I Don’t Care About Justin Bieber (But Maybe I Should)

Is JBiebs still figuring himself out, or is he actually a problematic guy?

Katherine Singh
Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin hold hands as they exit a building
Photo: Getty Images

The Biebs is *officially* back. After a short musical hiatus, during which he on-and-offed with old flame Selena Gomez, married model Hailey Baldwin, launched a Charles Manson-esque clothing line and continued to try to make slippers as footwear happen, on May 10 Justin Bieber released his latest song—a duet with Ed Sheeran called “I Don’t Care.”

And TBH the title of the predicted song of the summer is pretty apt, because after a two-year break (aside from last summer’s banger “I’m The One“) and a year of ups and downs on the singer’s personal front, I don’t really care about JBiebs anymore. (Especially compared with Rihanna, whose music is worth the wait.)

But, maybe I should care. Or at least care about his behaviour, because it’s problematic AF. Here’s why.

That whole Chris Brown thing

Less than a week before the release of his latest song, the Biebs took to Instagram to share a post in celebration of singer Chris Brown. “Everyone wants to wait til people die To give them the credit they deserve,” the singer wrote. “I’m calling it now when CB passes away after a long full life, you will miss what you had in front of you the whole time … trust me watch you will see. the people who have over looked this mans talent because of a mistake he made…you need to reevaluate! Love you @chrisbrownofficial.” The caption was posted alongside an image of Michael Jackson and Tupac, pretty much implying that Brown was on the level of this “legendary equation.”

And I just have to say: Justin, WTF are you talking about?

ICYMI,  that “mistake” the Biebs so flippantly refers to? That was Brown’s now infamous February 2009 assault of then-girlfriend Rihanna after a pre-Grammy’s party. Brown pled guilty and was sentenced to five years of probation and 1,400 hours of community service for the crime, but his career—and reputation in the music industry—has largely gone unscathed.

In response, fans of the Biebs replied to his post, commenting:

“I’ve loved u since I was a KID Justin but there is NO justification for beating someone to near death… I’m sorry but it’s true,” one fan wrote.

Another commented, “Most of your fans are girls/women and we are scared to death of men like CB. And to see someone like you stepping up to praise him is very disappointing… It’s really dangerous to praise him regardless of how talented you genuinely think he is. It wasn’t just ‘one mistake.’ It’s just so much more than that.”

And they’re right. Brown has a pretty contentious and inarguably problematic history. In addition to his physical assault on Rihanna, the singer has been accused of sexual assault by numerous women, and had a restraining order filed against him after allegedly threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend Karrueche Tran. Most recently, the rapper was arrested in Paris in January 2019 after a woman accused him and two other men of rape. He was later released and no charges were made. So, Brown’s behaviour *is* much more than a one-time mistake: it’s a pattern.

And FYI, Bieber knows his comment was rotten. Because after receiving backlash for his post on social media, Bieber removed the phrase “because of a mistake he made” from his Instagram caption. But before we go thinking lessons have been learned, the rest of the post remains the same.

In addition? In this whole CB debacle, many have largely overlooked that the Biebs not only supported one problematic man—but two. Unless you’ve been living in a bubble, WHY would you ever want to associate yourself with Michael Jackson after the most recent 2019 documentary Leaving Neverland provided the strong evidence that he was a child predator and sexual abuser? Really, really bad choice, Biebs.

Letting Beliebers trash Selena Gomez

Although their relationship has officially ended with his September marriage to Mrs. Bieber, the longtime on-and-off relationship between Bieber and Selena Gomez has been fodder for magazines and fans since they first started dating in 2011. And while their relationship status may changed frequently over the ensuing years, one thing that remained constant is the barrage of hate towards Gomez by Beliebers.

When photos of the pair first emerged on vacay in Hawaii in 2011, the Revival singer and actor was hit with some pretty horrible backlash online.  At the time, fans of Bieber tweeted insults and threats at the singer’s teenage girlfriend, including: “Dear Selena Gomez. I hate you more than life. Go jump off a cliff. K (OK)?” and  “Stay away from Justin pedophile. I’m gonna kill ya in the night underneath your smelly bed.”

And that type of vitriol continued throughout their relationship, going largely unaddressed by Bieber himself. Which is kind of awful. By failing to address the unfair treatment of Gomez, Bieber is essentially condoning it, or at least letting it slide.

His history of bad behaviour is hard to forget

And the thing is that, while we’d love to give JBiebs the benefit of the doubt, his history of less-than-desirable behaviour is hard to overlook.

Listen, we’ve all done our share of stupid stuff while growing up—and luckily for many of us, we didn’t have to do it in the public eye. Since coming onto the scene, Bieber has gone from a floppy-haired Stratford, Ont. native to teeny-bopper, hoodie-wearing heartthrob, to the millennial answer to Brad Pitt, to a church-going, slipper-wearing married man. But he didn’t get to where he is now without a few bumps along the way.

Between 2013 and 2017, it seemed like the golden-boy pop prince of Canada was on a *bit* of a downward spiral after several run-ins with the law (including a smiling mugshot for a DUI in Miami), an incident in which he peed in a janitor’s bucket whilst yelling “F-ck Bill Clinton,” and literally being banned from performing in China in 2017 (putting him among other celebs like Katy Perry, Gigi Hadid and Lady Gaga).

Further incidents included groping fans, videos of the star as a teen using racist language, and—in 2016—the singer was accused of punching a fan in Barcelona. Oh, and he also got dreadlocks.

It was *a lot* to take in. In many ways, it’s easy to brush these indiscretions off—for both the singer and his fans. Hey, he’s young and famous! He’s learning! Who among us hasn’t peed in an industrial mop bucket? (Me, for one.) And I can appreciate that Bieber was young when many of these incidents occurred; but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t immediately think back to them when I saw his recent post about Brown, because TBH it just seems like the evolution of seriously problematic behaviour.

Are we being too harsh?

Maybe? But also, maybe not. The fact remains that Bieber isn’t some misguided teen anymore. As someone firmly cemented in their mid 20s, Bieber is way past the point of being able to brush off his bad comments and indiscretions as the result of a kid trying to find his way. And the thing is, his recent comments and indiscretions mean something. This isn’t just a case of being disrespectful and peeing in public places or being kind of a sh-tty boyfriend. Saying that domestic violence or someone beating up their partner is simply a “mistake” is not only incorrect, but extremely harmful. It not only trivializes the experience of abuse survivors, but it diminishes the onus on abusers, downplaying the severity of their actions and making room for abusive people—like Chris Brown—to continue being abusive.

And they allow his fans to react the same way. We saw it with their mirrored treatment of Gomez—to be fair to Bieber, fandoms are a crazy beast of their own—and we see it in the comments on the Biebs’ post about Brown, with fans commenting in support of Brown, calling out Rihanna, saying the assault was inevitable and saying Brown has atoned for his past (he hasn’t). While Bieber may not have signed on the dotted line to be a role model or someone that hordes of people take after—that’s part of his job.

With great power comes great responsibility; a concept that many of our faves have struggled with. And while it may not necessarily be fair, when it comes to important issues like domestic abuse, what celebs say becomes even more important.

Related:

Why 2019 Is the Year I’m Over Drake
Let’s Not Make Justin and Selena 2018’s Brad and Jen, OK?
Dear Justin Bieber, Let’s Never Celebrate April Fools’ Day Again

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