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The Scarlet & Black

‘Never Say Never’ as inspirational as the cliché

By Max Calenberg 

Roughly three quarters through his first biopic, Justin Bieber tells a sold-out audience to “Never Say Never.” This cliché, is also the name of one of his songs, his movie and his self-professed motto. The moment is supposed to be triumphant, the movie-goer’s realization that Bieber has achieved his multi-platinum arena packing status through struggle countered with hard work. However, by this point in the film we’ve already seen his entire rise, and we know that the most hardship he endured was spending a summer in Atlanta with “no friends” though he did have a yo-yo—while record label logistics were finalized.

In the music world, artists in the music industry range from major label moneymakers to songwriters working jobs they hate during the week just to keep playing every open mic they can make it to. At no point during “Never Say Never” does Bieber set himself apart from the former.

During the film, Justin sings as much as he speaks, most likely a choice by director John Chu, of Step Up 2 and 3D fame. This editing choice prevents any sort of personality from developing beyond what one could glean from watching his “Baby” music video. He’s young, good looking and thinks you’re a special girl. Oh, and you should buy a CD, ringtone and t-shirt with his face on it.

Instead, we get testimonials from family members, his manager, voice coach, tour crew and other celebrities about how special and unique this 16-year-old is. “This just doesn’t happen,” remarks record producer L.A. Reid regarding Bieber’s sudden rise to fame and ability to sell-out Madison Square Garden. Reid’s experience with artists such as Rihanna, Mariah Carey, Usher TLC, Ciara and Pink have given him plenty of first hand evidence that this does happens a lot, making his observation pure propaganda. Especially considering his target demographic—adolescent girls—consists of those most likely to purchase music, considering their lack of illegal downloading capacity—“uhm, like doubleyew tee eff is a torrent?”

When we do see Bieber offstage he, unsurprisingly, reveals how spoiled he is as he rides a Segway everywhere back stage, tries to drive a fork-lift and promises to clean his room, only to dart out with his friends, whom he expects exist solely to amuse him. In fact, it becomes apparent that Bieber lives in a toy shop world. He playfully slaps, splashes and shoots with a squirt gun at the numerous father figures—a manager, a stylist, a security guard—whom the label has assigned to raise him as much as fulfill their official duties.

Clearly the label doesn’t find Bieber capable of standing separately, or even slightly aside from, the teen heartthrob image they’ve propagated for him. It is evident this movie a blatant attempt to further profit from that image while simply offering more of the same content in a different package to fans eager for anything more Bieber.

The worst part is, I actually am curious about the person behind the pop singles, lesbian jokes and bangs. Bieber has shown an ability to charm talk show audiences with darling juvenile responses, although in a more candid Rolling Stone interview, Bieber showed how naïve he really is when asked about abortion. I really don’t believe in abortion,” Bieber said. Only to display his true uncertainty, he asked, “It’s like killing a baby?” When asked a follow-up question about the morality of the operation in cases of rape was posed, Bieber revealed himself as a young man who is still coming into his true beliefs. “Um. Well, I think that’s really sad, but everything happens for a reason. I guess I haven’t been in that position, so I wouldn’t be able to judge that,” he said. He also praises Canada’s universal health care system and says love, not marriage should be the determining factor in whether or not people should have sex.

This is the pop star I am curious about, the one who is actually experiencing his adolescence instead of singing generic pop love songs written by other people. Unfortunately, this movie fails to show its audience anything but a boy who realized he was cute at a very young age and has used it to his advantage since. Bieber never would have made it off YouTube without his handsome boy-next-to-you-in-class, with that just-enough-bad-boy edge, appearance.

People already enamored with the Biebster will surely enjoy this film, yet it will have a nearly impossible time winning over any people who are already familiar yet have remained so far unimpressed. It features plenty of concert footage—yet still will be re-released on March 4th with “20 pieces of music not in the current edition”—a glorified version of his rise to fame, and some footage of his juvenile hijinks. This movie is the FOX News of Biopics, embellishing Bieber’s “hard summer” in Atlanta—which in reality lasted only a week—while completely glossing over the troubling and anti-Semitic hesitation Bieber’s mother registered before signing with Scooter Braun, his manager and career catalyst. But, like FOX news, if you accept their words as fact, it becomes more enjoyable to be in his World. But how could you not want to? He’s already living in Version 2.0.

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