Upfront, The Pink Flamingo willingly admits that I know absolutely nothing about Justin Bieber. I’ve never heard him, and don’t plan to. After looking things up, it appears he’s 19 years old. I also suspect, one of these days, he will end up coming out of the closet. This has nothing to do with what I’m writing, other than when a kid is that age, and is in a situation where something rather dramatic is required on a visitor registration, please, get a life. He’s just 19. He’s a kid.I’m adding a photo here, because I have no idea what he looks like, nor what he sounds like.
This is the face behind the story. He’s a kid. He also appears to have quite a sense of empathy. From what The Pink Flamingo heard, on Monday morning, the kid was very moved by his visit to the Ann Frank House over the weekend. What he wrote in the guest book says it all.
‘Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber,'”
What he said was impressive. Not in a profound sort of way, but it was impressive. It was spoken from the heart. A 19 year old kid doesn’t quite know what to say in a situation where they must sign a guest book – and be profound. He was honest – maybe. Then again, he could be dealing with a PR disaster and just needed to do something. He’s allegedly been late for concerts, nasty the the paparazzi, and dumped a pet monkey at an airport because the monkey did not have the right papers.
“…“His comments were quite innocent,” said a museum spokeswoman. “He was here for more than hour and interested in Anne Frank’s life and that for us is the most important thing.”…”
It really doesn’t matter about intentions, but they sort of bubbled out, probably honest. “Anne was a great girl!” In those five words, a pop twerp managed to do what historians, museums, movies, books, and tens of thousands of English teachers could not do.
“...Over the years, several films about Anne Frank appeared. Her life and writings have inspired a diverse group of artists and social commentators to make reference to her in literature, popular music, television, and other media. These include The Anne Frank Ballet by Adam Darius, first performed in 1959, and the choral work Annelies, first performed in 2005. The only known footage of the real Anne Frank comes from a 1941 silent film recorded for her newlywed next-door neighbor. She is seen leaning out of a second-floor window in an attempt to better view the bride and groom. The couple, who survived the war, gave the film to the Anne Frank House.
In 1999 Time named Anne Frank among the heroes and icons of the 20th century on their list The Most Important People of the Century, stating: “With a diary kept in a secret attic, she braved the Nazis and lent a searing voice to the fight for human dignity”. Philip Roth called her the “lost little daughter” of Franz Kafka. On 9 March 2012 Der Spiegel announced that Madame Tussauds wax museum had unveiled an exhibit featuring a likeness of Anne Frank…”
What Justin Bieber did was something all of the above has never been able to truly do. He was able, in those five words, to transform a tragic 15 year old girl, who had her life cut short in horrific circumstances, into a living, breathing, teenage girl. He transformed her from one of the most heart-wrenching victims of a heart-wrenching time into a person – not a victim, but a girl, a real teenager.
Do you realize how important that is?
Now, tens of thousands of 15 year old girls who are doing book reports are going to do the same thing millions of teenage girls have done for decades. They are going to read Anne Frank’s Diary. BUT – they are going to be able to make a connection to her that my generation never could. Now, we have a historian come out and say that she was into pop culture and celebrities, just like other teenage girls. She would clip photo of celebrities, movie stars and hang them on her wall. That’s normal! This iconic figure is now a normal, living breathing teenage girl. She had photos of the young princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret, pinned on her wall. She was following the life of the future Queen of England!
What a connection!
As a historian, and a biographer, The Pink Flamingo knows the most important thing you can do for your subject is to somehow humanize them. Most biographers fail. When you reach back into time, it is difficult to turn someone who may have become cardboard, something from the beyond, into a real person.
This is a good thing.
There are some who may despair, to want to put the formality back into the story, but the genie is now out of the bottle. Anne Frank is being transformed into real teenager, with real hopes, dreams, and pop culture fantasies.
Anne Frank’s legacy will never be the same – thank goodness!
Neither, we can hope, will be the thousands of teenage girls who are actually going to read something besides Harry Potter and the Twilight Saga. They are going to be slapped right in the face with history, with reality, and with the atrocities of Nazi Germany. A few of them are actually going to decide to study history, to learn something and to expand their horizons.
We’re living in a world where, for one reason or another, the atrocities of Nazi Germany, the suffering of the concentration camps, and the horrific deaths that occurred there are being dumbed down. There are segments of our society where they would like to forget WWII ever happened. Suddenly, we have thousands of teenage girls who are going to ask what their great-grandfathers did in the War. They are going to discover history, their own family history, and take a step into the real world. If, by their learning about Anne Frank, via a teen idol, another Holocaust is prevented, then way to go!
That is a very, very good thing.