Justin Timberlake’s Biggest Haters Celebrate and Joke About His Arrest

Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartRadio
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartRadio

There are still dozens of planned stops on Justin Timberlake’s current “Forget Tomorrow World Tour.” A Long Island jail wasn’t on the list.

It’s surreal to think that the man who was once one of the biggest pop stars in the world and considered a male America’s Sweetheart just spent nine hours in a prison cell. But that was the case when, just after midnight Tuesday morning, Timberlake was arrested in the Hamptons for driving while allegedly intoxicated. “I had one martini and I followed my friends home,” the singer told the cops, according to the complaint. But apparently he failed a field sobriety test and refused a breathalyzer, and was held at the police headquarters until his arraignment and release this morning.

The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office told The Daily Beast that Timberlake will return to court on July 26. (Sorry to any fans in Krakow, Poland, who had tickets purchased for that scheduled tour date.) But the court of public opinion has already ruled on the matter—and its verdict was delivered years ago. The star, once so popular and beloved, has fallen far out of cultural favor.

The DWI arrest trails a series of controversies and career disappointments. He’s been called to account for failing to take responsibility for his part in the media’s treatment of his ex, Britney Spears—especially once Spears published in her memoir unsavory details of his behavior during their relationship and after the breakup. His role in the notorious Super Bowl “Nipplegate” incident with Janet Jackson, which he allowed her to take the entire blame for, has been jeered for two decades. In 2019, Timberlake, who is married and has two kids with Jessica Biel, was photographed holding hands and rubbing the leg of a film co-star. His excuse in his public apology to his family: “I drank way too much that night.” (Yeesh, man…)

Justin Timberlake’s Defense Before Spending 9 Hours in Cell For DWI: ‘I Had One Martini’

Things haven’t been much better professionally. Reviews for his sixth album, Everything I Thought It Was, called it “a rumination on the past that could stand to move on” and ruled that he “[lost] his swagger.” Those responses seem glowing in comparison to the notices for his most recent film, Trolls Band Together.

Driving while intoxicated isn’t something one should joke about. Yet the internet was flooded Tuesday with people cracking wise about Timberlake’s latest misfortune. (Among other indignities that his haters rejoiced in: The arresting cop was apparently too young to know who Timberlake is.)

The generation that used to have posters of him on their bedroom walls as teens now mocks him relentlessly on social media, to the point that a palpable reaction to his arrest was to bask in schadenfreude.

There’s definitely a “justice on behalf of Spears” and extension of the “Free Britney” movement vibe to these reactions, with some users posting a photo of Spears dressed in a cop outfit from one of her past concerts, along with other references to their shared past scandals.

In a similar vein, there’s this beaming photo of Jackson that another user posted in reaction to the news.

An embarrassing video that had recently gone viral of Timberlake doing some sort of herky-jerky, hopping dance move has now been repurposed to mock him failing his sobriety field test.

Then there’s the notion that this arrest is atonement for all of Timberlake’s past crimes, musical or otherwise.

Listen, popular sentiment about celebrities is jarringly fickle. (Remember how quickly people turned on J.Lo in recent weeks?) This impassioned distaste for Timberlake has been brewing for years. And yet, he is—or was, depending on how this legal drama shakes out—on a massive world tour. It also wasn’t that long ago that we all geeked about the NSYNC reunion he orchestrated. Who knows whether the tide will change… or keep dragging Timberlake’s reputation out to sea.

In the meantime, I must ask, as I scream from the rooftops every time one of these high-profile arrests happens: Why in the living hell are rich and famous people ever driving their own cars?! I feel this on principle, in relation to any occasion—you can pay someone to drive you anywhere!—but especially after drinking?!?!?! Maybe Timberlake doing a PSA campaign to beg celebrities to stop driving is what will turn people’s opinion of him around. It would certainly work on me.

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