Is Justin Bieber turning into Corey Haim?

NATHAN RABIN
Last updated 11:39 26/01/2014
Corey Haim

SPOOKY: Missing the similarities between Corey Haim and Justin Bieber? Just watch Me, Myself, and I.

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The blond, slight, hockey-obsessed Canadian teen-ager flirts outrageously with the camera, knowing full well that it is his greatest friend and professional asset.

The young man is not just handsome, he's downright pretty, with a delicate, androgynous beauty that drives the teenyboppers crazy but also, uncomfortably, makes him an object of erotic desire for adults as well.

He's still several years away from being able to drink legally in his adopted country of the United States, but he looks much, much younger, less like a late teen-ager on the cusp of manhood than a boyishly handsome middle-aged lesbian.

He is so popular with teenyboppers that his name has become synonymous with a subset of perpetually screaming teen, tween, or preteen girls.

This is a gift and a curse: It gives him a massive, loyal and devoted fan base but it also makes it difficult, if not prohibitively impossible, for him to be taken seriously.

He is a popular subject of worship and derision, lusty adulation and glib mockery. Child stardom of this nature and ferocity and intensity is not something to be experienced or enjoyed: It is something to be survived and endured, and sometimes even that is asking too much.

The young man in question is not Justin Bieber. It's the late Corey Haim. The video is Me, Myself, and I, a notorious, 40-minute long 1989 "video diary" the iconic former child star made following one of many stints in rehab to prove to the world that he was clean, sober and ready for work:

Instead the video helped finish the job Haim had already started of destroying a once promising career.

In light of Bieber's arrest in Miami and widely publicized reports (apocryphal, overblown and otherwise) of the singer's struggles with drugs, alcohol, reckless Segway driving, and all-around teen-age foolishness, it's both instructive and a little unnerving to watch Me, Myself, and I, as the two teen heartthrobs have led weirdly simpatico lives.

Haim's proto-social-media fiasco could teach Bieber quite a bit about where his fame might be heading, should he have the humility to do so - though, unsurprisingly, given the adulation Bieber's received for years, humility is pretty much the last trait you would ascribe to Bieber today. There was certainly none present in Me, Myself, and I.

Me, Myself, and I was a doomed attempt to replace an ugly truth - that Haim was, if anything, even more dependent on drugs, lonely, promiscuous and self-destructive than people imagined, if Corey Feldman's recent tell-all autobiography "Coreyography" is to believed - with the flimsy, transparent fiction that Haim had conquered his demons.

The video represents, in many ways, a prehistoric form of social media. In its tragicomic, hilariously and grotesquely misguided way, the "video diary" was an attempt to bypass the gatekeepers of culture and the vultures in the tabloid press and deliver a celebrity's message straight to his fans.

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Haim's folly was a viral video before the term was ever invented. As documented in the wonderful recent documentary Rewind This!, it was the kind of campy pop culture ephemera that was passed from one pop culture buff to another for the sake of mocking laughter and unintentional hilarity.

The tape was designed not only to make teenyboppers swoon; it was a calculated announcement to the industry that Haim was rehabilitated and available for work.

It does not seem entirely coincidental that with the exception of the following year's Prayer of the Rollerboys, Haim would never have another lead in a widely released theatrical film. Me, Myself, and I was the worst possible calling card for Haim.

Title aside, Me, Myself, and I was written and co-directed by Brooke McCarter, an actor who co-starred with Haim in The Lost Boys.

In that movie, McCarter played a blood-sucking vampire; according to Feldman's book, the role was appropriate, as Feldman catalogs McCarter among the many people in Haim's orbit eager to make a quick buck off him at the expense of the teen idol's perpetually imperiled dignity.

Rarely has a star appeared less clean and sober than Haim does in the video diary. His eyes often hidden behind shades, his body language jumpy and manic and overflowing with crazy energy, Haim talks a mile a minute, rattling off long, stream-of-consciousness rants that have, over time, made it into the annals of kitsch.

Take Haim's ecstatic assertion: "What does kissing really mean to me? To me if you feel, when you kiss a girl, that certain feeling of all those dolphins, like, swimming through your bloodstream, and you get those good tingles inside your stomach, I don't think there's anything better than kissing because, basically, it comes to, I guess, the word, love. I guess that's what it's all about."

The video sometimes resembles a perversely extenuated Facebook status update, the kind overflowing with emoji to convey a level of elation that cannot be conveyed through mere words alone, even words about the true essence of love resembling a intravenous invasion of microscopic sea mammals.

YouTube is, appropriately, the final resting place of Me, Myself, and I. 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.

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.

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