The XX Factor

Hair-Raising Priorities

If any more proof was needed that our celebrity-obsessed culture has run amok we need only look to the latest example. Someone with seriously misplaced priorities paid more than $40,000 on eBay yesterday for a lock of Justin Bieber’s hair.

NPR reports that Bieber donated clippings of his newly shorn locks to talk-show host and animal-lover Ellen DeGeneres, who put the clippings up for sale on eBay. The money raised will go The Gentle Barn, an animal rescue charity that says on its Web site that every animal in their care “has been rescued from horrible abuse, neglect, and loneliness, and yet they have all survived using forgiveness, trust, love, and courage.” (I didn’t know animals were in the business of forgiving their abusers.)

That the money will go to a charity that probably already gets lots of love and support from animal-loving celebrities does not diminish the absurdity of someone paying for a 17-year-old boy’s hair. And I say this as a dog owner. When I consider the state of the U.S. economy, the millions of people who have lost their jobs, the struggling families that are skipping meals and increasingly relying on food stamps, I can think of 40,000 ways that the money could have been better spent. The buyer would have made a more symbolic statement by donating the money directly to a charity.

While it’s true that people have the right to spend their money however they want, it’s also true that when they do so ostentatiously those of us watching in the bleachers also have the right to judge them as a result. These kinds of stunts only perpetuate the thinking among teenagers that celebrity is the be-all and end-all.

Photograph of Justin Bieber by Craig Barritt/Getty Images.