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Liz Spikol

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Steampunkers, Rise Up: Justin Bieber Is Co-Opting Your Christmas

Posted: 12/12/11 03:18 PM ET

Justin Bieber has released a new Christmas video -- which would normally be a lamentable but inevitable fact of the holiday season. But he has done so in "steampunk" fashion.

If you're not familiar with steampunk, it's a sci-fi genre whose adherents have a fascination with the 19th century, and in particular, that era's mechanization and industry. A steampunk novelist might take a familiar Victorian literary scene -- the clip-clopping of horses past well-dressed ladies on a cobblestone street, say -- and upend it by making the horses robots, the ladies androids and the cobblestones a passageway to a supernatural underworld. At its best, steampunk is like Blade Runner before the advent of electricity. It can be pretty cool. But it does lend itself to shlock.

If I were to choose a celebrity to indulge in steampunkiana, it'd have to be someone over-the-top, like Lady Gaga, or someone who'd do so delicately, perhaps with a charm on a necklace, like Johnny Depp -- whose Jack Sparrow, now that I think of it, does have the smell of steampunk funk about him. The celebrity who'd be last on my list? JUSTIN BIEBER.

Let's assume you don't have three minutes and 37 seconds to waste viewing Bieber's new video. Or let's assume that you're so steampunk, you don't even watch videos (um, but you do read this website). Or let's assume you're blind, but want to be up on your JB. (If you're deaf, so much the better for you.) In that case, below is my blow-by-blow account of the Bieb's new vid.

Santa's workshop is filled with quirky Victorian machinery, and the Biebster is outfitted like a junior-varsity attendee of a steampunk con. You know, velvet; ill-fitting pants; watch parts glued to his vest. His hair is doing an Eraserhead-meets-Paul Mitchell thing that's entirely inexplicable.

He turns the large metal key on a Pygmalion-style music-box lady, and she comes to life, but he doesn't really notice because he is too busy doing fey Michael Jackson moves with a weird Iron Man-meets-9 prosthetic hand. Then there's a tall bearded breakdancing elf (oh, how I wish I were kidding) who puts a Tiny Tim midgety kid on an old wooden table only to abandon him moments later. Next there's an African-American guy with an awkward hair situation who does a few moves before we cut to a hint of an animation that segues into a really cute girl, who I think (I hope) is gay, and who vogues. Yeah, like Madonna used to do.

Throughout there are brief flashes of a strange animated elf in the sky like a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon you're hoping will crash. Then -- voila! -- we get a little Pierrot who does some tumbling, which is nice, and way better than mime, and now that I think about it, I wish this video were mime instead. The lesbigirl does a mean robot dance, Bieber "plays" the drums and he keeps jabbing at his chest as though the Santa Claus he's singing about is none other than Justin Bieber himself. Imagine that. Bieber comes down your chimney, eats your cookies and gives you a present. Swoon!

Next, he does a chatty little soft-talk that flows into more music that's definitely not in the original song:

"It's that time of year when you let all your problems go and you just shake it shake it baby, ew, doo doo doo doo"

Are the kids really shakin' it?

Dancers spin on their heads a lot, perhaps remedying some of the bad hair, I don't know. Dumb hats abound. They knock over boxes, vogue some more, and dance together on conveyer belts, which I first thought were treadmills but then I realized I just need to get to the gym.

Justin Bieber's facial expressions are EXTREME, especially when he says, "He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake..." -- it's like he's go abdominal cramps, maybe because he's realizing how creepy those lyrics sound, especially these days. Then, he gets so overcome with emotion, he opens his jacket, pulls it away from his body and stretches his neck back, all the while grimacing in an almost-seizure. It's really quite frightening.

Then, what's that? The tall elf is now dancing but he looks like a skinny Santa so I'm confused. Oh, and the animated elf outtakes are from a movie, I guess, though it seems like they never really decided to do a proper product tie-in, so it's almost as though you might be imagining the animated parts. Wait, maybe I should be watching this stoned? It would probably be so much better.

My favorite part is the little kid with dimples dressed like Tiny Tim or Oliver or Pip or some other Dickens character who's all smiley and dancey -- I'm completely sure it's what Mario Lopez looked like as a child. Adorable!

The end has Bieber throwing "his" drumsticks at the viewer and making a wry face, as if to say, "Isn't this all so ridiculous?" Dude, yes, it is. What were you thinking?

Steampunkers, rise up in righteous anger about this video. Bieber hath made your house of worship a den of ick.

 

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