A couple approaches Amy Winehouse in Saint Lucia asking for a photo in 2009. The troubled singer is on vacation with her father, escaping the paparazzi and trying to shed her drug and alcohol addiction, yet Mitch Winehouse has a reality TV show camera crew surrounding her, catching her every move. Amy reluctantly wedges herself between them, as they apologize for asking.
“Listen, if you were that sorry, then you wouldn’t,” she says, putting her arms around them like she’s done so many times before.
In the shaky footage, which eventually ended up in the Oscar-winning 2015 documentary Amy, we hear Mitch scolding Amy for making the awkward comment to her fans. “I don’t want to be made a mug out of, dad,” she says.
Justin Bieber isn’t stopping for fans anymore.
“I feel like a zoo animal, and I want to keep my sanity,” he wrote on Instagram on Tuesday, May 10, a few hours after his trip to a Boston park turned into a trending topic. Paparazzi snapped a barefoot Bieber laying in the grass, buddying up with a squirrel and taking photos of the scenery. He was just trying to get a breath of fresh air.
Some say he’s being a baby. It’s the same reaction he got when he canceled his Purpose World Tour meet-and-greets in March, citing depression and exhaustion in his decision to not continue meeting 200-plus fans a day. Critics say fame is a burden Bieber needs to carry because he signed up for this career (which, by the way, started when he was 12). But there’s something eerie in the fact that they’re ignoring his pleas for help. They snicker and prod him with talk show jokes when he’s openly declaring, “I want to keep my sanity.”
“I want to keep my sanity.”
When Bieber stopped by Brooklyn last week for a show at the Barclays Center, the screams were just as loud as they were when he toured New York City in 2012, but Bieber wasn’t. He didn’t sing. He did what the New York Times called “something even less than lip syncing,” which fans captured on video:
He missed songs. He laid down on the stage. He said, with his voice wandering off to somewhere far, far away from the Barclays Center, “Do you guys ever feel like sleeping all day?” When it came to performing, he didn’t hide his lip-syncing, instead almost flauntng it, putting down his mic when the track was still playing. It’s safe to say that he’d rather be napping.
Throughout the many months of his Purpose era, the 22-year-old has been repenting for his teen bad boy behavior. He’s been saying “sorry” mostly every night. When you mess up as a celebrity, you must apologize tenfold (the reason why Ariana Grande is still apologizing for licking a donut nearly a year ago). The public rarely forgets.
Which is exactly why Justin Bieber needs to hide. He has to go away for a while. Maybe even close his Purpose Tour early. It’s not enough to have his fans tweeting the paparazzi, the comedians and the everyday hecklers online to leave him alone. He needs to lay low. The same people listening to him sing, “They forget that I’m human / They forget that I’m real,” are the ones asking for pictures when he’s trying to find zen in a public park. Like Winehouse said, if they really cared, they would leave him alone.
But how will he disappear? Justin can’t exactly put a paper bag on his head and declare he’s not famous anymore, a la Shia La Beouf in 2014. He can’t exactly pull a One Direction and just announce a hiatus either. Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan and Liam Payne still have paparazzi surrounding them. Earlier this year, Horan even tried dyeing his hair back to its original brown for a low-key backpacking trip to Thailand. Wearing a hat and dressing like a normal dude wasn’t enough, as Directioners around the world reported his whereabouts.
There are success stories, though, even if they don’t seem “successful” at first glance. Lindsay Lohan is one. The actress was equally, if not more, hounded than Justin Bieber in the late aughts. Her fame fueled her addictions, and people paid attention only to see if she was going to fail. While she was the butt of a joke, she was trying to figure out how she could escape and be normal. So, after a failed apology attempt with an Oprah documentary series, Lohan gave up altogether. She moved to London, and after the dust settled, the public gently let her out of its clawed grip.
Amanda Bynes also disappeared, but at one point we were cackling at her incessant tweeting and her odd breakdowns. She didn’t make as clear a declaration as Bieber—“I want to keep my sanity”—but the call for help was there. It wasn't until she got medical help and pulled away from the public altogether that people were forced to respect her space.
Britney Spears was hunted too, and at her worst—when she was mocked for driving with her child in the front seat and for shaving her head—she threw herself into darkness too, only to bob back to the surface years later. She took a break from the paparazzi life, and returned to the light as a soccer mom with a really successful Las Vegas show.
Consider this my Chris Crocker cry for Justin Bieber: LEAVE JUSTIN ALONE. But if you can’t, he’s going to have to go away for a few years—despite those who need him to keep performing to make money, despite the record labels, the Scooter Brauns, the Oprahs, the Mitch Winehouses profiting from his mishaps. Bieber needs to go away until we can control ourselves and learn to respect celebrities as humans.
He’s apologized enough. Now it’s time for us to do the same.