Justin Bieber may be all grown-up and married now, but for those of us old enough to remember when he first shot to fame as a mere 12-year-old, those “Bieber Fever” years were kind of a trip.
Recently, people on TikTok have been taking a brief pause from overanalyzing the Justin-Hailey-Selena drama and looking back at some of Bieber’s early interviews when he was still a teen. Yet instead of bringing on warm and fuzzy feelings of nostalgia, they’ve sparked new conversations about how — and why — Bieber was so oversexualized by society at such a young age.
“POV: You’re a millennial who grew up with Justin Bieber in the same generation and realize he lost his innocence to this evil $h1t hole in exchange for ‘fame’ while being exploited left [and] right and no one protected him,” one viral TikTok reads.
A series of interview clips begins to play in the background, including one where a female radio host can be heard saying, “My parents never gave me the sex talk. Why don’t you give me the sex talk?”
“I really, I feel uncomfortable right now,” Bieber said in reply. “Why do you want to know the sex talk from a 15-year-old boy? That’s pretty weird.”
Other clips include the time Katy Perry squeezed the teen’s butt on camera when he was barely 18 and the viral moment Jenny McCarthy kissed him on stage without consent at the 2012 American Music Awards.
That same year, the Biebs had another awkward encounter during an interview with James Corden, during which Corden said, “You smell amazing. How old are you?” Later, he was slammed on Twitter for uncomfortably “hitting on” the then-16-year-old.
The clips are especially cringe to look at now — especially in a post-#MeToo world.
“This honestly made me see him in a different light,” one user wrote.
“he always loudly said he was uncomfortable or to stop and they would just laugh,” added someone else.
“imagine what happened off camera,” another person noted. “so sad for him.”
Others pointed out how we often talk about the ways in which young female actresses and singers are exploited, but the same situations are often brushed off when it comes to young men and boys.
In another viral clip, a soundbite from an old interview includes Bieber being asked if he knows how to French kiss.
In a follow-up interview, he can later be heard saying, “They were asking some really weird questions. I’m only 15 and my mom was like right there.”
Some commenters said he should have been allowed more grace in his “wild” years, considering a lot of the trauma he went through. Others applauded the way he handled things at the time, even if he never should have been asked these questions in the first place.
“Say w/e you want about Biebs now,” another TikToker said in her video. “But he didn’t deserve to be harassed, threatened and bullied by millions of people at [that] age.”
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