i cannot stand justin timberlake.
i’ve mentioned this casually many times, and people always come busting out with youtubed SNL skits to demonstrate his brilliance, at which point i throw up my hands and back down. because it feels entirely too complicated to attempt to explain. and frustrating as well, because i know i’m outnumbered. and also maybe way more complex than it should be. because it’s far easier to say ‘oh, i can’t stand [insert celebrity’s name here]’ than to try to unpack the reasons why.
but i’mma stick to my guns this go-round. i’mma lay it all out, not in order to trash the guy, but to try to make some sense of what he- as a celebrity- means to me.
i cannot stand justin timberlake.
you’ve been warned that this is complicated so be also warned that it may take a few weeks… this week? PREFACES!
justin timberlake may be a perfectly nice human being. a person i know has actually met him and was a part of the prayer circle at one of his shows and said he’s a totally cool dude. so, lest all the people who love JT because he’s funny on SNL come out of the woodwork with pitchforks to impale me, let me be clear: what i cannot stand may just be justin timberlake’s celebrity image. or justin timberlake’s inability to employ people who will manage his celebrity image. or it may be justin timberlake, because the two may or may not be one in the same.
clear as mud, yeah?
this is why celebrity studies is so confusing. where does the person end and the celebrity image begin? increasingly, they just don’t. sometimes there’s not just a substantial blurring but an actual fusion. which is why i can’t say with any authority that my loathing is actually related to justin timberlake himself or to his image. all i know is that it is there. and that he is at its epicenter.
i am from memphis. justin timberlake is from a small town outside of memphis. we come from the same culture. we are different, however, because had i ever gone to senses nightclub it would’ve just been me going to a sketchy club in a strip mall but when justin timberlake went to senses nightclub it gets written up in US weekly as though senses nightclub were the Place to Be. but we are from the same place.
the reason celebrity studies is of sociological importance and not just a load of bunk is that celebrities reflect our own culture back to us. they act as a mirror to society and in them, we can better see the good and bad we may choose not to see in ourselves.
the point there is that justin timberlake and i are from the same culture and, to me, his celebrity image reflects back things about that culture that i abhor. to me, his image is the celebrity equivalent of an ole miss frat boy. which is generalizing timberlake and stereotyping the entire frat population of ole miss, but it’s how he strikes me nonetheless. and, coming from a mississippi state woman who avoided the greek system altogether, that ain’t a compliment.
since this is a personal meditation, a little personal background: i believe justin timberlake is a talented musician and is unusually adept at scripted sketch comedy. but i’ve largely avoided him and his music and his films. i was not a fan of ‘n sync. i didn’t watch the VMA tribute. i’ve not seen any of his SNL skits since 2006. i did hear that song he did with madonna once while i was standing on line at h+m, but i’ve not actively sought him out. which is one of the problems of disliking someone so prominent- you can go out of your way to avoid them and still encounter them all the time.
when one of his latest songs was played at a party this summer, i couldn’t even bring myself to dance to it, much like how i avoided the movies of julia roberts for a decade because i couldn’t forgive her for her character winding up with hugh grant at the end of notting hill. (she didn’t deserve him!!!) the business with timberlake is different, but the inability to enjoy his work is similar.
lastly, in the interest of full disclosure, i did see timberlake once in memphis in a box at the orpheum for the vince vaughn show, where he sat in a chair with a flashlight shining upon him while cameron diaz knelt at his feet. it was all very evocative of this…
which, well, ugh.
in conclusion (of the prefaces), the reason i have problems with justin timberlake’s celebrity image is because- whether it’s true to life or not- justin timberlake’s celebrity image kind of royally sucks, in last year most especially.
which you maybe don’t know, so hey let’s unpack that. we can boil it down to three episodes: the wedding, the shriners, and ‘take back the night’, all of which i will explore in the coming weeks… stay tuned (and try to withhold the pitchforks until we’re done!) in the meantime, let’s end on a happy note…