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When the Sheen Comes Off: The Lonely Ballad of Charlie Sheen…

It’s human nature to want to rubberneck at some grotesque car wreck. I have no idea where that grim compulsion is rooted, but it is buried deep within our human nature – we can’t resist it, like some form of morbid curiosity. In fact, on major motorways, the problem is so intense in that it has been suggested in the Netherlands that police should erect blank screens to stop passing drivers from peering at accidents. As I watch Charlie Sheen’s continuing descent into madness (because it seems – defying the laws of nature – like there is no rock bottom), I can’t help but wonder if we should do something similar about the actor’s recent attempts to train wreck his career.

He's not Half the Man he used to be...

I won’t go into too much depth about “the on-going Charlie Sheen saga”, as I’m sure we’re all familiar. If you aren’t, you must have been living under a rock. Sheen managed to force executives to cancel the cash cow television show Two and a Half Men and has making fairly inflammatory comments about everyone from producers to alcoholics anonymous. It seems that every day brings some new revelation to light about his debauchery and provides a new platform from which the actor can express his somewhat controversial world view.

It’s sad and tragic and everything. The actor looks sicker than he ever was during his drink and drug binges. He’s caught in a cycle of humiliating and deranged comments, which will – should he ever recover – completely overshadow his career. In fact, I’m fairly sure that, should his biography be published soon, these last few weeks will take up more space than his contribution to classic cinema with films like Platoon and Wall Street, which is a shame – those are towering accomplishments in any young actor’s career, and they are brushed aside so easily.

I don’t know what demons Sheen is battling. Based on his history of problems concerning addiction, I imagine that they are strong ones. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an unemployed middle-class single father or a celebrity with the world at your feet, that’s a hard mountain to climb. The road to redemption is a long and winding one, very often it’s easy to stray from. There’s an argument to be made as to whether, given his state of mind, Charlie Sheen deserves our pity or our scorn. Perhaps he deserves both, but it’s not my place to judge. I’ve never met the man, I don’t know him – I know he’s said a lot of stupid things, but I am also aware he’s been through the ringer.

Are Charlie's antics getting old?

On this, I feel like perhaps the fault lies with us. It’s the television networks which turned Charlie Sheen’s mental breakdown into an around-the-clock reality television drama, and you’re the ones who perpetuate it by googling it, watching it, hunting it down. We drive the demand for this sort of thing, after all. However difficult it is for Sheen to grapple with the demons haunting him, we magnify those problems by sensationalising it.

Sheen lives in a fishtank, watched by the world. He’s an actor who has always been “known”, but never really grabbed our attention – he has a string of strong films and television work, but he was never the kind of actor who could sell a movie single-handed. And yet this, rather than any of his work, has given him a huge international platform and countless hours of media attention. That’s got to distort your perspective, one already warped by a life of celebrity. It certainly doesn’t help provide the level of introspection that one imagines an actor trying to come to terms with things might expect.

Perhaps it’s time we erected our own blank screens over the scene of this “incident”, for lack of a better euphemism. I honestly think it would be best for everyone if the media could back away from Sheen or divert their attention away from his off-set antics. I realise, of course, that by simply mentioning this idea I am violating my own proposal, but – let’s face it – you’ll never get a media blackout on events like this. As long as there are websites like TMZ out there, which will take Sheen’s rants and print them as gospel on the front page for millions of hits, this story isn’t going anywhere.

Fanning the flames...

It’s the truly democratic nature of modern media technology – giving the people what they want, what they respond to. We have chosen, through our web searches and our mouse clicks, that this is the kind of thing that we want more of. The media feed it to us, and we can’t stop talking about it, and so the cycle continues. I understand the reasoning behind it and I appreciate why it’s all the more common in “the internet age”, where people have complete freedom to choose what they want to hear about – rather than being told, like in years past.

So it all seems a little futile. Stars like Sheen will continue to explode and go supernova, and we’ll continue to gobble it up like the finest porterhouse steak. We’ll drive it ourselves, we’ll be the people creating the market for it. And, to some extent, if this ends badly (and, to be honest, I can’t find the optimism to see it ending any other way), we’ll be to blame. I wish I could say this makes me angry, or that it gives me that warm burning feeling in my gut – that it gives me drive or motivation or hope that we can change it. I could say those things, but I’d be lying.

I mostly feel sad. I feel sad for Sheen, caught in this surreal goldfish bowl – but I also feel sad for us, the people slowing down to watch as we drive past.

5 Responses

  1. Charlie Sheen’s cheese has finally slipped off his cracker. It is sad because “Two and a half men” was a really funny show. Let’s hope Sheen recovers from whatever his problem is. If you like funny videos, drop by Off Color Fun .

  2. Interesting article as always Darren. I certainly don’t blame the public (myself) for Charlie Sheen’s self destruction. The pressures of the public eye are something I can’t say I’ve ever had the pleasures or misfortunes to have a problem with but Sheen has also had the opportunities and the financial backing most of us can only dream about. I doubt anyone forced him to snort his first line of coke (his decision) or punch the first woman he got violent with (his decision) or say the things he has said. I’m sure being under the public microscope is tough but others like him cope very well with it, and those that can’t have the finances to get the help they need.

    Crucially, I doubt Charlie Sheen would want the public’s sympathy – I don’t think he care’s about us enough to want that. Someone with the opportunities he has had might not be exempt from pity but he has made his bed and now he much lie in it.

    • Thanks Dan. Obviously he’s the guy who did all the stuff, but I think the media coverage makes it easier for Sheen to justify his own behaviour rather than seeking help. I mean, he gets a more public platform doing this than doing anything else, so why the hell would he stop? The medias there, fueling him on.

      • You make a great point and there’s definitely scope in the argument about the media’s ills when it comes to fuelling scandal. I think I’m still reeling from his comment about our “boring lives”!

      • Sheen certainly doesn’t help himself, does he? I kinda want to reach into the telly and slap him, just a little bit.

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