We all know that tweens are all astir with Bieber fever (a condition I dearly hope the American Medical Association has begun to look into), but how much of an influence does he really have on, or should I say hold over, his adoring groupies?
In a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine, the 16-year-old was asked some questions that were clearly out of his depth. In the interview, Bieber was asked for his opinion on controversial topics such as pre-marital sex, abortion, and politics. His answers, in particular to the abortion question, have raised eyebrows. When asked whether he believed in abortion, Bieber answered:
“I really don’t believe in abortion,” Bieber says. “It’s like killing a baby.” How about in cases of rape? “Um. Well, I think that’s really sad, but everything happens for a reason. I don’t know how that would be a reason. I guess I haven’t been in that position, so I wouldn’t be able to judge that.”
His less than committal answer, as least in terms of rape, has been the subject of much controversy.
(Of course, before I delve into the controversy of celebrity influence, I would like to make a quick statement on my own point of view regarding this interview. My opinion, and that of many others, is that the magazine should have refrained from even asking such questions. As a barely 16-year-old boy, expecting Bieber to have informed or introspective answers to these questions is just ridiculous. Looking at a transcript of Bieber’s answer is enough to prove his inexperience in the area, an ineptitude that is perfectly acceptable at his age. Despite growing up in the public eye, he is still only a kid, whose opinions and self have yet to completely form. I’m not pointing fingers at any certain culprit, but I also can’t put blame on Bieber for being a bit ignorant of such critical issues at his young age. Okay, right– END OF RANT).
Whether the Bieber-boppers will be influenced in any way by his less than enlightening interview is debatable– after all, what parent gives their 9-year-old a copy of Rolling Stone? However, the interview got me thinking: Youth are obviously the most easily influenced market group. Their malleable perceptions of the world are ready to be shaped; their naivety is readily taken advantage of in the world of advertising. So how influential are celebrity spokespersons and mouthpieces when it comes to affecting the youth?
About two years ago, I was talking to a nearly 14-year-old. She was telling me all about her birthday, and mentioned her most treasured gift– a promise ring. Her mother had bought her a promise ring, upon the daughter’s request. This ring symbolizes a pledge that the individual wearing it will save themselves for marriage. At the age of 14, I had never heard of such a thing. However, this girl knew about the phenomenon and had also made the very, perhaps naively, decision that she wanted to save herself. This was all well and fine, but I have to admit I was a bit surprised. Her family isn’t overly religious nor conservative. I was surprised up until the point that she explained to me: “The Jonas brothers all have them.”
Mmmmhmmmm. Now I see. While the Jonas brothers’ pledges of abstinence might not be the most detrimental of influences, I found it interesting nonetheless. This young girl was making major life decisions (albeit ones that could be changed) based on the attitudes of couple of cute teenagers in a pop band.
Of course, you can’t mention the Jonas brothers without touching upon this generation’s most notorious youth icon. That’s right, Hannah Montana herself, the hot mess that is Miley Cyrus. She is the Lindsey Lohan of this generation. Her path seems to be a destined downward spiral, with the whole world watching. At the end of January of this year, Miley Cyrus was voted Worst Celebrity Influence in an online poll– FOR THE SECOND YEAR IN A ROW. While Miley may now be a legal adult at the age of 18, she never fails to surprise the press with her antics. When she was underage, it was scandalous pictures and taunting videos, now it’s videos of the pop star taking hits of ‘Salvia’ (I put that in quotes because I still fail to see any proof that it was Salvia–how convenient that she chose the rather obscure, but legal drug over the more common, and illegal marijuana…). Having faded a bit from the Disney star spotlight, her escapades may not make nearly as large of an impact of tweens, but she is still a role model or sorts. In fact, any celebrity or person in the spotlight must understand their position as a role model, especially those whose target audiences are the young and impressionable.
So I wonder– how much influence do these celebrities actually have over the youth? How much influence to celebrities have over the public in general?
Companies and organizations are quick to use them as mouthpieces for their products or cause– be it a acne cream, third-world charity, or car commercial. My question is– have YOU ever found yourself purchasing or donating because of the celebrity representative? Has their voice and opinion ever affected you enough to influence your behavior? Of course, as a sidenote, there is no shame in admitting an action based on celebrity endorsement. Afterall, lots of people have– why do you think companies are still paying millions of dollars to hire these people?
(Personally, I can’t think of an exact example of a time I’ve been influenced to purchase/donate based on a celebrity spokesperson. I do admit to remembering products better that have been endorsed by someone– i.e. “Oh, yea, that’s the lipstick Drew Barrymore wears.” And, of course, I have to admit an ever-present desire to take a Carnival Cruise simply because of John Krasinski’s voice in the commercials– “Dude, mom just got air.”)