Many writers have compared Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus for their very controversial actions in past months, saying that these two child stars spiralling downward right before everyone’s eyes, but the two celebrities could not be more different. There is a fundamental piece of the puzzle that many people seem to be missing here, namely that Cyrus isn’t in a downward spiral, and she never has been.
Miley Cyrus is a part of a highly calculated performance that is designed to make her and her team a lot of money. Her behavior in performances is drastically different from her behavior in interviews and in public; she remains poised, charismatic, and personable. Even her infamous Bangerz world tour that kicked off last week and flooded the news with how outrageous and controversial the show is was reported to have the main focus of the performance be on the singer’s vocals. There have been some scandals that are unrelated to her performances, for example, when photographs of her smoking marijuana with friends were released by TMZ, but experimenting with drugs is something that many teens do on their own and does not necessarily indicate anything problematic. In an interview, Cyrus assured everyone that everything she has done is “legal in the state of California.”
While she may be having fun and causing a media uproar while she is doing it, she is still a perfectly stable woman simply trying to make a statement. Justin Bieber, on the other hand, is a very different creature compared to Miley Cyrus, and he does seem to have fallen into a harsh downward spiral that does not look to be turning up any time soon.
It’s kind of sad, really, when one looks at what Bieber has been put through. He was plucked from obscurity by Usher to record an album when he was only 14 years old, and from the moment he entered the spotlight he was subject to nonstop ridicule. He was constantly judged because of the pitch of his voice or his appearance, which were understandably more feminine than other male celebrities at the time, because he was still very young. After dealing with four years of being called a girl, or a lesbian, or gay, all of which are considered to be horrific insults to a person’s masculinity in Western society. The moment he was given an inch of freedom, he decided to take a mile. And then he continued right on running.
Justin Bieber is on a mission to prove his masculinity. He has worked to align himself with many rappers and hip hop artists in order to push into one of the most masculine-presenting genres of music and performance. He has put his nearly naked body on display on stage in front of thousands of screaming fans in an effort to assert his status as a male sex symbol. However, these efforts were in vein, and the ridicule continued to flood him from every side. So, he turned to the realm of the hyper-masculine: overt sexualization, expression of dominance, and criminal activity.
It is not very often that a celebrity will publish pictures of themselves in sexual situations, but Justin Bieber has had several of those images come out, whether by his choice or against his will. The most recent of these was a picture of him and a friend with their mouths on a stripper’s breasts. This sends the image that he is exclusively sexually attracted to women, therefore he can no longer be labelled as “gay.”
He made headlines recently for endangering the lives of his father and the pilots of his private jet when he refused to stop smoking marijuana while in flight. This is one of the examples of how he is asserting his authority. He employs the pilots, so their jobs are in his hands, and if he wants to impair the people responsible for piloting and landing his aircraft then he will do so. This sends the message that he’s not weak anymore; he plays by his own rules.
And possibly the biggest scandal for Mr. Bieber is his arrest for driving under the influence. He had been in the news previously for flaunting his expensive cars – another attempt at appearing masculine – but this time things worked out even more in his favor. He was arrested and processed by police. Clearly, in Bieber’s mind, criminals are as macho as it gets. You can tell just by looking at his face in his mugshot that he was happy with the outcome.
Now, instead of ridicule for his voice or appearance, he has come under scrutiny for being a bad influence in general. He has even become the butt of a new series of jokes between Canadians and Americans, with a debate over who will be forced to have the singer within their borders. There has even been a White House petition to deport him.
Justin Bieber is a child star in a downward spiral, there is no question about that, but Miley Cyrus is in a very different situation that has her making a lot of money and gaining a lot of publicity. The distinction is clear, and even Cyrus herself admitted that Bieber’s actions were strange, at the very least. When asked in an interview what advice she would give him, she said that he should do his partying in the comfort of his home. The fact that he goes out of his way to be in public for his antics is very telling.
By Robin Syrenne