In Defense of Justin Bieber

It’s a tough case to make, but maybe he’s not all that terrible?

Justin Bieber got roasted alive this weekend and it wasn’t pretty. Celebrities of all stripes and levels of notoriety took turns taking pot shots at the diminutive pop star, making fun of his lavish spending, run-ins with the law, habits of urination, and altogether douchiness. And while the roasters all seemed genuinely entertaining—or so we gather from clips that have popped up on the Internet (the actual special airs March 30th)—it was Bieber himself who stole the show.

Standing in front of an audience that had just mercilessly ridiculed him, Bieber explained how perhaps expectations for his behavior over the last few years were a bit unrealistic:

“There was really no preparing me for this life. I was thrown into this at 12 years old,” Bieber said. “I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. There were moments I am proud of. And there are moments I am disappointed with myself for. But the things I have done don’t define who I am. I am kind-hearted person who loves people. And through it all, I have lost some of my best qualities. For that, I’m sorry.”

An act of contrition like this is something we haven’t really seen from Bieber, whose function in pop culture has mostly been as a punch line (even I’ve reaped the sweet traffic rewards of ridiculing him). In this well-scripted apology however, Bieber touches on something incredibly truthful and engages on a bit of shaming of those who have poked fun at him. Sure, he’s messed up – but what did we expect?

It’s unreasonable to ask someone growing up in his position to come out halfway normal. Not that we should cut him any slack, because he’s earned his wealth by making himself extremely available to such ridicule. It’s a deal he made, and that’s fine – he’s been justly rewarded (private jets, etc.). His behavior — spoiled, petulant, and at times insane — is perfectly reasonable for someone who grows up at the center of a celebrity-obsessed culture. He wants to turn a new leaf, so why not let him? If his life has just becoming an enduring saga of disgrace and redemption, maybe it’s about time for a change of plot.

So until his next descent into ass-hattery, perhaps we should just let Bieber be?

Photos by ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images