The pop star's DUI while drag racing has elevated his sophomoric antics into the realm of the truly destructive.
It's one thing to abandon a dubiously procured pet monkey. Or to urinate in a janitor's bucket. Or to tag a hotel wall. Or to hurl eggs at a neighbor's front door — or any of the other sophomoric, so-called "antics" Justin Bieber has been accused of doing of late.
It's quite another to drive — indeed, speed — drunk and high. Underage, no less.
The fact that Bieber's drag racing-and-DUI dust-up endangered not just himself but others is what shoves this latest burst of bad behavior into the domain of the truly destructive, celeb watchers say.
"This is definitely his low point," says Bonnie Fuller, editor in chief of HollywoodLife.com. "It's four huge don'ts all wrapped up in one incident."
Bieber, 19, was booked at Miami Beach police headquarters early Thursday on charges of driving under the influence, driving with an expired license and resisting arrest "without violence," according to police records. The superstar admitted to having beer, pot and prescription drugs in his system.
"I don't think you can say, 'Oh, you know, he's just 19, just doing teenage antics and if he wasn't a celebrity nobody would pay attention,' " Fuller says. "Most 19-year-old boys are obeying the law. Lots of them underage drink and party, but they don't get behind the wheel of a car. He's going beyond the normal stuff that a kid in college is going to do."
"God forbid that he should end up like James Dean," Fuller says.
Bieber's breakdown is "the same story we've seen over and over," says Jamison Monroe Jr., CEO of Newport Academy, a treatment center for teens dealing with substance abuse and mental health. "The child star gets access to power and substances and can get anything he or she wants, including a monkey on a private plane. The star thinks they're above the law. We see this with affluent kids on a daily basis, kids who think they live by their own set of rules."
And few kids are as powerful or affluent as Bieber. "He is a young man who has been lifted to the pedestal of god," says therapist Evan Katz, author of Inside the Mind of an Angry Man. "What happens to people is they know inside themselves, that's not who they are. When people have so many expectations particularly through the media and fans, they get in a place without even it knowing, unconsciously a lot of ways. They unconsciously set themselves up to fail."
And Thursday's arrest was an epic fail for Bieber. "I think it's gotten to a point of alarm," Monroe says. "We need to take a strong look at it. This is the first time he was actually behind the wheel but if you look at past red flags, this is a culmination of a self-destructive pattern we've been seeing for a while. People like him think they live by their own set of rules, and they're immune to regular rules and laws."
Indeed, the fact that the law has finally caught up with the singer could be to his benefit when it comes to attempting a turnaround.
"That can be a big wake-up call, especially to young person who's not hardened in any way," Fuller says. "He's not had a bad upbringing, he's had a good upbringing. He's had a lot of love in life. He's had direction."
"There are a lot people around him who care about him and can intervene," she adds. "He's very close to his mother and very close to his father. His management team he's close to. Will Smith has given him fatherly advice. There are a lot of people who can get through to him and prevent this from going any further."
Still, he's at a "critical point," she says. "A lot, a lot of his fans are disappointed."
If Katz were advising him, he'd try to help him strip away the deification. "I'd say, 'If you felt like a fraud, I can understand. If you felt like people were worshiping something that you're not, they probably were. You gotta let go of the pressure on yourself and allow yourself to be Justin. If people don't like it, that's their problem, but it seems like you need to let Justin to be Justin again.' "
"He's been living an unreal life," says New York psychologist Vivian Diller, who specializes in child stars. "The jury is out on where he'll land."
In the meantime, "He should get counseling and talk to people he knows very well about what's going on. He needs to step away."
Lucky for him, Bieber can afford to disappear — to, say, rehab — for a while. He's still a global superstar. "Career-wise, he had a great 2013," says Gary Bongiovanni, president and editor in chief of trade pub Pollstar. His tour last year was the world's fourth biggest, grossing $169 million, behind Pink and in front of Bruce Springsteen. Nonetheless, "the one thing about artists who appeal to a much younger demographic is that their fans tend to have a shorter attention span," Bongiovanni says. "Whether he can maintain momentum is an open question."
Of course, there's a more cynical potential motive behind the meltdown. "Maybe he's doing this in part to move into a more interesting, angst-filled stage of his career," ventures Diller. "Regardless, getting DUIs and saying things you can't take back are not the way to go."
"There's no need to do stupid things in order to demonstrate you're not squeaky-clean, or not just a pinup boy," says Rolling Stone contributing editor Anthony DeCurtis. "It's one thing to roughen up your image a little bit." It's another to face possible prison time.
Behind the smirking mug shot, "I think he is talented, and he can have a long career ahead of him," DeCurtis says — "if he doesn't destroy it."
Contributing: Donna Freydkin, Elysa Gardner, Arienne Thompson