Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Justin Bieber and Anne Frank

The Canadian heartthrob hoped that Anne Frank might have grown into a “Belieber”.

Mon, Apr 15, 2013, 17:27


Is nobody taking care of poor Justin Bieber? Couldn’t his management find somebody to lurk over his shoulder with a cricket bat in the style of Ian Faith from Spinal Tap. When you heard that the popular Canadian warbler was making a visit to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam you just knew that something was bound to go wrong. This is, remember, the young man who doesn’t seem to know what the word “German” means. Would he ask to meet Anne? Would he say something about their being faults on both sides?

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Not quite. In fact, it could have been much worse. After leaving the museum, he stopped to sign the guest book. As you are probably now aware, his insights did not bear comparison with those of Hugh Trevor-Roper. ”Truly inspiring to be able to come here,” he wrote (starting well). “Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”

It is only fair to offer Justin some small sympathy. If you live in a sealed vessel only populated by members of your own cult then it is understandable that you might come over a bit solipsistic. Young Aztec emperors had, I’m willing to bet, much the same problem. When your acolytes are prepared to slaughter any passing virgin and offer her heart to you on a tray (not really, m’lud) then you can be forgiven for thinking the planets revolve around your mop-top.

But still. He’s 19. He’s not 12. By that age, his great-grandparents’ generation were being asked to exit landing craft and engage militarily with the forces that eventually did for Anne Frank. Some confusion has gathered around what he actually meant. Can he really be so ill-informed that he thinks Frank would have been of an age to clap along to “Baby”? (She would, in fact, have been 80 when the song was released.) I take the slightly more charitable view that he sees joining the “Beliebers” as a sort of philosophical gesture. You know the sort of thing. Anybody from any era can be a Belieber: Boudica, George Eliot, Mrs Thatcher. Steady on. I said “slightly more charitable”. At any rate, the museum seems to be taking that tack. ”His comments were quite innocent,” a spokeswoman for the Anne Frank House said. “He was here for more than hour and interested in Anne Frank’s life and that for us is the most important thing.”

But there is genuinely something disturbing about this. We don’t expect our pop stars to gain PhD’s (unless they’re Brian May), but we do expect them to have some notion of when to exercise tact. After those scuffles in London and the (exaggerated) outrage concerning his tardiness at the O2, Mr Bieber does need to spend some time in seclusion. Nobody wants to be the Sarah Palin of teenage angst. A grim business.