How Justin Bieber's Journey From Hated to Celebrated Mirrors the "Hero's Journey" From Star Wars

Advertisement

The rise, fall and eventual return of former teen heartthrob and musician Justin Bieber fits perfectly into the classic hero's journey story arc as relayed by Joseph Campbell in his 1949 text, The Hero With a Thousand Faces. The classic storytelling method has been used since the beginning of time, exploring the separation, initiation and return of a hero as he or she moves through different worlds, facing tribulations and tests to finally achieve enlightenment and peace. Used famously in classics such as Star Wars, The Matrix, The Wizard of Oz and The Lord of the Rings, the journey ends when our hero can bring his or her gift back to the ordinary world to share with us plebeians. Enter Justin Bieber's new pop-electro-public-apology-can't-stop-dancing-anthem album, Purpose. With this album, Bieber overcame years of media scrutiny, run-ins with law enforcement, a painful and public breakup and the general terribleness of being a teenager, to eventually reaffirm the Belieber inside all of us.

Advertisement

1. Call to Adventure

Media Source

Act I: Initiation begins with the call to adventure as a crucial first step, often manifesting through a physical call by a dark forest, or by a character who is an agent for change. For instance, in Star Wars: A New Hope, we see Luke as a young man, anxious to leave his home planet of Tatooine, wishing for adventure and change. 

Much like Skywalker, Justin Bieber is a mere boy when it seems he is destined for a greatness beyond the suburbia of Stratford, Ontario in Canada. Raised by a single mother who worked several jobs to support herself and her talented son, Bieber begins to show musical promise as a small child, playing the piano, drums, guitar and trumpet. His mother, Pattie Mallette, starts posting YouTube videos for her friends and family of young Bieber performing, and they started getting views. Like, a lot of views. Back in 2007, the call to adventure is as simple as the existence of a video sharing platform that is just beginning to gain massive traction; YouTube is creating the soon-to-be star, Justin Bieber.

Advertisement

2. Refusal of the Call

Media Source

Around 2008, former So So Def marketing executive Scott "Scooter" Braun stumbles upon a YouTube video of Bieber performing at his local talent show. He tracks down the theater and eventually, Bieber's mother, Pattie Mallette. A devoutly Christian woman, Mallette is not eager to allow her son to enter the strange world of artistry and fame. In fact, it isn't until she prayed with the church elders that Mallette gives in to Braun's requests.

According to the hero's journey, if the hero is not allowed to accept his or her quest, their life will turn dull and bitter. If Justin Bieber stays in Canada as his mother requests, he will not be able to fulfill his heroic journey towards becoming a musician.

Advertisement

3. Supernatural Aid or Meeting With a Mentor

Media Source

At this point in the hero's journey, he or she typically meets with an elder, protective figure or mentor. Think Obi-Wan, a fairy godmother or Morpheus from The Matrix

Despite popular belief that Usher acted as Bieber's sole mentor, it is actually Scooter Braun who discovers the young star and convinces Justin and his mother to move to Atlanta, where Bieber will sing for Usher within the week. Bieber is subsequently signed to Raymond Braun Media Group, a joint venture between Usher and Braun, and Usher helps him get signed by Island Records in October of 2008. While both Braun and Usher are vocal about assisting Bieber's development as a musician and as a man, Braun serves as Bieber's mentor, manager and "the father figure in [his] life.

Advertisement

4. Crossing the Threshold

Media Source

With his spiritual guides to advise him, Bieber takes the initial step towards his adventure and crosses the first threshold. As Luke Skywalker flies off in the Millennium Falcon to face his destiny, Justin Bieber relocates to Atlanta in 2008 and never looks back. The hero must have courage and competence to dissipate the danger beyond the unknown.

Bieber's first single, "One Time," is released in May of 2009 and goes platinum in Canada, with his EP, My World, selling 137,000 copies in its first week. The 15 year old will never be able to return to obscurity.

Advertisement

5. The Belly of the Whale

Media Source

Referencing Jonah from the Bible, the last stage of the separation act is the belly of the whale, a dangerous transit and rebirthing step. Luke and his team get sucked into the Death Star by the tractor beam and in the case of Justin Bieber, the 2010 release of My World 2.0 allows the media to swallow up the young star in a flurry of public coverage, talk show appearances, worldwide tours, presenting at the Grammy's, hosting SNL and even helping remake "We Are the World," in 2010. My World 2.0 makes Bieber the youngest solo male act to top the U.S. Billboard 200 since Stevie Wonder in 1963. 

