Bieber: a dangerous fruit fallen from the Tree of Knowledge

For most of us old enough to turn on a light switch unassisted, this site Canadian pop-star Justin Bieber is every bit as fascinating as, um, turning on a light switch unassisted. There is, after all, no reason to activate our adult interest in a Ken Doll. He’s harmless, right?

This castrato toy is suitable for children under ten.

In song and in interview, Bieber conveys the impression of a boy who has savored no pleasure more extreme than hand-holding on a Coke Zero buzz. So, the parent-approved Bieber attracts adult censure about nothing.

Throughout his recent Australian tour, there was no serious critique. Police did worry about the possibility of a bubblegum riot and cancelled his single performance. Apart from that, no one had a thing to say about a guy so placid he makes the Backstreet Boys seem like a pack of Death Metal thugs.

This, of course, is as it should be. There can be no real profit in condemning the musical taste of the young. We cannot hope to understand or prohibit their attachment to pin-ups anymore than we can hope to coax meaning from Bieber’s newest hit, Eenie Meenie.

Applying an adult standard to youth culture is, generally speaking, an enormous waste of time. Not that this stops policy makers and public intellectuals from giving it a generous go.

Just a month before Bieber and his Mom visited Australia, we played host to another pop specimen. Like Bieber, the American singer Stefani Germanotta, better known as Lady GaGa, has a broad youth appeal. Unlike Bieber, GaGa does not inspire copy that reads like a cross between Donny Osmond and a text message. In fact, she inspires real loathing.

Commentator Melinda Tankard Reist was among the first to Australians to condemn GaGa. According to the writer, the artist’s work, “endorses and entrenches some of the worst stereotypes about women and sexuality”; caters to “pornographic male fantasies” and is replete with “phallic symbols”.

Naturally, assorted church leaders demanded the singer be burned at the stake lest our children’s souls be burned in hell. Naturally, a handful of parents who had confused a Lady GaGa performance with an appropriate play-date demanded a refund. And a little unnaturally, one politician demanded her deletion from the culture.

On International Women’s Day, Australian politician Greg Donnelly said GaGa conferred upon young men the “right to ask a young girl for a head job.” Because, before the release of Lady GaGa’s first album, young men just hadn’t thought to ask.

Everyone from feminist scholars to clerics to the soiled shop-stewards of the labor movement’s center right had something negative to say about GaGa. It seems a little odd, then, that they’ve been so quiet about a guy whose hairless good looks demand police protection.

Parents must start to worry forthwith. After all, Bieber’s fans are every bit as slavish as those indentured to Gaga and his appeal, like Gaga’s, inheres in his androgyny.

It’s a scandal that local commentary noting the resemblance of Bieber to a young Ellen DeGeneres is yet to appear. Why is no one troubled by Bieber’s girlish hair and apparent lack of a Y chromosome?

Surely a pop-star this androgynous can only threaten the development of sexual identity in the young.

Think about it: Bieber may confer upon women the right to ask a young man for a chest wax. Further, he entrenches some of the worst stereotypes of gay porn. We must look beyond the naïveté of this dangerous twink and address the fall of man. Bieber is a dangerous fruit fallen from the Tree of Knowledge; he is not a fig-leaf to the naked sexuality of Lady GaGa.

In the current milieu, such criticisms are not unthinkable. Here in Australia, we have a Prime Minister who holds forth about such pressing issues of state as things Robin Williams said on Letterman. We have a coterie of intellectuals who think the pop culture will be our end. We have, it seems, more folk devils than inhabitants in Australia.

Moral panic is our new chosen hobby and it only stands to reason that anyone as popular as Bieber should function as its glue.

Lady GaGa might be a more complex artefact than Bieber. Certainly, her songs are far more catchy. Ultimately, she deserves no more analysis than does Bieber or any of the awkward fixtures of our own extreme youth.

David Cassidy, Leif Garrett or the young men of New Kids on the Block provide us with little more than the twinge of embarrassing memories. Today’s singing, dancing benign growth is tomorrow’s discarded promotional lunchbox.

This post appeared originally at ABC online. (It has been altered just a little to accommodate the language of our American friends.) As I am currently engaged in a spot of actual grown-up work, my posts continue to be a little shop-worn and/or irregular. Sorry about that. However, as a self-sabotaging and utterly self-indulgent type of girl, I know this absence cannot last.

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