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Justin Bieberfans: The True Cultural Radicals

By Guest Writer: Jacob Astudillo 

I have no doubt that most of us like music we don't readily admit to like, but our dirty little secrets have a strange tendency to eventually surface. Some might shamefacedly have been caught singing "Backstreet's Back" in the bathroom, or an S Club 7 song might surprisingly have been discovered in a person's Mp3-player to the merciless mocking of his peers. Yes, I believe the majority like music we are ashamed to like. Because that kind of music is crap, and admitting we like it is tantamount to admit we like crap. And naturally we are ashamed to admit we like crap. Who wouldn't be? I'll tell you who wouldn't: Justin Bieberfans.

Walking in a park in my hometown last year, I saw a curious spectacle; the amount of teenage girls gathered to openly manifest their love for this prepubescent singer was legio. I even saw a banner which proclaimed: "The Justin Bieber Fan Club". Beside the words was an image of a smiling Bieber, condemned to perpetual infancy. By that time I had never listened to Justin Bieber and it wasn't until I did that I could appreciate the audacity of what those teenage girls had done. Admitting to like his music must certainly take a lot of courage, and the need for a support group, like AA, is evident. Anyone who in broad daylight will sing "Baby, baby, baby oh...." must need the same heroic strength of the entire Light Brigade in Tennyson's poem. 


The reason to me is obvious; because they by their own volition say they like music that is blasé and mainstream, cultural snobs(such as myself) acting as self-proclaimed arbiters of good taste, tend to look down on these people as also being blasè and mainstream. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. It is in their admission to liking crap that they openly defy society's conventions and overcome our predominant impulse to hide the fact. Not only will they admit to like Justin Bieber, but they will gather in public places, put up banners and chant his name. These people that the small clique of pseudo-intellectuals (myself included) denounce as pedestrian are really the true cultural radicals of our era of junk consumption, the rejected minority, "the other." And the people who are really mainstream and pedestrian are those who in the darkest corners of their hearts, hide what Bieberfans will chant in the park. So to all you Justin Bieberfans out there: I salute you!


  1. Does this not demonstrate precisely the contradiction in how we frame the problem of multiculturalosm today, namely, as an issue of tolerance? Here, the usual relativist impossibility of objective artistic value is inverted, precisely in order to exoticize, as he writes, "the Other." In a truepy Romantic
    gesture, the bad taste/exploitation of the cultural other is redeemed as a sacrifice that brings about the author's ideological transformation: to "overcome our dominant impulse."

    This is what I find dangerous in the now-called hipster, or ironic fashion: its primary injuction, I claim, is that you don't have to know the other in order to participate; no need to think about the context that produces cultural mechanisms, you just participate on the consumption of the commodity and you are part of the totality. This is why I see contemporary notion of tolerance as exactly its opposite: as cultural hegemony.

  2. I agree tolerance is a joke because to tolerate something, it means you hate it to begin with. So it's a self-congratulatory pat on the back to all prejudiced people thinking how wonderful and socially elevated they are just by keeping their hatred to themselves. I much prefer acceptance because it is overcoming the initial hate usually based in ignorance. I am not a fan of Justin Beiber's music but I don't mind hearing it in stores or anything and I definitely don't hate his fans. I like some questionable music and nobody has ever been hateful to me about it. We like what we like and everyone is different so there's no shame in liking something that haters deem lame. I'd rather spend my time listening to music I like as opposed to people telling me why I'm lame for listening to it.

  3. I agree up to a point: but why should we give up knowledge when it comes to art? When we encounter works of art we judge them. You disarm yourself of the right to say that your preception of art is truthful. For me, your acceptance maintains the same problematic as my term tolerance. We mystify the problem of cultural anatagonisms rather than work through them when we act as though every evaluation of beauty (aesthetic value, whatever) is equivalent. I'm not saying that the objective value we make will be positive/ negative good/bad or any of the other traditional Western dychotomies. Rather, if we ignore what is fast becoming an economically palpabel contestation between cultural values we may miss the truthfulness of art. I don't believe that appearance or preception of a text is completely a subjective contribution. Therefore, my claim is simply that we should still think the meaning of art in a logistic matter.

  4. *sorry, "logistic manner." And other stupid errors like "palpable."

  5. Well, I see some of the points, but I think it's a little much to say that tolerance means you already hate something to begin's about acknowledging the differences, not hating or liking them...but acknowledging and respecting them.

    Either way: people can label music good or bad for a variety of reasons, not always right or wrong..again just different reasons.

  6. Yes, I want to agree with you fully on this point that examining difference is the most essential problem of culture right now. My claim is that to accept differences as if they are not in contestation--i. e., that each culture can eventually exist in a private space and go on as a stable multiplicity-- is also a danger. All I want to say is that we should think through the way an ideology of accepting differences makes us frame our discussions always in a particular way.


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