sings better than many of the mainstream artists out there now, including Katy Perry (sounds TERRIBLE live), and even his own mentor, Usher (also terrible live). This was demonstrated during the Grammys. He’s on par with some of the best American Idol voice talents, has excellent control and a fair bit of range. So the people that hate his voice, well… is that really a reason to hate someone?
People also say he’s gay. He’s got the hots for … countless celebrity women. So I don’t know where this is coming from either…
What I don’t like however, are his songs. But then again, I’m not really his target market here. I can see the appeal with the tweens and teen girls, but not my cup of tea. I know that a lot of people don’t like his songs. Most likely because they too are not his target market. So is that a reason to hate someone? I don’t watch Macross because it’s not my thing, but I don’t hate it.
It’s safe to say that Bieber has become slightly manufactured – his clothing, his style, his music, it’s all tailored to a specific target market yielding over 7 million twitter followers – more than most celebrities out there. A lot of people don’t like manufactured celebrities. Then again, tonnes of celebrities are manufactured personas. Looking back at Tora Dora, Ami was pretty much this, especially at the beginning of the show.
But after looking at Bieber’s interviews, and some of his off-stage moments, I have to say – while he is a manufactured product, his personality isn’t. He’s an honest-to-god good kid. He has his moments where he makes mistakes and does stupid things, but that’s what normal kids are like. His family keeps him grounded. He speaks honestly (he said Lady GaGa’s appearance at the Grammys was “weird” during an interview, for example), and he actively promotes the fact that he is Canadian, and how awesome Canada is at every opportunity he can. That’s good in my books.
Bieber showed up at the first Me to We event (the one where the Dalai Lama attended). This event was meant to inspire kids to do better, and make a difference in the world. In this regards, Bieber had to become a role-model. After tracking Bieber, I’ve seen some of the things that he’s done to help the world, and it’s a lot more than what most celebrities do. Yet he chooses to stay humble about it. He doesn’t brag about it, and doesn’t even like the idea that his good deeds should be documented. He says that doing that is like saying “Look at me! Look at all the good things I’m doing! I’m such a great person!” and he doesn’t believe in that. I don’t think the haters know this.
All this accumulates to a phenomenon that I am calling “Reverse Zombie Consumerism”.
We all know what Zombie Consumerism is (if you don’t, read my post dammit). Bieber’s fans are a product of that. The reverse though, are the haters and trolls. Think of it – what defines a troll? Someone who goes on forums/blogs/etc for the sole purpose of writing inflammatory remarks and provoke users to a desired response. Usually, they’re very general remarks such as “this sucks, that pwns.” The key here though, is that it’s usually not an informed opinion, but a generalization. Trolls typically don’t fully understand the topic of discussion, and just take a single opinion or impression and go with it.
Reverse Zombie Consumerism is like that – many of the haters and trolls out there don’t really know what Justin Bieber is about. They all find some sort of minuscule reason, and hate him for it. Mindless hate, or Zombie Consumerism in reverse. This isn’t just Bieber of course. This goes with all sorts of celebrities – Britney Spears, The Backstreet Boys, Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey etc.
I hated each of these celebrities at one point too. The products of this kind of anger and hatred usually results in some pretty damaging things. Britney basically went crazy, Mariah Carey fell into depression, Michael Jackson was deemed a pedophile, and Justin Bieber got a water bottle in the head. These celebrities are still human. No kid deserves a bottle to the head. I mean, seriously.
It’s a good mix, though.
Danny Choo told me once “You know you’re successful when you get a lot of haters.” This is totally true, and we see it everyday with celebrities. “… but you have to use that to your advantage.” says John Chow. Considering Bieber’s fame, and his age, he takes this sort of abuse from haters pretty well.
I remember hearing about the time Bieber walked off an interview because he got sprayed with a bottle of juice. There was a HUGE fuss about it. But at the time, I didn’t really care about Bieber. Today, I looked up the video to see what the fuss was all about, and it was a big nothing. He reacted the same way anyone would. It’s weird, because like the fans, haters all see celebrities as a form of perfection as well, like deities. But as soon as the celebrity slips up, the haters come out like wolves and chew them up.
He gets sprayed at 3:36. Pay attention to his reaction.
One thing that really hit it home to me, and changed my impression of Justin Bieber was this video:
0:05 – bring on the PAIN!
At the very beginning of the song, he trips, and breaks his foot. Yet the show goes on. You can see him limping throughout the whole performance. Most singers would just stop and leave, leaving the fans confused and hanging.
Now, a movie has been released, Never Say Never. What I find interesting about this is that a lot of people are now split between whether to watch it or not. Even Mike and Mike on ESPN debate about it http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=6120427
I listen to the Kid Carson Show on the radio periodically, and even he’s been debating about it. This guy has his opinions, but is usually open-minded and willing to try stuff. He’s not a person to like Bieber’s music either. Regardless, he went to see the show, and what he said about it perked my interest. He said it was actually a very good movie. Everyone is talking about how inspiring the show is, and how Bieber’s life journey will inspire kids to never give up. Hence the title. Manufactured or not, if the movie is able to inspire kids to do better, and be better, that’s good in my books.
Honestly, if a guy with Justin Bieber’s personality wanted to date my daughter, I totally would be okay with it.
How does all this relate to crows? If you’ve read and understood everything I’ve said, and you know the background and behaviors of crows, then it should become blindingly obvious.
There’s a certain trend going on though… a positive one. Bieber isn’t the one that brings this about, but you can tell that the youths of this generation are connected in ways that are beyond my comprehension, and my generation. You could say instead that Bieber is a product of that trend. When I saw this video, I was moved.
Looks like embedding is disabled. Watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlG3BMEHsCQ
This was done in Vancouver, to promote anti-bullying. Seeing this message delivered changes how I see our youth of today. The future of this planet is in good hands.
After seeing all this, what Bieber is about, and what the haters are all about, I have a new view of the world around me, and its people. It’s unfortunately, a grim one at the moment. The zombie consumerism, and even reverse zombie consumerism is still very strong, and causing torrents of instability that affect the world a lot greater than one can possibly imagine, but there’s still hope, I think.