I don't have a fully developed essay here, just some thoughts crawling around my brain.
A lot has been made about Justin Bieber losing his mind and being arrested. And his behavior should be held up for public shame and used as an object lesson in out of control celebrity.
But are any of us surprised. The entertainment industry is filled with people who never grew up. I do not mean that they have a child-like imagination and wonder like a Steven Spielberg or a Peter Jackson.
I'm talking about never growing up from being a teenager into an adult. Your teen years are an awkward and interesting time. You are discovering who you are and challenging your parent's authority. At the same time, you tend not be to ready for the real challenges of life and only rebel in ways that get you attention instead of causing radical upheaval. And too often being a teen comes with a sense of invincibility from accountability.
Lately I've had this visceral reaction that so many in the pop culture are just old teenagers.
Take Lars Von Tier. I have only seen one of his movies, Dogville, and it was awful. The following comments on him are based not on my personal viewing of his films but on my observations in general. But I remember that they did a large article about him in Entertainment Weekly, and the headline was literally "Mel Gibson's Worst Nightmare." Gibson had no context to anything Von Tier was doing, except that The Passion of the Christ was currently a runaway hit and the editors wanted to show someone who was opposed to all of that. They hyped Von Tier as edgy and provocative. But look at the titles of two of his following movies: AntiChrist and Nymphomaniac. How can you not see a teenager clamoring for attention by shocking us with his irreverence and startling sexuality! How edgy! And then he made a movie dripping with angst, even in the title Meloncholia. He drew rave reviews, but I couldn't help but shake my head at his immaturity.
Recently Sarah Silverman has been attacking pro-lifers by using an actor dressed as Jesus to espouse pro-abortion propaganda. It reminded me of someone I went to school with. We were at a rehearsal for a play we were in and, for no reason, he went up to a chalkboard and wrote "God is a fool." Of course many of us reacted with shock and derision. But he got what he wanted: attention. He could sneer at us sheep who blindly followed, while he was the iconoclast who could think for himself. Silverman is the same. She wants to get a rise out of people who love Jesus. And I'm sure she's patting herself on the back for being brave. But think about this: she picked a fight with people whose leader told us to love our enemies and do good to they that hurt you. She thinks she's edgy, but she's in actuality a bully.
Tonight, apparently, the Grammy's are going to do a massive group marriage, including "marrying" homosexuals together. Maybe I don't understand music, harmonics, rhythm, lyrics, etc, but I don't quite see what promoting homoerotic love has to do with making and selling albums. Perhaps I'm just too old and out of touch to see it. All I see are teenagers making a spectacle out of their drama, demanding our attention.
And of course there is outrage, but that is all part of the intention. How to respond?
I'm not sure. I think sputtering with indignation only plays into their hands the same way a teenager gets immense satisfaction by making a parent lose his/her temper. Ignoring it allows the pernicious behavior to fester and it encourages them to be more outrageous in order to get a reaction.
Perhaps humor and pity are the best. A bemused boredom can sometimes shut down a teenage tantrum faster than a shouting match.
I don't know that these people will ever grow up. But we can hope. Maybe one day they can discover the thing that all of us who come into adulthood while admiring movies, tv, music etc: Edge is fleeting, but art is forever.