warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Celebrities On Drugs: What’s The Big Deal?

Kathy Zerbib |
January 7, 2013 | 2:44 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Justin Bieber’s photos of his marijuana usage are a great contrast to this earlier shot of him from 2009, when the singer was still in the earlier phases of his career (BiebersPartyUSA/Creative Commons).
Justin Bieber’s photos of his marijuana usage are a great contrast to this earlier shot of him from 2009, when the singer was still in the earlier phases of his career (BiebersPartyUSA/Creative Commons).

The media has a chronic habit of inflating juicy celebrity scandals, particularly when it comes to stars and their drug usage. Justin Bieber’s recently leaked marijuana pictures, as broadcasted by TMZ, are the latest to fall into the media’s spotlight and reopen the topic of celebrities as role models. But are the tabloids merely exhausting whatever material they come across, or should celebrities be held responsible for setting a bad example for their underage fans?

Before this topic incites a deadly “Who cares?” response, let’s analyze who exactly should care that household names like Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus (remember that salvia incident?), and Kristen Stewart (the self-proclaimed “Valley Girl who smokes pot”) have all been subjects of tabloid fodder for their drug use. These stars have careers that are targeted towards the younger, impressionable population. Their fan base is particularly concentrated among young adults, preteens, and sometimes even younger ages.

Bieber's photos even sparked what appears to be a Twitter hoax, with internet users posing as Bieber fans and encouraging #cuttingforbieber - self-mutilation to express outrage and protest Bieber's drug use. This kind of reaction could have serious consequences for real, impressionable Bieber enthusiasts.

The kids who idolize these celebrities see their heroes’ behavior and want to copy and react to what they have seen. The parents of these young fans are who should care that these big names are tainting their own images. This topic is relevant primarily because it has the potential to impact so many young minds, and pictures like the ones leaked of Bieber should have a large negative response from the public and the media. Thankfully, Miley Cyrus has stated she is apologetic for her behavior. Yet one cannot help but wonder if she and her fellow celebrities would still be sorry if the media had not ripped them apart with disgrace for what they had done.

While the media proceeds to toss around the issue of celebrities and drugs for scandal purposes, we the public need to understand the reality of the issue and crack down on the big names that forget their image for superficial pleasures.

Yes, Bieber is a teenage boy and likely to make bad decisions. Yes, a number of young men his age smoke marijuana on a regular basis. However, these other young men do not have millions of young fans following daily updates on them. These other young men do not have a fan base that look up to them and idolize their every move. Justin Bieber does.

He can no longer be considered an average, every day guy whose bad behaviors are shrugged off. He has made the conscientious decision to pursue a life in the spotlight, thus adopting responsibility for his actions. Whether he wants to be or not, he and other celebrities like him are automatic role models for the public. He should know better.

His actions do beg the question: what if his new smoking habit is another attempt to progress his image from wholesome and youthful to rebellious and grown? This was certainly the case with Cyrus’ skimpier wardrobe choices and her adoption of a more provocative, mature attitude. Bieber has already lost the boyish haircut and traded his preppy style for a more clean cut look, so is it far off to argue that a little weed showcasing could be a means of aging his image?

The singer is no longer the baby face from Youtube; he is now a smoldering 18-year-old with a bad boy persona. Perhaps this stunt is to confirm his transition. Either way, with how many people follow him and continue to view him as a good guy, he should regret tarnishing his clean image. 

Reach Staff Reporter Kathy Zerbib here; Follow her on Twitter here.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.