Saturday, January 25, 2014

An Open Letter to Justin Bieber's Fans

Dear Beliebers Worldwide,

I'm choosing to address this open letter to you, rather than to the idol you love so much, for a very specific reason. In the wake of Justin's arrest, I've been witness to an alarming response made on social networks by music fans that often describe themselves as "Beliebers". While not one myself, I am pretty old hat when it comes to loving and stanning for pop stars (seriously guys, this blog is older than Justin's mainstream music career -- let that sink in), so please know that what I write is out of love and is directed toward you with pure intentions. 

This is not a letter telling you the decisions Justin's made over the past several months are proof positive he's not worthy of your time or respect. This is not a letter about Justin at all, really. The choices he's made are exactly that -- they are his own. He has an enormous amount of responsibility on his shoulders -- more than anyone could ever really prepare for no matter how much you desire it, certainly not at 18-19 years old -- and you are who you surround yourself with. 

Demi Lovato's very public battles with her one-two punch of inner demons and being surrounded by yes-men only interested in $$ should speak volumes to what child stars go through in a business when many (older) people view them solely as cash cows. Lance Bass recently spoke about Justin's situation and raised a great point about comparing *NSYNC's experience as teen idols in the late 90's/early 00's as being utterly different simply because there was no social media then. None. Zip. Zero. It was much easier to keep a pristine image because other channels for display of personality weren't available -- the blockade from fandom was bigger, higher, thicker.

Bieber's situation is unique but mark my words -- it does not make him immune from consequence and also doesn't shade him from ridicule. Stating he's done wrong doesn't make you a "hater", it doesn't make you less of a fan. Over the years, I've watched teen pop fandoms descend into this 'hear no evil, speak no evil, so there is no evil' mindset and as I grow older (and with age, comes more maturity), I've found this to be incredibly worrying. 

You're allowed to not agree with the choices your idol makes, whether it's song choices or personal ones. It doesn't make you less of a fan -- it makes you your own person.

Being a fan of an artist is just one part of who you are -- it shouldn't be everything. Yes, you're allowed to love what you love. Get all the albums. Learn all the lyrics. Go to as many shows as you can afford. Buy those posters. Plaster them all around your room. Kiss them at night -- hell, I did when I was 12. But please don't lose sight of the fact that at the end of the day, you may know all about your favorite singer, but you don't know him in a real person-to-person sense. If you did, maybe you would still love him. Maybe you wouldn't. The fact of the matter is his relationship with you is to provide you entertainment, some songs to groove to with your friends, and something to talk about in an idyllic sense. Maybe one day you'll get to meet him. Maybe you won't. Your life shouldn't hang in the balance of what he does or doesn't do. He is providing a service to you -- of entertainment -- but this is all.

I say all this because in the wake of this scandal, you're more than welcome to tweet encouraging messages to your idol and say things like you were a fan from the beginning and you'll be a fan to the end. But I advise you to take caution. Reacting with acidic, venomous responses and cursing out other people you've never met -- whether they are fans or not -- simply because they disagree with you on a non-issue like an idol's personal choices is a slippery slope you don't want to traverse. His choices are his -- they have nothing to do with you and they don't define you, either. 

Closing your eyes and ears to facts makes a fandom no better than the yes-men who surround an impressionable young artist. By telling him everything he outputs is amazing and fantastic and incredible, you're doing him a disservice as an artist who should thrive on real constructive criticism. There is no question that you love him -- and sometimes that love has to be a tough one. 

We should all agree that Mr. Bieber is talented beyond his years and should also agree that his actions as of late are an outcry for help on many levels. Instead of rallying around a #FreeJustin mentality (or, for that matter, a #DeportBieber mentality), let's instead rally around getting him the help he needs.

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