Justin Bieber Should Watch This Weird, Sad 1989 Corey Haim Video Diary

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Jan. 23 2014 1:56 PM

Me, Myself, and Biebs

Corey Haim’s legendary 1989 video diary, Justin Bieber, and the warping heat of teen fame.

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Me, Myself, and I offers its hero in a series of fun, Instagram-video-worthy tableaus: playing baseball and hockey, lounging by the pool, driving a sports car, noodling on keyboards, and modeling clothes, all before climactically delivering the fuzzy anti-drug, pro-positivity message that is the diary’s ostensible purpose: “Be smart. Don’t get messed up. Stay in school. Be anybody you want to be. Thanks.” It’s hypnotic in its empty-headed positivity, an exercise in teenybopper mythologizing that accidentally doubles as a deeply sad deconstruction of fame at its dizziest and most ephemeral.

The video feels like the missing link between the image-and-celebrity-obsessed experimental films of Andy Warhol, The Real World (which wouldn’t debut until years after Haim’s video), and the kind of v-logs and homemade videos found on YouTube, where Bieber first made his name as an adorable kid singing R&B covers as a preteen in 2007 and where he now rules as one of the most popular artists on the site, and by extension in the world. YouTube is also, appropriately, the final resting place of Me, Myself, and I (not surprisingly, it has not been released on DVD and is very hard to track down on VHS). It is on YouTube that Haim and Bieber, those weirdly aligned, deeply troubled Canadian man-children, are finally united.

Bieber currently finds himself at a personal and professional crossroads similar to the one Haim faced when he made Me, Myself, and I. On Christmas Eve Bieber sent out a tweet announcing his “retirement,” seemingly a passive-aggressive response to the media’s obsession with him. Like Me, Myself, and I, the tweet was an attempt to control a media narrative a teen star feels has spiraled out of control; also like the video, the result was like pouring gas on a flame. Bieber, like Haim in his adolescent prime, is clearly under an inhuman amount of stress, and is coping with it as poorly as most teenagers would.

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I very much hope that Bieber is able to avoid the fate of countless doomed child stars like Corey Haim. I hope he makes it through this seeming turning point in his life and career with a new sense of maturity, that he’s able to take a step back and attain a sense of perspective on what has happened to him and what it means for his future. I imagine that a year or two away from the warping heat of the spotlight could do wonders for Bieber’s mental health and career longevity. It’s doubtful he could ever sink as low as Haim did—for one thing, he hasn’t suffered the horrific abuse that, according to Coreyography, Haim did—but the next few years could very well determine whether Bieber will evolve into an important and respected adult artist, or flamboyantly self-destruct like so many before him. Will he follow in the footsteps of the Justin Timberlakes of the world, or the Lindsey Lohans?

It’s hard to watch Me, Myself, and I and not feel both tremendous sympathy for the sweet, troubled kid at its center and guilty amusement over its inveterate ridiculousness. In the most poignant and troublingly, unintentionally comic moment in the video, Haim guilelessly enthuses, “I think maybe 10 years from now, I’m hopefully going to be, in like, Tahiti or something. Kicking back like in my huge mansion … just watching like the dolphins, and the porpoises and the sharks and the little sea horses.” In fact, 10 years later he’d be in and out of rehab, and a little more than 20 years later he’d be dead. With Me, Myself, and I, a desperate Haim tried to grab the controls of his career, but things were spiraling out of control too quickly. He looms as the ghost in the social media machine not just for Bieber but for all teen idols, a cautionary warning of what happens when a troubled young man is fatally unable to disconnect himself from the star-making machine.

Nathan Rabin is a writer at the Dissolve and the author of You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me.