Justin Bieber

Sean O'Neill/INFphoto.com

Justin Bieber looks like the latest celebrity prankster. Is he the new Ashton Kutcher?
—Me, Fairbanks, via the inbox

Let's edit your question. Justin Bieber's drive-thru pranks: Are they funny, or are they vaguely bullying torments doled out by a wee megalomaniac who needs to be sent to military school? You're welcome. I won't tell you what I think. No, I shall remain silent and let the completely unbiased wordage above allow you to decide. But if you're wondering if there's a method to Bieber's madness, don't be shocked ...

I ran my theory past Dr. Paul Dobransky, who has encountered celebrities in his extensive psychiatry practice. Ever so politely, he suggested I might be mistaken in my totally correct assessment of Justin Bieber. After all, Bieber's penchant for "coning"—ordering an ice cream via drive-thru and then grabbing it by the ice cream part—really isn't all that obnoxious. (It isn't all that funny, either, but, true, it harms no one.)

However, the other prank making the rounds involves Bieber ordering a shake at one fast food joint and then trying to return it at another. Doesn't that prank smack much more of fooling with the peasant class? It reminded me of that water balloon that Bieber lobbed at a cop last September. High-larious! Any other minor would've found himself in juvie for that one, but Bieber, being Bieber, skated.

Dobransky doesn't think that the acts are necessarily marked by narcissism, the kind of mentality where a star thinks the public needs to see every little thing he or she does.

"Isn't this catering to more of a teen audience?" he points out. "Maybe he thinks this will appeal to his cultural group, his peer group."

In fact, Dobransky suggests Bieber's pranks might be part of a larger plan, one orchestrated by Bieber himself, or, perhaps, his manager, agent or publicist.

"I'm sure he must have handlers that advise him on what to do," Dobransky notes. "Somebody knows what they are doing and managing what's going on.

"[Bieber] is probably still working on what feels right for him, what suits his identity as a public persona, testing out the waters and seeing what the audience wants."

Well, when you put it that way, it sounds an awful lot like market research, doesn't it? Maybe Bieber is eyeing a career post music—one that looks a lot like Ashton Kutcher's.

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