Bieber receives criticism as his voice changes between the release of My World EP and 2.0. The angelic boyish voice of childhood Bieber is dead, and in ushers a reborn, more mature teenage Justin Bieber. Or so it appears.

Advertisement

6. The Road of Trials

Media Source

Act II: The initiation begins with the road of trials, along which he or she will face immense obstacles and tribulations. After maintaining a tight control on his innocent persona for years, Bieber partakes in a number of run-ins with the law and angry neighbors, prompting 273,968 people to sign a petition calling for the White House to deport Bieber from the U.S.

Things are looking grim; our hero has to endure (and in Bieber's case, provoke) attacks by the paparazzi, an arrest in Miami for drag racing under the influence, crashing an ATV into a minivan and assaulting the driver, fighting Orlando Bloom in a restaurant, hotboxing an airplane, peeing in a mop bucket while talking s*** about Bill Clinton, egging a neighbor's house and leaving his pet monkey in Germany... so, just a few (mostly self-inflicted) trials. Okay, all self-inflicted trials.

During all the debauchery, Bieber releases his second album, Believe, which had a few singles, notably "Boyfriend," but fails to capture listeners, or Grammy nominations.

Advertisement

7. The Meeting With the Goddess

Media Source

In Campbell's interpretation of the hero's journey, the goddess symbolizes everything perfect in the world. Like High Elf Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings, the goddess figure is not necessarily a romantic figure, but rather a powerful female who provides unity and kinship. Representing both pleasure and pain, here enters Justin Bieber's first serious and public relationship with fellow teen star Selena Gomez.  

The two start dating in late 2010 and spend the next four years dating on and off in what can only be described as the most over-blown, high-school sweetheart train wreck to ever enrapture the media and teenage girls alike. Gomez is said to help Bieber in their "marriage-like" relationship, always supporting his career and his eventual comeback, and the two are open about writing songs that explore their tumultuous relationship.

Advertisement

8. Woman as Temptress

Media Source

But our hero isn't ready for goodness. Within the hero's journey, there is often a temptress, represented by a specific woman, but also by temptations of an earthly nature. After storming offstage in Brazil when a fan threw a plastic water bottle at him during a performance of "Boyfriend," Bieber is caught by the paparazzi leaving a brothel in Rio de Janeiro. Fans accuse him of cheating on Gomez and many of his most loyal supporters and mentors take a back seat, watching the teenage star come undone.

Advertisement

9. Atonement With the Father

Media Source

If the meeting with the goddess is the light shone on the acceptance and unification of both worlds, the meeting with the father prompts a huge turning point as our hero has to see and accept his suffering and his thoughts. Despite misbehaving and trashing his public persona, Bieber's mentor, manager and father figure, Scooter Braun, stays by his side.

Of Braun, Bieber says, "I was doing so many things that I shouldn't...The whole time, Scooter always made sure I was safe and made sure situations didn't escalate. He'd fix every situation..."

Bieber remains close off and on with Braun and his pastor Judah Smith, attending church and Bible studies occasionally.

Advertisement

10. Apotheosis

Media Source

After resisting the trials and tribulations of the temptress and reconciling with the father figure, the hero accepts their role in his or her own destiny and is able to achieve a greater level of understanding and perception. For example, when Luke Skywalker finally accepts that he would rather sacrifice himself than succumb to the dark side, he achieves transcendence.

For Justin Bieber, this apotheosis comes in his eventual return to his purpose: to make sweet, sweet music. Recording songs over the course of his 2012 to 2013 tour, Bieber starts releasing one new song every Monday for 10 weeks leading up to the release of his Believe film. In returning to music, Bieber begins to crawl out from under the rock of bad publicity and ill-advised teenage crap that threatens to derail his destiny.

Advertisement

11. The Ultimate Boon

Media Source

Finally, the ultimate boon represents the final battle towards achieving the hero's goal. In trusting destiny, Aragorn finally accepts his throne of Gondor, Dorothy finds the Wizard and Justin Bieber finds (and returns to) his ultimate purpose: to make music.

A huge departure from his sugar-coated pop of "Baby" and "Boyfriend," Bieber's third album Journals takes a raw and heartbreaking approach to growing up, surviving lost love and finding one's voice. Utilizing R&B producers and hip-hop collaborators, Journals sounds totally different, and Bieber's label is not happy with the new direction. While Journals never receives a hard copy release per the label's dissatisfaction, it sells a whopping 1,500,000 digital copies worldwide.

