My thoughts on Charlie Sheen

I wasn’t paying much attention to it. He’s always been the “bad boy” to his dad and half-brother, Emilio. Back in the day before the U.S. was so mindlessly obsessed with “celebrity” (a word that itself holds little meaning anymore, just like the people to whom it is applied), he even managed to make a few headlines (being a client of Heidi Fleiss, for example).

He came up in Atlanta with two kick-ass burner women. I admitted I was cheering him on, if anything.

It’s thrilling watching someone call out the solemnity of the celebrity interview, and Charlie Sheen is loudly calling it out as the sham it is.

While most people are tsk-tsking “Oh, ain’t it awful, so much drugs and drinkings” I am one of those that sees what’s really going on.

You are completely missing the point if you think the Charlie Sheen Moment is really a story about drugs. Yeah, they play a part, but it isn’t at the core of what’s happening. Drugs are not why this particular Sheen moment is so fascinating. I know functioning addicts. They’re not that rare or that interesting.

Rich people get away with anything they want.

What has been labeled “freakery” is really just a bored, pissed-off celebrity whose presence helps make a TV network an insane amount of money and by comparison is paid accordingly.

Rich, bored people pay a lot of money to do things that the average person wouldn’t even understand. Yeah, he doesn’t look so good. Neither do I, after excessive partying. Sure, he seems a little fired up – he always has. Watch old interviews. Plenty of celebrities  – and other rich people – do all sorts of drugs, have orgies, etc. He just got caught and decided not to pretend he was anything other than a rock star from Mars (or whatever).

To Empire gatekeepers, Charlie Sheen seems dangerous and in need of help because he’s destroying (and confirming) illusions about the nature of celebrity.

In “Notes on Charlie Sheen and the End of Empire,” Bret Easton Ellis (no stranger to excess himself) writes out my sentiments much more eloquently. I really enjoyed his take on what’s happening: how the facade of Hollywood is becoming ever more irrelevant. I think it’s a shame, as talent is ignored for status (nobody’s ever thought that the Oscars weren’t much more than a popularity contest, but how has anybody ever thought Natalie Portman was any good at acting?) and kids aren’t growing up wanting to be actors (like I did), just “famous,” whatever it might mean, and whatever it might take.

A lot more people are famous now for doing, well, nothing—and, so what? Fran Lebowitz in her Empire HBO documentary (Produced by Graydon Carter! Directed by Martin Scorsese!) complained—and I’m paraphrasing—that what has really been lost in American culture is connoisseurship: the ability to tell the difference between what’s genuinely good and what’s mediocre. She’s bemoaning the fact that we don’t seem to be at that point anymore where the ability to be very good at something and to be rewarded for that talent (with attention, respect, money) exists.

I don’t think it’s calculated performance art, I really think it’s just a combination of an addiction/boredom/used to getting away with anything/being a natural prankster – and a highly quotable one at that!

 And so what? I know plenty of people like that – they just don’t have the money or “celebrity” to have their antics splashed on CNN.

It’s coming off almost as performance art and we’ve never seen anything like it—because he’s not apologizing for anything. It’s an irresistible spectacle, but it’s also telling because we are watching someone profoundly bored and contemptuous of the media engaging with the media and using the media to admit things about themselves and their desires that seem “shocking” because of society’s old-ass Empire guidelines.

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11 Responses to “My thoughts on Charlie Sheen”

  1. tom hobart Says:

    I’ve read alot of Hunter Thomsons works and Charlie sounds just like him when he’s wound up about something. Just less elliquent.

    • J Says:

      Exactly – Ellis points out that if Charlie was an actual “rock star” rather than an actor, much of this would have been ignored. We expect rock stars to be fucked up, right? But not actors (pronounced like acktours). They are part of this “empire” that has certain codes of conduct – public ones, anyways. Reminds me of that Thompson quote, “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”

  2. Jet Says:

    You don’t think he has a chemical imbalance? All good actors are crazy. To be another character/person, you must disassociate from yourself and, IMO, over time that thread becomes tenuous at best.

