Justin Bieber Is the Perfect Drag Racer

According to science.
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Justin Bieber. (Photo: Public Domain)

Justin Bieber. (Photo: Public Domain)

Around 4 a.m. this morning, the 19-year-old pop sensation Justin Bieber sped his rented yellow Lamborghini up to roughly 60 m.p.h. on a quiet palm tree-lined residential street in Miami Beach. He was reportedly racing R&B lyricist Khalil Amir Sharieff, who was manning the wheel of a red Ferrari. Black SUVs trailed behind the cars, blocking off the street to northbound traffic.

When an officer from the Miami Beach police department pulled him over, Bieber immediately demanded to know why he had been stopped, according to a police report obtained by Gawker.

As the officer began to explain the illegality of drag racing at twice the speed limit, he noticed "an odor of alcohol [emanating] from the drivers [sic] breath" and zeroed in on Bieber's "bloodshot eyes." The report continues: "The driver had slow deliberate movements and a [stupor] look on his face. These are all indicators of an impaired driver."

"Street racing was an embodiment of a masculine desire to control, to admire, to caress, to own, to challenge, to remodel, and to use in a fight against other men in a race."

But when the officer kindly asked the young star to exit his luxurious ride, Bieber went ballistic. "Why the fuck are you doing this?" he asked. As Bieber stepped out and fiddled with his pants pockets, the officer asked him to submit to a search by placing his hands on the vehicle. "What the fuck did I do, why did you stop me?" he snapped. Bieber finally obliged the lawman's requests, but soon after, disobeyed and turned around to continue his verbal combat: "I aint [sic] got no fucking weapons, why do you to have to search me, what the fuck is this about?" In so many words, the officer instructed Bieber that if he kept behaving as a recalcitrant pop star is wont to do, he'd be arrested. Again, Bieber pulled his hands off the car, and he was finally cuffed. He resisted, tugging his right arm away, and then veered into more hysterics: "What the fuck are you doing?"

After failing a field sobriety test (Bieber admitted to being under the influence of marijuana, prescription drugs, and beer), he was booked on charges of resisting arrest without violence, driving under the influence, and operating a motor vehicle with an expired (Georgia) driver's license. (According to the Miami Herald, he later blew a 0.014, which is just shy of the blood alcohol limit for minors.) He was released on bail earlier today.

Though Bieber's debauched arrest may come as a surprise to some, his street racing shouldn't shock anyone following the very limited body of research on the topic. Though the phenomenon has evidently been understudied, a few factors in the drag racing literature seem to make Bieber an excellent candidate for entrance into the incredibly dumb underworld of illegally maneuvering cars at high speeds on city streets.

For one, his youth and his gender. As a male born in 1994, the 19-year-old is in the ideal demographic bracket for street-racing madness. A 2004 study in Injury Prevention points out that street racers who die in crashes are "more likely" to be male teens. This is confirmed by an article that appeared in the 1995 edition of the Australian criminology journal Current Issues in Criminal Justice. It argued that the typical street racer is between 16 and 25. Perfect.

That article adds another wrinkle to the Bieber-as-street-racer theory. "They share many of the features of youth gangs, in their social exclusivity and territoriality," the author writes. Certainly, when you have SUVs tailing you just to make space for your track, you've got exclusivity nailed.

Unlike other criminals and thugs, street racers also happen not to be at the lowest rings of the economy, either. They're often middle-class and employed full-time, like the Biebs. As the article in Current Issues in Criminal Justice explains:

A purely functionalist explanation for this is that building cars for street racing is an expensive enterprise. Those with whom I spoke had spent between $10 000 and $25 000 on their cars. In addition, most incur significant fines for traffic offences and defect notices. One estimated that he had paid "about $5000" to the police over four years of racing, describing himself as "one of the luckier ones".

Hence, although the racers recognise that their nocturnal activities are illegal, this does not result in a general alienation from mainstream society. It seems that most street racers have not abandoned many of society's traditional goals, or the conventional means of attaining these goals.

Bieber is obviously not just in the middle class like the racers the author is describing, but making money on a full-time basis is one thing the Biebs has perfected.

Severalstudiesreveal other facts that match Bieber's profile. Street racing is associated with "other risky behaviors, substance abuse, and delinquent activities." One 2011 survey of Ontario high school students found that "students who reported property and drug delinquencies ... had significantly higher adjusted odds of street racing."

As far as delinquency goes, Bieber has a great track record. According to the Associated Press:

Bieber has been accused of wrongdoing in California, but has never been arrested or charged. He is currently under investigation in a felony vandalism case after a neighbor reported the pop star threw eggs at his house and caused thousands of dollars of damage.

A neighbor had previously accused Bieber of spitting in his face, and a paparazzo called deputies after he said Bieber kicked him, but prosecutors declined to file charges in either instance. He was also accused of reckless driving in his neighborhood, but in October prosecutors refused to seek charges because it was unclear whether Bieber was driving.

Bieber has also reportedly forsaken a "pet monkey," peed into "a janitor's bucket" (my colleague Ryan O'Hanlon outlines the psychology of that act here), and destroyed hotel walls with graffiti.

Perhaps all of this makes his street racing easy to predict. But on a more theoretical note, sociologists have also found that risking your life in a car can be a "public assertion" of "masculine power." In a very eloquent passage of a 2004 ethnographic study from The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science on street racers in Helsinki, the author writes:

The car was the primary daydream of the boys: a Madonna in the kitchen and a hooker in bed. The boys caressed their cars in the garage, speaking to them and of them gently. And in public, they gave hell to their cars, driving them violently. This masculine desire and its fulfillment on the streets became a 'room of his own.' Nothing else but a fast car could be this obedient and give the right kind of satisfaction. Building on Presdee's note on enjoyment, street racing was an embodiment of a masculine desire to control, to admire, to caress, to own, to challenge, to remodel, and to use in a fight against other men in a race. The race, then, became a male joie de vivre, a sweet escape. It became a saturnalia of driving, drinking, and car erotics.

That late-night yellow Lamborghini ride and subsequent arrest may be Bieber's attempt at escape from all of his other recent drama. It could also be a last stop on his mission to destroy a narrative of boyhood purity.

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