Justin Timberlake's arrest, statement elicited a cruel response. Why?

We need to talk about Justin Timberlake … said no one, the last few months, until he was arraigned on charges of driving while intoxicated last week. Yes, even after the release of sixth album "Everything I Thought It Was" earlier this year and the beginning of his world tour.

"We’ve been together through ups and downs, lefts and rights," Timberlake, 43, told fans in a video from his Chicago tour stop over the weekend, posted by fan accounts. "It’s been a tough week, but you’re here and I’m here, and nothing can change this moment right now."

He added: "I know sometimes I’m hard to love, but you keep on loving me and I love you right back. Thank you so much!"

We often feel for celebrities fighting excruciating, exhausting personal battles. Think Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Robert Downey Jr. "Historically in the U.S., a widely reported episode of public intoxication has served as cultural shorthand for A-listers fallen on hard times," says David Herzberg, a University of Buffalo history professor and expert on illicit substances. "There is no general rule to how the media, and the public, reacts to this kind of fall."

In Timberlake's case, he hasn't received the same benefit of the doubt for his alleged behavior, despite his innocent Mickey Mouse Club and NSYNC youth. He screwed up apologizing to ex-girlfriend Spears and Janet Jackson, fumbling a joint apology in an Instagram post a week after the release of Hulu documentary "Framing Britney Spears." Several years ago, paparazzi caught the married Timberlake holding hands with another woman, not wife Jessica Biel. And who could forget the blaccent? All of that aside, in today's technology-first world, Timberlake could've clicked a button to order an Uber and avoided the whole mess. A DUI in 2024 isn't quite the same as those that plagued the aforementioned "troubled" celebs of decades prior.

Given Timberlake's past – and perceived lack of authenticity in taking accountability for his actions – it's not shocking people aren't vouching for him, according to pop culture experts.

"In the case of someone like Justin Timberlake, where people watched him grow up and he had a fairly clean-cut image, people felt like they knew him and they were cheering him on as a person," says Amy Morin, psychotherapist, author of "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do" and the host of a podcast. "When news surfaces that reveals his private behavior isn't in line with his public persona, they're likely not going to be as forgiving."

We need to talk about Justin Timberlake ... said no one, the last few years.
We need to talk about Justin Timberlake ... said no one, the last few years.

Timeline: Justin Timberlake: What's next after his DWI arrest. Will he continue his tour?

Justin Timberlake 'doesn't apologize until he gets called out'

Timberlake's squeaky-clean image cultivated during his Mickey Mouse Club days didn't last too long following his tenure in NSYNC, and especially in a post-Me Too movement world.

"From stories Britney Spears has revealed during their relationship to the 'wardrobe malfunction' with Janet Jackson, people have gotten a slightly different view of Justin Timberlake over the years," Morin says. "The new information that has come about him has probably led to many people not having sympathy after his arrest." TikTok exploded into a frenetic field day of Timberlake videos, with more than 2.4 million posts with the hashtag #JustinTimberlake alone, many of them mocking and comedic in nature. Some were outright harsh, with videos inventing the singer's reaction, laughing at him or faking tears.

Perhaps Timberlake has, in many ways, become the face of white male privilege.

"His rise to stardom (particularly post-NSYNC) ripened from celebrity women like Britney Spears and Janet Jackson and illustrated how gender, misogyny, race and white male privilege operated in the entertainment industry," says Melvin Williams, associate professor of communication and media studies at Pace University.

People are stuck on his alleged lack of accountability. "He doesn't apologize for things until he gets called out or until he gets caught," Morin says, "which may raise suspicion about whether he's genuinely experiencing remorse."

And everyone likes experiencing a little schadenfreude, too.

"Justin could be seen – for many people – as the poster child for the privileged, pampered, insanely wealthy celebrity whose life seems full of pleasure and nothing but green lights," says Steven Fein, professor of psychology at Williams College.

'I know I’m hard to love': Justin Timberlake says it's been 'tough week' amid DWI arrest

'Some people will hate him, while others love him'

But it's not like no one showed up to his Chicago show.

"Some people will hate him, while others love him," says Maryanne Fisher, a psychology professor at St. Mary's University in Canada. "The reception to his statement during the concert in Chicago showed how his loyal fans will overlook his poor behavior, and how much they believe in him."

Though it's not difficult to see why some people are rolling their eyes at his actions, either. "He hasn't really been on the top of his game or doing stuff that most people have been actively loving recently, and so it's an easy morality play," says James C. Kaufman, professor of educational psychology at the University of Connecticut.

Still, the situation poses interesting questions. Does being a celebrity grant someone extra grace to mess up? Are they worthy of forgiveness like anyone else?

That depends on the person – and maybe the veracity of the apology. "(Timberlake's) sentiment struck me as insincere and trying to gloss over the situation," Fisher says. "While we have to remember that he still needs to appear in court and thus, guilt has not been determined, perhaps for Timberlake saying nothing would have been better."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Justin Timberlake arrested news: Why such a cruel response?