The Co.’s Kelsea Schnitzler provides unique perspectives on what’s happening in pop culture today, focusing on their influence and significance in a broader global context.

After numerous public figures have come forward sharing their experiences of exploitation and lack of privacy, we wonder if fans have come to expect too much from celebrities?

The man you love to hate or hate to love — Justin Bieber is back in the news yet again. Rising to fame at age 12, Bieber has been in and out of the headlines for almost half of his life and is now worth a reported $200 million. Coming off a very successful year winning a Grammy and regaining a positive reputation, the star made an Instagram post citing he will no longer be taking photos with fans. While many have labelled him an ungrateful brat up to his old antics, there’s been an acute lack of sympathy for the star’s reasoning. To grasp Bieber’s motivation is to delve into understanding the reality of his lifestyle. How much do celebrities owe us for supporting their artistic endeavours?

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Although Bieber may be in limited company regarding his massive fan base today, this is hardly the first time an artist’s fame has reached levels of borderline insanity. In the 60s, Beatlemania swept North America, leaving thousands of teenage girls crying and fainting. Years later, Michael Jackson also experienced the frenzy of fans falling at his feet, screaming at deafening levels. In the end, reaching this level of fame didn’t always bode well for these artists. Sadly noted in history, Lennon was murdered by a disillusioned fan and Jackson passed away from a drug overdose. As highly successful artists, losing their privacy and anonymity became the ultimate consequence as a public figure.

Lifted to exalted levels, artists have reached an almost “superhuman” status at times. Everyone wants to be around them but no one can relate to them. They are the person we hear on the radio but cannot see. They are the person we see in magazines but cannot hear. They are snippets of interviews and a carefully curated image created for the world’s consumption. They are portrayed as less of an actual human and more of an idea of what a human should be.

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For the most part, this isn’t a new concept. Celebrities have been placed on pedestals for years and consequently, fans have worshipped them vehemently. In recent history, the difference is in the invention of the camera phone and social media. Where there used to be human interaction, a technological transaction remains. Before smart phones, artists would socialize or sign autographs for their fans. This fostered a key human interaction where fans could get to know their idol on an intimate level.

Today, there is nothing more important than obtaining that selfie. It has become less about meeting your favourite artist and more about showing everyone else you’ve met them. As Bieber mentioned in his note, he feels like a zoo animal fearing for his sanity. Deconstructed, he is expressing that he feels dehumanized, trapped in a cage and gawked at so heavily that it’s affecting his mental health. Are we so selfishly motivated that we have accepted breaching regular privacy observances for personal gain?

Not only is Bieber treated like an animal in his regular life, but he’s also objectified day in and day out. We are far more understanding and educated about female objectification, but what about the ramifications for men? Bieber is often treated like a sex symbol or demigod, further adding to the dehumanization of the singer. As a youth growing up in front of the world, this concept has no doubt weighed heavily on the artist’s mental development and wellbeing.

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Where exactly does this entitlement to celebrity all-access stem from? An artists’ success is often measured by how much money they’ve made or how many records they’ve sold. Fans give their hard-earned money to support the artist, contributing significantly to their success. When you give, often times you expect to receive back in return. As Bieber relayed, fans receive the music. It’s a simple and obvious answer, but evidently a concept lost on his fans. Singer’s aren’t reality stars. Their careers are built upon creating and promoting their art, dissociative of themselves as a whole. Their art may contain personal information but we do not have a right to their personal lives.

It’s important to step back and think about our behaviour and contribution towards celebrity culture. In the case of Justin Bieber, the process begins with humanizing the individual and practicing sympathy. If you’re a true fan of an artist, you will respect their privacy in an expression of gratitude and reverence, basic aspects of human recognition. After all, celebrities are people too.