In case it wasn’t already clear after he threatened to “fucking beat the fuck” out of a photographer or when he posted an illustration on Instagram implying he just had sex with a (topless) fan, Justin Bieber is now, officially, all grown up. The once precocious moppet has now officially made the transition to petulant badass after successfully completing the child-star rite of passage: getting busted for pot.
After catching a distinct whiff of the green ganja coming from Bieber’s tour bus in Sweden while it was parked in front of a hotel, Stockholm police notified a narcotics unit, which boarded the bus and discovered that Bieber and his camp were apparently harboring a small amount of marijuana. No one is being charged, since the bus was empty at the time, and no suspect could be officially identified, but that hardly curbs the tidal wave of leap-to-conclusions headlines: “Beloved North American Pop-Star Baby Now a Drug Fiend!”
Given the Biebz’s recent spate of bad behavior and even worse press, it’s understandable why news that the singer maybe-possibly-could-be-it’s-likely-but-we’re-not-really-sure into, gasp!, drugs sounds off the warning sirens of Child Star in Crisis. But it’s unfair to brand him the next Lindsay Lohan, a cherished cherub of Hollywood tempted by the devil of drugs and debauchery. At least ... not yet.
Those previous transgressions Bieber has been making headlines for—basically, acting realllll douche-y—can all too easily be chalked up to being a teenager, albeit one who lives in a suffocating bubble in which everyone is obsessed with him and his happiness, acting out. It just happens that he’s doing so in the world’s most viewed fishbowl—the global superstar stalked by paparazzi. A small amount of marijuana that may or may not be his found on his tour bus when he wasn’t on it is, really, the closest thing to a real transgression Bieber’s made thus far. It hardly means we’ve lost him to the dark side, and it certainly doesn’t mean that a world of Beliebers are going to suddenly stop beliebing.
For one, the notion that honing a bad-boy image is bad for Bieber’s career assumes that his young friends follow the obsessive TMZ coverage of his behavior, and, if they do, that they even care. But let’s look at the stars recently spotted, if not officially busted by the popo for, smoking: Shia LaBeouf, Armie Hammer, Chace Crawford, Miley Cyrus, Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lawrence, Frank Ocean. Bruno Mars was caught with a harder drug—cocaine—and it hardly caused a blip. Tweenage fans still gleefully belt out every one of his inescapable radio hits, unfazed by his drug-loving ways.
Lady Gaga once said, "I smoke a lot of pot when I write music." Justin Timberlake proudly believes that “some people are just better high.” And Kristen Stewart, star of tween Holy Grail, Twilight, confessed that she thinks smoking pot is “no big deal.”
Then there’s Rihanna. Have you ever seen her Instagram? It might as well be the website for High Times. Yet that hardly has stopped her global radio takeover. If anything, the behavior amuses and endears her to a large portion of her fan base. The rest? They pretty much just shrug. Any stigma or liability that came along with celebrities embracing marijuana has gone up in smoke.
Even Bieber’s ex, Selena Gomez, is a prime example of how, in this day and age, dirtying up a reputation doesn’t mean a star loses young fans. Gomez, as you might have read in the roughly 742 “Disney Star Grows Up!” profiles, starred in the Harmony Korine film Spring Breakers, where she donned a barely there bikini for two hours, snorted cocaine, drank out of a keg, and endorsed her friends’ armed robbery of a restaurant. Yet in the prime of her promotional onslaught for the film, she won a Kids’ Choice Award for Favorite Actress. (Kristen Stewart, proud pothead, was also a winner at the child-size kudofest.)
Young music fans have long been blissfully ignorant of not only their favorite artists’ behavior, but often of the content of the songs they're singing along to. “Sex in the air, I don't care, I like the smell of it,” they'd croon along to Rihanna's "S&M" as it played on every mainstream radio station, helping it to reach No. 1. Likewise, they played a big part of the success of songs with titles like "Sexy and I Know It" and "Ass Back Home." When they sang along to Flo Rida's "Whistle," do you think they got the innuendo?
Thousands of little girls showed up at screaming at Bieber's last concert, and they'll be there at his next one.
This is all, of course, not to say there shouldn't be a semblance of worry accompanying Bieber's alleged drug use, if he, in fact, does. That child-star narrative—the dangerous, drug-fueled downward spiral—is one we're all too familiar with. But we haven't reached that point yet with Bieber. If I should be so presumptuous, I believe I speak for Bieber when I say: everyone needs to just chill, bro.