Justin Bieber: Rooting For Icarus

Justin Bieber’s latest gift to a sleepless news cycle is Mally the monkey.

The 19-year-old flew into Munich last Thursday with the capuchin — a recent birthday present from producer Jamal Rashid — ahead of a tour concert. After failing to produce a health certificate and other necessary papers in customs, officials quarantined Mally and Bieber is facing a $15,000 fine, the AP reports.

If they weren’t before, the floodgates are now officially open.

The Sun was the first out the traps.

According to its source: “Justin has been acting like a right diva. He is out of control and lives in an alternative reality to the rest of us.”

The unidentified mouthpiece went on to compare Bieber’s relationship with Mally to Michael Jackson’s famous chimp buddy Bubbles.

Coming off just under a month of widely reported dramas on the European leg of his Believe world tour — ranging from a “worst birthday” in a London club, a late stage show, fainting backstage, hospitalization, gas mask selfies, persistent shirtlessness, and an expletive filled clash with a British paparazzo — this latest incident appears to add weight to the snowballing meme that Bieber is spiraling towards a breakdown.

In addition, the pop star is being investigated by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after a battery allegation was made by a neighbor in the Calabasas, Calif., gated enclave where Bieber has a home. It’s alleged that he spat on and threatened to kill auto tycoon Jeff Schwartz during an argument last Tuesday over Schwartz’s objection to the singer’s allegedly reckless driving in the local area.

Reportedly, sources close to Bieber and his security team deny any spitting or threatening took place, but admit there was an argument. Acutely conflicting alleged eye-witnesses have also added unattributed testimonies.

Certainly, we’re a long way from the bright eyed 15-year-old who bounced into global living rooms enchanting millions with single after single from his debut album My World.

Bieber’s rags to riches tale of busking in Ontario to YouTube viral hit, before a seminal Atlanta meet with Usher via manager Scott “Scooter” Braun is a version 2.0 update on A Star Is Born. Now a household name and a multi-millionaire, Vanity’s Fair’s Kurt Eichenwald recently wrote that unless remedial steps were taken the Bieber brand was headed for irrevocable damage.

The rising tide of negative headlines was addressed recently by the teen star in an interview with Us Weekly. Refuting his rapidly cementing ‘demanding diva’ image, the Canadian said:

“The biggest misconception about me is that I’m a bad person. I get upset about that. I have a big heart. I want to be a good role model, but some people want to see me fail… I’m young and I make mistakes. That’s part of growing up.” Later asking: “Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do at 19?”

In this regard, Bieber is right. Like so many child stars before him — Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, Jodie Foster, Shirley Temple, Macaulay Culkin, Lindsay Lohan, Edward Furlong, and Britney Spears — his adolescence has and is being played out on a world stage.

What separates him from the above — mainly because of his interactive start and gargantuan social media presence — is a matter of degree. Bieber’s chafing is heightened both by his too plugged in awareness of what millions are saying about him and a pervasive entertainment media complex that colludes with a largely unregulated paparazzi.

Consider too, that this young man is presently on a grueling tour dealing with a bad break-up (who doesn’t remember what that feels like at that age?), and may have seen or at least heard about the recently published profile of Dana Martin — the double lifer who conspired to kill and castrate him in 2012. Try that on for size.

Having said that, it may well be that Bieber really is in a “positive” place and the meltdown meme is just the result of isolated incidents being strung together because it sells better.

But in the event that it isn’t, is the fall-from-grace-to-destruction blueprint that some are eagerly circling inevitable? Have we gone from Never Say Never to Neverland in just five years?

Perhaps, but most likely not.

Quite apart from the ridiculousness of the idea that any young person should be written off for missteps — perceived or otherwise — made at the juncture of adulthood, is the reality that brands and people can recover and often do.

Think Apple, Lego, Marvel, Star Trek, Toyota’s ongoing climb back, the Golden Globes, the British Royal Family, Nestle, Volkswagen — and on the personal — Mickey Rourke, Ashton Kutcher, Ben Affleck, Sean Penn, Britney Spears, Bill Clinton, Robert Downey Jr., and Drew Barrymore.

Without doubt, all of the aforementioned sat down with their teams after their respective storms hit and carefully strategized a way back. For all, changing some aspect of their behavior would have been seen as critical. But, with application it was achieved.

If Bieber can listen to the wisest influences around him, pause before pressing “send,” adopt a coping mechanism around the paparazzi, healthily channel his burgeoning testosterone — and more crucially — understand that the get-out clause of “I’m young” has a built-in timer; then he will make it.

And for the media — that obviously has a mandate to report news stories but often sees value in accelerating and maintaining tabloid narratives — it’s worth noting that the trauma of growing up under an excoriating, public microscope may not be something everyone will experience, but it is something mature journalists and entertainment writers should be able to conceptualize.

Close to the beginning of every show on his Believe tour the spectacle of Bieber descending to the stage hoisted to giant mechanical wings is an arresting one. Possibly a homage to Michael Jackson’s stage show gimmick for “Will You Be There,” it also evokes a much older motif — the Greek myth of the boy who flew too close to the sun.

Isn’t it time to start rooting for Icarus?

[Image via Jaguar PS / Shutterstock.com ]

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