Say no to tween idols

There is nothing wrong with celebrity.

It’s been a part of American pop culture since time immemorial. There will always be people who stand out and command attention, and there will always be droves of spectators to watch them.

We will always have a Greta Garbo or a Clark Gable, heck, even a Britney Spears or two.

But lately we’ve been surrounded by a whole lot of Justin Bieber, and that’s new.

Bieber is the latest in a lengthening succession of ‘tween idols,’ kids in their late teens and early twenties that have become central cultural figures to kids who are a lot younger.

If you hang around children a lot (in a non-creepy way), then you know as well as anyone that kids are just growing up faster than they used to. The obsessions and star-struck attitudes they develop are a lot more intense than any fascination you had with G.I. Joe or The Little Mermaid at that age.

We’re talking girls as young as seven wearing Justin Bieber T-shirts with matching Justin Bieber shoes, with Justin Bieber bracelets and Justin Bieber bags.

They hang their Justin Bieber posters by their Justin Bieber calendars, near their cardboard Justin Bieber stand-up and Justin Bieber dolls.

And please don’t forget those tight, pink, Justin Bieber panties. It can all be found at the official, highly priced, Justin Bieber store.

This is not healthy. This sort of fascination isn’t healthy for anyone, but it’s somehow accentuated when the afflicted are still leaving teeth under their pillows for the Tooth Fairy.

The problem lies not with Justin Bieber, or any of the unfortunate young teenybopper idols that plague the airwaves, the television, and the movie screen. The fault lies with the culture that exalts the idols and the industry that sells them.

It seems a lot of kids are being aggressively marketed to, by record labels and shrewd adults who realize that the youth market is in constant demand for the next big thing to want, whether it be sugary cereals or human beings to idolize.

Celebrity, a commodity that has been proven to sell with every generation and age group, is being dolled-up and softened for younger palates to great commercial success.

Bieber, 16, is the face of a multi-million dollar franchise. He’s sold over a million copies of his (first) album and topped international charts; he has an official biography and a 3D movie documentary about himself set to release in February.

Everyone’s jumping on the Bieber-bus, and business is booming.

And now this new movie, the 3D homage to the Bieber Empire, is poised to release with phenomenal box office success; a monument to the big money to be made from selling children to children.

It would be harder for labels and corporations to sell their teenybopper wares if a responsible adult or two would step in and tell their kids that they don’t have to model their lives after the people they watch on TV to be grown-up.

Celebrity and star power is natural, for any generation. It’s a part of the American culture, and it’ll be around for as long as people keep standing out and others remain fascinated. But too much of anything is just not healthy, especially for impressionable kids without perspective.