ANALYSISPOP CULTURE ANALYSIS

Is Justin Bieber turning into Corey Haim?

SlateJanuary 24, 2014 

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    Watch Corey Haim's video: Youtu.be/G-y2ACFhk-I

The blond, slight, hockey-obsessed Canadian teenager flirts outrageously with the camera, knowing full well that it is his greatest friend and professional asset.

The young man is not just handsome, he's downright pretty, with a delicate, androgynous beauty that drives the teenyboppers crazy but also, uncomfortably, makes him an object of erotic desire for adults as well. He's still several years away from being able to drink legally in his adopted country of the United States, but he looks much younger, less like a late teenager on the cusp of manhood than a boyishly handsome middle-age lesbian.

He is so popular with teenyboppers that his name has become synonymous with a subset of perpetually screaming teen, tween or preteen girls. This is a gift and a curse: It gives him a massive, loyal and devoted fan base but it also makes it difficult, if not prohibitively impossible, for him to be taken seriously.

He is a popular subject of worship and derision, lusty adulation and glib mockery. Child stardom of this nature and ferocity and intensity is not something to be experienced or enjoyed; it is something to be survived and endured, and sometimes even that is asking too much.

The young man in question is not Justin Bieber. It's the late Corey Haim.

The video is Me, Myself, and I, a notorious, 40-minute 1989 "video diary" the iconic former child star, who died in 2010 at age 38, made after one of many stints in rehab to prove to the world that he was clean, sober and ready for work. Instead, the video helped finish the job that Haim, then 17, had already started of destroying a once promising career.

In light of 19-year-old Bieber's arrest in Miami and widely publicized reports of the singer's struggles with drugs, alcohol, reckless Segway driving and all-around teen-age foolishness, it's instructive and unnerving to watch Me, Myself, and I, as the two teen heartthrobs have led weirdly simpatico lives.

Haim's proto-social-media fiasco could teach Bieber about where his fame might be heading.

Me, Myself, and I was a doomed attempt to replace an ugly truth: that Haim was, if anything, even more dependent on drugs, lonely, promiscuous and self-destructive than people imagined, if his friend Corey Feldman's recent tell-all autobiography Coreyography is to believed.

The video represents, in many ways, a prehistoric form of social media. In its tragicomic, hilariously and grotesquely misguided way, the "video diary" was an attempt to bypass the gatekeepers of culture and the vultures in the tabloid press and deliver a celebrity's message straight to his fans.

Haim's folly was a viral video before the term was ever invented. As documented in Rewind This!, it was the kind of campy pop culture ephemera that was passed from one pop culture buff to another. The tape was designed not only to make teenyboppers swoon; it was a calculated announcement to the industry that Haim was rehabilitated and available for work.

It does not seem coincidental that with the exception of the next year's Prayer of the Rollerboys, Haim would never have another lead in a widely released theatrical film. Me, Myself, and I was the worst possible calling card for him.

Title aside, Me, Myself, and I was written and co-directed by Brooke McCarter, an actor who co-starred with Haim in The Lost Boys. According to Feldman's book, McCarter was also among the many people in Haim's orbit eager to make a quick buck off him at the expense of the teen idol's imperiled dignity.

Rarely has a star appeared less clean and sober than Haim does in the video diary. His eyes often hidden behind shades, his body language jumpy and manic, Haim talks a mile a minute, rattling off long, stream-of-consciousness rants.

Take Haim's ecstatic assertion: "What does kissing really mean to me? To me if you feel, when you kiss a girl, that certain feeling of all those dolphins, like, swimming through your bloodstream, and you get those good tingles inside your stomach, I don't think there's anything better than kissing because, basically, it comes to, I guess, the word, love. I guess that's what it's all about."

The video sometimes resembles a perversely extenuated Facebook status update.

Bieber currently finds himself at a personal and professional crossroads similar to the one Haim faced when he made Me, Myself, and I. On Christmas Eve, Bieber sent out a tweet announcing his retirement, seemingly a passive-aggressive response to the media's obsession with him. Like Me, Myself, and I, the tweet was an attempt to control a media narrative a teen star feels has spiraled out of control; also like the video, the result was like pouring gas on a flame. Bieber, like Haim, is clearly under an inhuman amount of stress, and is coping with it as poorly as most teenagers would.

The next few years could determine whether Bieber will evolve into an important and respected adult artist, or flamboyantly self-destruct like Haim and so many before him.

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