Justin Bieber, tween of all media

He has a hit song, a Twitter feud with Conan, a satire blog of lesbian look-alikes and the world's attention

By Mary Elizabeth Williams
March 24, 2010 11:49PM (UTC)
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Justin Bieber

Every so often, a star comes along whose very existence seems to encapsulate the spirit of the times. A person whose career, romances and, most of all, hair combine to say to future generations, "This is who we were." A person whose sudden rise to fame and our subsequent mad Googling thereof tell us just how irrelevant we truly are. People of earth, I give you Justin Bieber.

As the mother of two little girls who decree the Jonas Brothers are SO over, I'm no stranger to Bieber fever. But perhaps you've been wondering of late, who the hell is this guy the New York Times calls "the impish prince of pop idolatry"? Well, in the grand tradition of Susan Boyle and doped-up toddlers, he's a star who first broke out on YouTube, where his parents began posting videos of the talented singer and musician when he was just 12. Smelling tween jackpot, Island Def Jam soon snapped him up. Flash forward to a 16-year-old with legions of shrieking fans, a hit album, an imminent world tour, and one awesome riot under his belt. Haven't heard his relentlessly catchy "Baby, Baby" until you wanted to beg the Trololo guy for an earworm replacement? Oh, you will. You will.


All of which means that there now exist two Justin Biebers: the adorable, successful young man whose face is on your niece's official black felt pen logo T-shirt, and the too rich to pass up pop culture punch line. He's been explained by Adrian Chen in a fantastic recent Gawker guide for old people: "Come, elderly reader. Learn." He's been the subject of a Facebook campaign to get more fans for an onion ring than the baby-faced star.  He's been depicted as a violent, song-stealing weed head in a Funny or Die parody that had "Parks and Recreation's" Aziz Ansari declaring "war" on him.  He dominates on Twitter, where he is a trending topic more powerful than even #syphilis itself. So great is his tweet power, in fact, that Conan O'Brien has declared him his "Twitter nemesis," darkly noting that "As Bieber sleeps, I grow stronger. Sleep, Bieber. Sleep." And for perhaps the ultimate sign that it's Bieber's world and we just live in it, look no further than the Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber blog, a gallery of Sapphic devotion to the idol and his distinctive, wind-blown do. 

Thanks to a rare blend of genuine talent, a hint of swagger, and the wide-eyed cuteness of a baby seal, Bieber is currently enjoying the adoration of a generation of tweens and the good-humored appreciation of aging hipsters throughout the whole wide Bieberverse. In time, he may settle into the respectable adult stardom of his fellow Justin -- Mr. Timberlake. Or he may wind up as a mug shot on the Smoking Gun. But if there's one thing about Justin Bieber's future that's certain it's only this: Someday we are all going to look back on that hairstyle and laugh.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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