Bieber Fever


Bieber at the premiere of his 3D movie, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.

On March 10th, 2011, thousands of girls gathered outside a Liverpool hotel, all there to see Justin Bieber, a teen celebrity who got his start singing R&B songs on Youtube. The near-riot situation required fifty police officers to close down the road, while an ambulance service dispatched its Hazardous Area Response Team. Two girls were even rushed to the hospital after fainting from excitement.

Bieber is a seemingly new breed of celebrity. Instead of going out and getting an agent, an agent came to him. His success seemed almost overnight to the majority of America. However, he already had a huge following of pre-teen girls watching his videos. Bieber’s fans feel like they discovered him; they feel a personal connection to him. Because of this, they can be extremely possessive, which has led to death threats via Twitter towards his Disney Channel star girlfriend, Selena Gomez. While this behavior is headline grabbing, it is not new to contemporary culture. In fact, the hotel Bieber stay in Hard Day Night Hotel in the McCartney suite had direct and intentional references to Beatlemania of the sixties. These young girls’ infatuation, dubbed Bieber Fever, with a celebrity may be shocking, but at what point does it become harmful?


Bieber isn’t the first celebrity to attract hundreds of screaming females. The most famous occurrence would have to be Beatlemania of the sixties. Beatlemania became common in the United States after the Beatle performed on the Ed Sullivan Show. Ed Sullivan initially became interested in the Beatles when he encountered the pandemonium that came with a flock of fans gathered to see the band arriving into Heathrow Airport, London, where Sullivan was flying out of to New York.

That of course wasn’t the only occurrence of Beatlemania. On October 13th, 1963, the band was swarmed by a mob of girls after a concert at the London Palladium. BY November, chaos broke out between teenaged girls and police officers over tickets to one of their concerts; the commotion lasted four hours, leave nine hospitalized. The Beatles weren’t even the first rock stars to encounter enormous amounts of female fans. Before John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Star, Elvis Presley drew huge crowds of screaming girls in the fifties.
Beatles fans during the height of Beatlemania.

Of course, there also cases of fans going overboard, and becoming dangerous. This is true about John W. Hinckley, Jr. On March 30th, 1981, Hinckley wrote a letter to Jodie Foster described his plan to assassinate President Ronald Reagan. Hinckley initially became obsessed with Foster after seeing her in the 1976 film “Taxi Driver”. He reportedly saw the movie fifteen times the summer it came out. Hinckley even enrolled in a Yale writing course, to be closer to Foster, who was enrolled there as well. That same day, Hinckley stood in from of television reporters and fired six shots at the president. The bullets hit Ronald Reagan in the chest, Press Secretary James Brady in the temple, Officer Thomas Delahanty in the neck, and Security Agent Timothy J. McCarthy in the stomach. He was arrested immediately, but didn’t go to trial until a year later. On June 21, 1982, John W. Hinckley, Jr. was found not guilty on account of insanity.


So, what makes Justin Bieber’s fans, nicknamed Beliebers, different from those of the Beatles and Elvis? For one, fans of the Beatles and Elvis Presley didn’t have the internet. Social networking sites offer fans constant connection to Bieber, with pictures, videos, even personal messages to them via Twitter. Bieber has over 1.4 million subscribers on Youtube, over 15.4 million followers on Twitter, and over 38 million likes on Facebook.

Another thing the Beatles and Elvis didn’t have was Bieber’s amazing marketing team. Shortly after the release of his first album, My World, in November 2009, the star released his second album, My World 2.0. Since then, he’s released four more albums, an acoustic album, a remix album, a soundtrack for hit 3D movie, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, and a Christmas album. On top of his music, in early 2011, Bieber released a 3D movie that included home movies and documented his first headlining tour, ending at Madison Square Garden; the movie gross over 30 million dollars during its opening weekend. Bieber’s merchandise is sold at stores like Hot Topic and Claire’s, and he launched a lined of nail polishes for Sephora. Bieber also launched his own perfume, called Someday. Bieber’s key to success is that he simply knows his audience, or at least his team does.

Why is it that celebrities seem so glamorous to the rest of the world? Carlin Flora of Psychology Today writes, “It's easy to blame the media for this cognitive whiplash. But the real celebrity spinmeister is our own mind, which tricks us into believing the stars are our lovers and our social intimates. Celebrity culture plays to all of our innate tendencies.”


Bieber fans at the riot in Liverpool.

Because of the Internet, and not to mention the mass amount of celebrities in the news, it is much easier
for young people to become obsessed with someone they have never even met before. Is this frustrating for parents? Yes. Is it harmful? Not necessarily. A Hollywood crush or getting a little too excited about the release is of Justin Bieber’s new CD is completely harmless. That is, until it becomes dangerous to their life and the lives of those around them.

Murray Forman, a communication studies professor at Northeastern University has the right idea, “As young kids we still have idealistic dreams of our maybe someday rising into a celebrity position ourselves without fully understanding what that means. I want to be rich, I want to be on the cover of magazines, I want to be a star. And that seems possible when you’re say, 10. But as you get older you realize that is not realistic, or maybe you see a little bit of it and you realize it’s not something that you really would want to aspire to. So our fascination with celebrity culture dissipates. As we become adults, we understand the media better and we identify less with it.” (Ryerson in the Moment) A child’s infatuation with celebrities will fade in time, and other things, like family, friends, and work will eventually take priority.

Bieber's most popular video on Youtube currently has over 37 million views.

Bieber performing his hit song, Baby, and showing off his drumming skills during the iTV special
"This Is Justin Bieber".


The New York Times:

The Telegraph:


Psychology Today: