This post was originally published on Inside the News with Peter Mansbridge.
Maybe it's because I live in Stratford, Ontario, his hometown, and I feel like I should stand up for the kid, but I've got to say I was embarrassed by the Grey Cup scene last weekend. I was there in Toronto when parts of the crowd booed Justin Bieber's image as it came up on the screen promoting his upcoming half time show. And quite frankly it was sickening.
I'm all for having the right to express opinion. But really, what was that all about? Envy? That old Canadian thing about eating your own? Whatever you do, don't stick your head up above the rest? Or was it even worse than that? This may be extreme, but think about it for a moment. The people who were booing were to me, just bullying. Like those kids at school who used to target the smart and successful, last Sunday they were doing just the same - from a distance and anonymously. But it didn't end there because these weren't kids booing Bieber. These were, certainly from my vantage point, adults booing Bieber. Adult bullying. And that's brutal.
Listen the guy is a star, a huge international star. With RIM in decline in the past year, and crossborder pipelines for Alberta's oil on hold, Bieber may be the biggest export we have at the moment (okay I'm kidding on that but you get my point. I hope.)
And what's admirable about the kid whether you like his music or not, is that he did a lot of this all by himself. I know. I watched it. My wife, as some of you know, toils on the stage of the Stratford Festival. Through the early 2000's, home for her was Stratford's Avon theatre and the crowds were mostly sell outs year after year for the musicals she and her pals starred in.
Thousands walked up the stairs at the front of the Avon to buy tickets, laugh, cry and applaud. But before they got inside they had to pass a scrawny little kid, strumming on a guitar and singing with the hopes of a loonie tossed his way into the guitar case at his feet.
That was his start, humble, even for Stratford, but it worked and the rest is history.
Now he's the kid with adoring millions around the world. When I tweeted something about him from my seat on Sunday night, he retweeted me - and within minutes I had a thousand new followers. Of course most of them were 13, had never heard of me, and lived on the other side of the world, but that's beside the point. He hasn't, as yet, even with the predictions of some (usually Canadian)anti-Bieberites, imploded as other child crooners have.
In fact he and his handlers are trying hard to keep adapting his image to fit new times and new audiences. Just like he's always done. And through it all he doesn't hide his Canadian roots - he talks about Stratford on Leno, he comes home often,slipping quietly into town to visit family, play hockey with friends at the old arena, eat at a local diner and support local charities.
As much as his critics would love to say he's gone "all LA," it's only partly true. Yes, he wears fancy clothes and he's focused on capitalizing as best he can, but he's still Justin Bieber from Stratford, and he deserves, if not our love for his music, at least our respect for his success.
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Grey Cup halftime by the numbers: Bieber, Jepsen and Lightfoot
on Nov 29, 2012