This past week has been kind of terrible. Monday, the horrific Boston marathon bombings. Tuesday, the six-year anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre. And, if you’re going by online outrage, equally bad is the comment Justin Bieber wrote in the guest book of Anne Frank House last Friday: “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”
My gut reaction to that statement fell in line with the rest of the internet. What a disrespectful thing to say! What a perfect example of self-absorbed teenage behavior! What an annoying little **** that kid is!
Then I started to reflect on the whole thing. I am by no means a Justin Bieber fan, and I don’t feel that being a Jewish girl gives me some kind of special insight to Anne Frank. But there is something paradoxical about the whole thing, this scandal of a stupid teenage boy versus an intellectual teenage girl. Think of the stereotype of the average teen girl – obsessed with dating, high school status, clothes/makeup/shoes, her favorite bands or singers, despising her oppressive parents and various annoying siblings, occasionally thinking of college and the future, and mostly just wanting to have fun. Dare I say we have put Anne on a pedestal?
Yes, her life in hiding and death merely weeks before liberation were absolutely a tragedy, one that has us still grieving for her almost seventy years later. But I think this image the general public has of her is contrived by people who haven’t even read her diary. The girl was a self-confessed chatterbox! Had Anne and her family survived, maybe immigrated to America, is that much of a stretch to imagine she might have been a fan of, say, Frank Sinatra? Thrilled by a pair of blue eyes instead of a swept-aside haircut? Consider Zlata Filipović, who kept a diary through the Bosnian war (1992-1995) and has been called the Anne Frank of Sarajevo. She’s 32 now, and has a twitter feed. It has less Instagram and more activism than the average feed, but there’s some hidden whimsy: “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were? (stole this off Facebook, quote by Satchel Paige).” Frankly (pun intended), I think Anne would have loved YouTube, vlogging, and being able to chat with the world.
Justin Bieber’s insensitive comments show more narcissism than sympathy, but the idea he accidentally hit on of wishing Anne Frank had been given the opportunity to be a silly teenage girl is one to keep.