    • J Says:

      I’m not going to try and diagnosis him and guess at what’s “really” wrong. Maybe he has narcissistic personality disorder. Maybe he’s depressed and self-medicating. Perhaps domestic violence runs in his family. Maybe he just likes it. As Ellis pointed out, partying is fun. If you can do it all the time and get away with it, who among us wouldn’t? That’s part of why this whole thing hasn’t damaged his popularity because secretly we all want to “do hookers and blow” (I mean that metaphorically), tell our bosses off (his getting fired doesn’t mean jack shit, unlike what might happen to us), speak our minds, etc.

      Hm, come to think of it, it’s kind of like Burning Man. For this one week you can go be whoever the hell you want, do whatever you want, dress how you want…and it’s lauded. Encouraged. I guess Charlie Sheen is just having his own private Burning Man. 😛

      • Jet Says:

        Perhaps you’re right, however it feels like a copout to just point to money and fame as reasons for his grandiose statements. Smashy’s uncle thinks he’s Jesus when he’s not on his meds.

        As for us, it’s schadenfreude to watch someone with those things we want (money, fame, security, whatever) go down in flames.

      • J Says:

        I don’t think they’re reasons for what he’s saying/doing. I think they’re reasons why he can say/do these things and a) get away with them b) be rewarded for them.

        Sheen’s consistently tested clean for all these interviews and I don’t find anything clinically, mentally-ill or delusional in his statements. He’s basically stating facts very colorfully (I do a lot of drugs and have sex with a lot of women because I can = I’m a rockstar from Mars, etc.).

    • Jet Says:

      I cannot reply to your reply, so I’ll reply to my comment.

      Didn’t he get fired? Whoever is paying the bills at his crappy sitcom isn’t rewarding him.

      I will say he’s rewarded since everyone seems to have an opinion on him. 😉

      This is why actors have handlers, too keep them from blowing their cover and/or working. A perfect example is Tom Cruise, he fired his handler and went on Oprah and had other ‘crazy’ interviews. Micheal Madsen has a wonderful handler who keeps him in bourbon all day so he can perform. Works out wonderfully for Madsen since he works on several productions a year.

      • J Says:

        Yeah, he got “fired.” From a show that he set a record for being the highest-paid sitcom star to be in. That he hated and called out for being the piece of crap show that it was. Over the years, though, as he was getting into trouble for drinking, drugs, domestic violence they just kept giving him raises.

        He got fired for insulting the show and its creator, Chuck Lorre. I would bet he got a severance package, too. I’m confident he had some sort of clause in his contract rewarding him, no matter how he left the show.

        I’ve thought about being a handler – but that’s exactly the kind of shit I was referring to, about how rich people and celebrities live lifestyles we can’t really imagine. Like having people who’s job it is to keep you supplied with your drug of choice. To cover for you when you run into buildings with your car or miss a day of work. Etc. Winning!

      • Jet Says:

        Well then he was rewarded. I haven’t paid enough attention to the story to catch that part of it.

        The people that do the real work on a production call actors “moving props” since everything in front of the camera is a prop for a scene. I see little difference in being a handler for a celebrity or a show pony, except the pay might be better for celebrity handlers. The point is making sure they’re prepared and groomed for their performance. Also, not having a capable handler can cost the actor serious work. It doesn’t take long for word to get around that so-n-so is horrible to work with and then you’ll see they only work on low budget productions. Millions of secretaries or executive assistants do the same work. The crazy one to me, the king of Bahrain has a employee that carries the gucci purse full of cash. That’s their job. To carry the cash purse.

        Personally, I would never want to be famous. The loss of my anonymity and privacy would be too much. It sucks to be recognized constantly in public, unless you’re compelled to have that attention as in a narcissistic disorder.

        Smashy turned on some show yesterday about giant food and the equipment used to create those giant food items. I asked him if he could imagine how this show looks to people living outside of this country. The unbelievable decadence of ordering a 72oz steak, or giant pizza, or giant cheeseburger.

  3. N Says:

    I think he’s whirling above the drain in a mania that has brilliance in it. Not a happy scenario.

  4. Kendall Says:

    I’ve never missed Keith Moon more.

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