Please Like Me: Justin Bieber And Kanye West's Different Approaches To Image Rehab

by John Flynn

This week, the Comedy Central "Roast of Justin Bieber" aired. It was an event so extravagant, it seems silly to remember it was all just to mock a 21-year-old worth $200 million for making pop music that appeals to those caught in the throes of puberty.

The jokes were a fun exercise, testing the depraved limits professional joke writers can reach.

SNL's Pete Davidson made a joke about the death of his own father during the 9/11 attacks, telling Snoop Dogg and Kevin Hart that their movie "Soul Plane" was the "worst experience of my life involving a plane." And, things went from there.

Other jokes mocked the death of Paul Walker, which incensed Ludacris. Other jokes called Selena Gomez the most unfortunate Selena in entertainment history because she dated Bieber, making her less lucky than the beloved Latin songstress, Selena, who was murdered by her fan club president.

Boundaries were pushed and lines were crossed because in the words of every comedian who has told a groaner on these programs,

"It's a roast."

This is what happens. Biebs took his savaging with dignity, delivered his pre-written jokes, gave an unnecessary apology, and would have emerged unscathed if Hannibal Burress hadn't tweeted this.

This one got cut from #BieberRoast. I get it. pic.twitter.com/mTKExQEuuM — Hannibal Buress (@hannibalburess) March 31, 2015

This was the motivation behind the roast. Seeing the most reviled pop star of our era ripped apart by professionals is cathartic. We wanted to see this uppity young man humbled.

But, when Hannibal reminded us why they were there, the whole roast became further evidence of the Canadian pop star's continued lameness.

At any rate, Bieber took his licking, and any remaining ire for him was likely expelled at this roast.

But, the show didn't do much to establish his credibility as a genuine, respectable artist. It reads as phony.

Roasts are for old dudes at the end of their careers. Biebs used it as an attempted memory wipe of him as an angelic, banged young teen and as a tattooed, out-of-control older teen. It is his version of Bangerz.

But, he replaced the old images of himself with the greasy, wispy-mustachioed young man who used a roast as a popularity ploy.

It's not the best look, and it still remains to be seen if this man has anything to offer after three years without a new album.

In other news of a celebrity attempting to curry favor with the public, Kanye West announced yeezyJet, a collaboration with EasyJet that will give customers an airline experience with luxurious customizations by Mr. West himself.

This will include "hand-woven Italian textile-clad seats," an "artisanal beverage service" and a touchdown runway concert by various G.O.O.D. music artists.

It's an April Fool's hoax, probably geared towards the eventual release of West's new album, "So Help Me God," and like the roast, it is a self-deprecating move made to make people like him.

Kanye is hated in a different way than Bieber. Whereas Biebs is easily dismissible, Kanye doesn't go away.

His public appearances involve uncomfortable political opinions, mind-shattering live performances and comparisons to treasured white icons like Steve Jobs or Andy Warhol.

Kanye isn't fan-friendly. He isn't the type to credit his career to his supporters, and he doesn't give off the down-to-earth vibe.

He acts exactly like he has produced one of the greatest discographies ever compiled by a human being. He takes himself very seriously, and tends to get very upset when he's mocked — all disrespect to Jimmy Kimmel.

The Kimmel rant came after Jimmy did a lazy bit making fun of Kanye's foray out of music into broader culture. Kanye got upset because he has struggled to get into design as much as he struggled to get into hip-hop.

Kimmel's nationally broadcasted jab at a soft spot prompted a miscalculated, online tantrum that only entrenched negative opinions of Kanye.

The two settled the beef when Kanye went on the show, but West still seemed uptight. He hadn't mastered the balance between superduperstar and normal person who can laugh at himself, like, say, Jennifer Lawrence or Chris Pratt.

But, Kanye is very serious about becoming this generation's icon. And, paradoxically, he has to take himself less seriously if he wants to get that chance because this is the type of celebrity we want right now.

When you're as visible as Kanye, you're constantly being roasted. And, we expect the people we roast to take our insults with a smile. When you fight back, it looks pathetic and accomplishes nothing.

Since Kimmel, the most visible mockery was Seth Rogen and James Franco's parody of "Bound 2."

And, Kanye took it well, especially because it accomplished the "bad on purpose" goals of the video. He's even become friends with Rogen, and apparently rapped him his new album while the two were in a limo.

This real-life celebrity fan fiction is the type of stuff we eat up. 'Ye has also patched things up with T-Swift, made a solid cameo in "Anchorman 2" and teamed up with Paul McCartney to make a tender ballad about his baby daughter.

Kanye is collecting cosigns from beloved pop culture figures like your aunt went after Beanie Babies in the 90s.

And, now, he's hit the Internet cycle by dropping a solid troll. Kanye nailed his contradiction of wanting to be universal, designing products of such excessive opulence that only the extravagantly wealthy can consider purchasing them.

The fake launch is objectively funny, and pokes fun at the very concept that inspired the Kimmel rant. This April Fool's stunt is the product of a matured Kanye who doesn't take stuff so personally.

And, if people can stop hating Kanye for being arrogant, maybe they might start entertaining the possibility of West as a young Walt Disney, which is ultimately what he wants.

Therein lies the difference between the roast and the fake jet service: Bieber used the roast to clean his image, but that show was the biggest thing he's done in years. The expiration date on Bieber's fame comes soon if he doesn't put out work.

We care about him because he makes music, not because he's a naughty teen. The roast was a means to the rather lame end of Justin Bieber wanting people to like him without having to do anything but sit, smile and read.

Kanye's trick is different. He is trying to wash away a decade of living with an utter lack of f*cks. He's tired of his success being blocked by his poor perception.

Kanye wants to make products for the whole world. In a way, that's a selfless life goal. It's like Lex Luthor committing to world peace because he wants the world to think he's a hero.

Bieber used the roast to improve his image in the easiest way possible. But, Kanye sees this April Fool's joke as part of a long-term plan to improve everyone's lives. Kanye wants us to like him so he can make us cool stuff.

It's selfish to want to be the center of a cultural movement, but somebody's gotta do it, and West is fervent he's the best man for the job.

The jet may be a joke, but Kanye isn't kidding.