ALYSSA ROSENTHAL ’13
For those of you who aren’t avid Justin Bieber fans, let me give you an update on what he has been up to. Currently in the middle of a European tour, Bieber paid a visit to the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam on Friday between his concerts in Antwerp, Belgium and Arnhem, Netherlands.
At first glance this seems like a good move on Bieber’s part, as it makes him appear slightly more cultured and aware of social and historical issues. However, this façade was shattered when it was revealed what he wrote in the museum’s guest book at the end of his tour: “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”
Let’s break this down (having been to the Anne Frank house and having read her diary myself, I feel that I have the authority to do so). First, Bieber said that his visit was “truly inspiring,” and I completely agree with this sentiment. To quote my own blog post describing my visit, I called it a surreal experience and said, “I had chills the entire time I was walking through.” Visiting the house is incredibly inspiring; to see the tiny rooms in which Anne, her family, and friends lived while they were in hiding was shocking and humbling at the same time.
Next, Bieber wrote, “Anne was a great girl.” This is where he starts to go downhill. Anne Frank was not just a great girl. She was the voice of a generation. Her diary showed us the hope that existed in the hearts of the Jews being persecuted during the Holocaust. It also serves as a brief example of the brilliant, caring, and inspirational people that never had a chance to reach adulthood and leave their personal mark on the world.
Then we get to the last bit written by the 19-year-old international pop sensation: “hopefully she would have been a belieber.” Again, for the non-Bieber fans out there, (according to CNN) a “belieber,” is an adolescent or teenage girl obsessed with the Canadian singer.
Before I go into what I personally think about Bieber’s note, and what it means for the way young people relate to history, I would like to share some of the reactions CNN included in their story on Bieber’s visit to the museum: “Glad he went, but, the last sentence is VERY self serving. He missed the lessons of Anne totally.” Another comment read, “She would’ve been a WHAT? That little idiot is way too full of himself.” Similarly, another comment stated, “She’s an important historical figure so show some respect.” And my favorite, “Here I thought it was nice of him to go and see the history of her until I read what he wrote. Have some respect Mr. Bieber for she will be famous long after your fame fizzles.” I completely agree with all of these people, as I’m sure many other Americans do as well.
Bieber had the incredible opportunity to visit the Anne Frank house, which has, fortunately for us, been preserved beautifully and in such a way that visitors can really feel and understand what life was like for the eight people living there.
And maybe Bieber saw that; maybe he imagined what life was like for Anne as he walked through her tiny bedroom and saw the magazine clippings and photos she had pasted to the walls, and maybe he did feel stifled and moved as he climbed up the narrow staircase leading to the annex.
But the public will never know, and probably will not care, because what the singer chose to write in the guest book showed no intense feelings or emotional reactions, only a constant selfishness and consciousness of his personal image and fame.
I do not think it is a bad idea for young people to attempt to relate to historical figures on a personal level. In fact, I think this is a great idea if it will further their understanding of a particular historical event or phenomenon.
The best way to do this is to attempt to put yourself in the shoes of the other, to imagine how you would feel having the same experiences, and how you might react. What Bieber did appears to be the opposite; instead of trying to imagine what life was like for Anne, he took her out of her world and transplanted her into his, in which naturally he would hope that the 13-year-old Anne would fall under his spell and begin blasting “Beauty and the Beat” in her room at night.
Justin, this is not the way to understand and relate to historical figures, this is the way to show the extent of your ignorance of historical and world events that are occurring outside of the bubble that is your life.
Earlier I referred to my visit to the Anne Frank house as a humbling experience- I still strongly believe it was and is a humbling experience for most of the tens of thousands of people who visit the museum each year.
However, based on Bieber’s note, it does not seem that he felt the same way. In his defense, perhaps he did, and he just wasn’t thinking when he voiced his hopes of Anne Frank joining his loyal legion of fans. But if that was the case, Bieber did not have to include this last little musing. Without it, he would have been respectful enough and he would not have revealed his lack of world social consciousness.
But unfortunately for him he did, and being the international superstar that he is, in doing so he opened himself up for criticism from all those who wish to speak out against him. In my opinion he has decreased his chances of many potential “beliebers” seeing him as “Somebody to Love.”