Justin Bieber ‘Inspired’ By James Dean NOT Comparing: ‘Get Over It,’ Says Photog Mike Lerner

Justin Bieber ably pulled off a James Dean homage on Saturday, posting an Instagram pic of himself as a modern Rebel Without A Cause complete with white T-shirt, furrowed brow, distant gaze, updated with tattoos and an unlit cigarette.

And perhaps that was the problem.

As noted by MTV News and some outlets, Bieber did capture the look of Hollywood’s other disaffected heartthrob. However, young Canada also infuriated the ‘Keepers of Cool,’ aka the Internet, which doesn’t like the dust around its legends being disturbed.

Futilely trying to get ahead of inevitable flak, Bieber’s Instagram caption assured,

“This is James Dean inspired. Don’t ask me if I smoke ciggys cuz I don’t.”

But while the 20-year-old’s reference to “ciggys” drew snark, it was the mere fact the Biebs attempted to recreate Dean’s classic pose at all that raised the ire of many.

“Justin Bieber sure thinks highly of himself,” read Huffington Post’s opening line.

From there, things went downhill.

Somewhat unfairly dropping Bieber’s unhappy appearance at his infamous deposition into their slam, Huffington judged the singer’s harmless style-over as a literal comparison to Dean.

Uproxx, Vanyaland, Heatworld magazine, GQ, Earsucker, Bustle, Crushable, Celebuzz — and many more did the same. In fact, it would be quicker to list which outlets didn’t.

Noting no-one bats an eyelid when fashion magazines homage Hollywood beauties and past and present icons with actresses and actors, it appears the impluse is a knee-jerk one by many to damn anything and everything Bieber does no matter how innocuous.

And if such articles by commentators were an embarrassment to the profession, caution is advised when opening the Pandora’s box of pestilence that was most website comments, the majority of which wished Dean’s car accident fate on Bieber. Yes, really.

Apart from this comment at Queerty by site user “BrianZ,” which stood out for its sanity:

I like the picture, and believe the assertion that it is James Dean inspired is an accurate one. I also believe the article is a itsy bit asinine. You say ‘addiction of driving fast cars, rebellious behavior and squeezing as much adventure into his short life as humanly possible’ and then claim this doesn’t apply to Bieber. “

“Ridiculous. Whether you approve of his methods or not, the description fits. Serrrriously people, get a grip on yourselves.”


Ironically it is these very tropes: Dean’s reckless driving before his September 30, 1955, death on a California highway, his love of fast cars, risky living, and a reputation for being either over-sensitive or difficult — that seems to fit Bieber to a tee at this point in his life as he chafes under unrelenting and oft-toxic media attention.

Looking at the three seismic roles on which Dean’s legend turns: Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden (both 1955) and Giant (1956), the latter two leading to posthumous Academy Award Best Actor nominations, and ushered the eternal 24-year-old to his place as cultural icon of troubled, rebellious youth – if Biebs’ 2013-14 isn’t a nutshell of angst-ridden youth; what is?

This year alone, the Biebs’ Calabasas mansion was the subject of a Defcon 5 police raid following an accusation of house-egging by his former neighbor in January. An arrest on suspicion of DUI in Miami Beach on January 23 and an assault charge arising in Toronto followed days later, which his lawyers say the singer is innocent of.

(Photo: Warner Bros.).

As it turns out, for all the kvetching over Bieber’s right to post whatever he wants to on his own Instagram account and IQ musing he may have been inspired by Robert Pattinson shooting Life in Toronto — which tells Deans’ story through Life photog Dennis Stock — clarification arrived Monday.

Mike Lerner — lensman on the Believe tour, who took the Dean shots as part of a wider shoot — posted a tweet that should shame those who either deliberately misinterpreted Bieber’s Instagram, or are so enthralled by his “bad boy” label that everything reported prisms through it.

The floor is yours Mr. Lerner:

The amount of butthurt is insane. Justin NEVER said he was James Dean. The photo inspired him and we mimicked it. Get over it.

— Mike Lerner (@MikeTakesStills) March 24, 2014

Does media understand the word “inspired”?

— Mike Lerner (@MikeTakesStills) March 24, 2014