Fuse writes of the album, "Journals is [an] out-and-out triumph of an R&B record (or psuedo-record, or mixtape, or whatever classification you'd like to give it)...Despite all of his personal woes, there was simply no way a musician this talented was disappearing for good."

Maybe few people listen to Journals after all-but-swearing off the confectious crap Bieber has been spewing, but the one's who do, begin to feel the stirring.

Advertisement

12. Refusal of the Return

Media Source

Act III: The return begins with the refusal of the return, in which our hero does not wish to bring his fortune or knowledge back to the people. Finding frustration with his label and the small release of Journals, Bieber acts out, again, and gets arrested in South Florida for illegal drag racing under the influence. Bieber flees the country to Panama. With all the maturity that Journals seemed to afford his musical persona, Bieber resists the call back towards music, towards the real world. Bieber even threatens to retire around this time.

Spin writes, "Journals suggests that Bieber just needs to get out of his public persona's way and he might be afforded the respect he wants (or, arguably, has already earned."

Advertisement

13. The Magic Flight

Media Source

The magic flight usually consists of our hero attempting to reenter the real world, fleeing from mythological circumstances and creatures. After alleged frustrations with the handling of Bieber's Journals album, including a Bieber tweet suggesting Beliebers would be better at promoting his new album, the Universal Music division The Island Def Jam Music Group disbands in April 2014. Bieber is transferred to UMG's Def Jam Recordings and is no longer signed to Island Records. Fleeing the particular brand of teen pop that Island Records wants for the former star, Bieber is free to take his music in a more mature direction.

Advertisement

14. Rescue From Without

Media Source

Within the hero's journey, there is often supernatural assistance at this point, helping our hero to rejoin the world from the nebulous space of the return. For Justin Bieber, the rescue from without comes in the form of bass-heavy disc jockey Skrillex and electronic dance beat master Diplo.

As the story goes, Bieber's (spiritual guide) manager Scooter Braun meets with Diplo and Skrillex at a New York party and strikes up a conversation about vocalists. As it happens, Bieber has recently recorded a version of "Where Are àœ Now" with collaborator Poo Bear, and the stripped down song is sent to Skrillex and Diplo that night. After toying with it for months, the DJ pair release the song quietly online. But by the summer, "Where Are àœ Now" is topping the charts and in July 2015, the song goes platinum in the U.S.

"I'm just breaking through as being accepted by the masses and not necessarily a young generation. It opened my eyes to a whole new audience, a whole new platform," says Bieber.

Advertisement

15. The Crossing of the Return Threshold

Media Source

The crossing of the return threshold consists of our hero coming home to his ordinary world, having learned how to embrace and manage the adventure and accomplishments of his journey. Navigating this new world of old worlds is difficult, though. In 2014, Justin Bieber sells his home in Los Angeles and starts renting in Atlanta, the city where his manager Scooter Braun had brought the protege and his mother back in 2008. 

Further, Bieber apologizes on the Ellen Degeneres Show for his "arrogant" and "conceited" behavior, stating in a personal Facebook post the same day that "I'm not what I was pretending to be...Just being young and growing up in this business is hard...I really want people to know how much I care... I'm not that person to say, 'I don't give a f***, you know? I'm not that kid, I'm a person who genuinely cares."

Advertisement

16. Master of Two Worlds

Media Source

In obtaining mastery of the two worlds, the hero has found spiritual growth and now has a deeper and more profound knowledge of the depths. In November 2015, Justin Bieber releases his fourth studio album, Purpose, which debuts at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and sells 522,000 copies in the first week. With generally favorable reviews, Purpose signifies a very important return to music for Bieber, and his request of the fans and the general public to let a little Belieber back into our hearts.

Spin writes, "These songs had to be good enough to shift an entire career's narrative on their own. They did...Bieber's answered his own question: In pop music, it's never too late to say you're sorry."

Advertisement

17. Freedom to Live

Media Source

Finally able to live as he or she chooses, the hero has achieved inner and outer freedom. Luke becomes one with the force and Frodo chooses to follow Gandalf into the unknown.

Justin Bieber has proved to everyone that he is first and foremost a talented musician, and that all the other young adult bulls*** will fall into place. His hero's journey is complete. Now go listen to Purposealready.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
You May Also Like
This Is What The Amish Wear And Why
The clothes make the men and women, and the men and women make the clothes.
Apple Cider Vinegar Hacks That'll Actually Change Your Life
Apple cider vinegar is useful for losing weight, preventing disease, improving hygiene and much more. Here are the top ACV hacks.
15 People Whose Shower Curtains Will Make You LOL
Hilarious items to liven up your loo.