Many moons ago, when we lived in different cities and e-mailed random inanities to each other on a regular basis, Nick sent me a message that still brings tears of laughter in my eyes whenever I think about it: “Anne Frank just writes glorified fan fiction!” Now, my friend meant no disrespect, of course, merely confusing the name of the fifteen-year-old Holocaust victim with that of Anne Rice, the vampire novelist who hates editors, but I was reminded of the incident this week when nineteen-year-old pop sensation Justin Bieber visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and wrote the following in the guest book: “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”
Not since Tom Green got his first starring role in Freddy Got Fingered (2001) have Canadians been as embarrassed of one of their entertainment exports. I suspect somewhere on the set of The Voice, Usher is also hiding his face firmly into his palms. However, is it possible we’re all overreacting just a bit? Consider this statement by the museum: “We think it is very positive that he took the time and effort to visit our museum. He was very interested in the story of Anne Frank and stayed for over an hour. We hope that his visit will inspire his fans to learn more about her life and hopefully read the diary.” If even the curators of the Anne Frank House can see the positive in this, why can’t we?
I can already hear Captain Straw Man’s indignant retort, “Because Anne Frank had better taste than to listen to Bieber’s crap! That’s why!” Really? How can you be so sure? Did you know her personally? I understand people disapproving of the way the young pop star appropriated Frank’s musical proclivities. It comes across a tad disrespectful to say the least. However, aren’t his more vitriolic detractors doing the exact same thing by claiming that they know to which radio hits the young woman would have bopped her head, had a time machine brought her seventy years forward?
In fact, the young soul commemorated at the Anne Frank House was very much in tune with the pop culture of her day, cutting out celebrity photos from magazines and hanging them on her walls. Given her age when she started writing her diary, it’s entirely conceivable the girl might have listened to Bieber’s overly produced tracks if she’d lived in our times. That’s the point by the way. Anne Frank wasn’t a sacred deity or great critic of the arts. She was a normal teenager whose bright, vibrant flame got extinguished far too soon by the horrors of the Holocaust. For this reason alone, her memory serves as a symbol of the precious humanity for which we should always stand on guard.
This, I suppose, leads us to my next point: did Justin Bieber try to take advantage of Anne Frank’s legacy by linking her to his legion of Beliebers, or did he simply mean to sensitise his prepubescent fans to her historical plight by pointing out that she was just like them? Lest we forget, in the age of social media and instant gossip, when international stars write in a guest book or on their Facebook page, they don’t just address a handful of acquaintances but the entire… Oh, screw it. The boy’s a self-involved twit.