Teen pop star/heartthrob Justin Bieber recently visited the Anne Frank House – the building where Frank hid during World War II and kept a diary, now turned into a museum – and left this bit of profundity in the guest book:
“Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”
The Internet, as it is prone to do, descended upon this story and offered its collective opinion. Many people found Bieber’s comment self-centered and insensitive, while a few defended Bieber because 15-year-old Frank probably would have been a belieber. (Well, maybe. But if Frank had survived the concentration camp and were still alive today, she’d be a little older than the typical beliebing demographic.) Then there were the young fans who had no idea who Frank was.
One commenter summed up a prevailing sentiment:
“She doesn’t need to be a fan of yours, you need to be a fan of hers.”
As museum educators, we want visitors to make personal connections with museum content. I doubt there would be an issue if Bieber had written, “I wish I could have met Anne Frank. I would have liked to be her friend.” But the statement, “Hopefully she would have been a belieber,” in his response to a museum that wants people “to reflect on the dangers of anti-Semitism, racism and discrimination and the importance of freedom, equal rights and democracy,” seems to grossly miss the point. It would be akin to me writing, “Hopefully Anne Frank would have followed my blog!”
Among the Internet condemnations and parodies, the website Funny or Die posted cringe-worthy, fictional Beiber-thoughts on 10 other historical figures. Maybe Bieber will visit the DC area and have a chance to say these things:
Justin Bieber, come visit our city anytime. Visit our museums. Just keep it classy.
April’s blog theme is Local History.