Poor Justin Bieber. I read that he was arrested, forced to wear a jump suit and photographed for a mug shot because he was drag-racing in Miami in a rented Lamborghini. Oh, and he failed a sobriety test, DUI for alcohol and drugs. And resisting arrest. And driving with an expired driver’s license.
Reading this gave me a sensation of déjà vu, as if I had read about this incident months, if not years before. All the news about Bieber lately has been bad news, run-ins with the law. All the photographs of him, even the nasty mug shot in the paper, make him look like a 13-year-old boy, but in fact he’s no longer a teenager – a boy-man, a man with a boy’s brain.
I’ve never listened to him sing a song all the way through. I clicked on some his music videos on YouTube and his voice sounded so irritating to me that I had to click off. It reminded me of Britney Spears, an entertainer from a different generation. I had to click off her videos, too, because I couldn’t distinguish her voice from the voices of her backup singers. I guess in both cases their success was about sex appeal, arousing teenagers to frenzies of mindless adoration so they transfer money to the accounts of the celebrities.
My own rock star adoration was Elvis Presley, back in the 1950s. I remember channeling quite a bit of money in his direction, too. His appeal was his sexuality also. But he had a terrific singing voice and his sexuality was an order of magnitude stronger than that of Justin Bieber. Back then, even the guys acknowledged his affect on girls and adopted sideburns, daring hair styles, turned-up collars, one-sided smiles and a Mississippi drawl to emulate him. Old men today still think of him as “The King.”
Poor Dennis Rodman. Back from North Korea, where he debased himself before that boy-man dictator, not only has he ducked in shame to the nearest rehab facility, the FBI is investigating him for violations of federal sanctions. Again, all this seems like déjà vu, reading about a fully grown man who should know better, wasting his dwindling resources on foolish nonsense, making himself look bad to the world.
Why? Is it deliberate because their shooting star is on the descending side of the arc, because bad publicity is better than no publicity at all?
I don’t think so. Like Brittney – and probably even Elvis – Justin and Dennis had a particular talent for grabbing people’s attention, and so millions and millions of dollars flowed into their bank accounts. But they had bad judgment. They didn’t get the big picture. They rarely thought of the consequences of their actions. They just impulsively did bizarre, shocking things and caused problems for themselves. Irrational things that people their age should know better than to do.
If you’ve been following this blog, you know what’s coming next. I believe the ultimate cause of adults acting like crazy teenagers is that this has become their behavior pattern. During adolescence, when the prefrontal cortex was under development, they should have been exercising critical thinking and logical judgment. But instead they were becoming big stars, making tons of money, and were indulged to do whatever they wanted to do. No one was there to coach them to think things through. So at the end of adolescence the developmental window closed, the final foundation wiring for critical thinking was minimal and patterns for impulsive, irresponsible behavior had been ingrained.
The result – a child who grew into an adult who rarely uses good judgment, a loose cannon on deck, a danger to himself and to others. It’s the kind of drama that has always been the stuff of novels, movies, and yes – the daily news.
For parents, a caution. The same thing can happen to any teenager, but without the potential for becoming a celebrity with tons of money. If their prefrontal cortex isn’t wired for critical thinking during the sensitive period of adolescence, down the road the same thing can happen. Grown men who still act like boys. Grown women who still act like girls.
The process is unseen, silent, slow, difficult to understand and has enormous, permanent consequences. But if your child is a teenager, I guarantee you that it’s happening. It’s an opportunity to construct something wonderful. Or not.