Is anyone surprised that Charlie Sheen bombed his show in Detroit last Saturday? The internet seems unsurprised, yet at the same time intent on gawking at it, covering the shit out of it and being like “HOLY SHIT Charlie Sheen is totes a trainwreck! WTF.”
I don’t care about Charlie Sheen; I could care less about his batshit attention-mongering and whatever he’s done/ continues to do. And so I admit the paradoxical nature of dedicating an entire blog post to the spectacle that is Sheen.
But what I really find troubling (or, you know, care about) is his entire story and our involvement with it. Because his entire story seems – if it seems anything other than the highly visible decline of an alienated and bitter drug addict – sad. Sad for Sheen, sad for the women he’s abused, sad for his friends, sad for his entourage, sad for his agent, sad for television, sad for culture, sad for the internet, sad for America, and sad for humanity.
I know that sounds melodramatic, but it isn’t. It honestly seems sad – objectively sad, if you’ll grant me that oxymoronish concept – that in Sheen what we have in front of us is the complete, ugly, social, emotional, and psychological breakdown of a former success story; a now-crazy lunatic who’s accomplished some like, really awesome things (Platoon, Wall Street); a poor, isolated idiot that has in essence rejected society and drawn so far into himself that his behavior is like “holy shit.” And it seems sad that we’re making fun of him for this.
In Seattle, there’s this infamous homeless man that walks the streets, and he is, well… gone. You can smell him from a block away, he’s got this nasty, nappy, yellow beard, his clothes are dingy rags, his tall, gaunt frame can’t weigh any more than 120 pounds, his fingernails are about half the length of his fingers, and he walks around in a perpetual, frantic, unintelligible mutter. I have no idea how this guy gets by or how he’s even still alive. The thing about this homeless man, though, is that (legend has it) he used to be a professor of mathematics at the University of Washington. He was a Man once. A normal, successful man. And so we look upon his story as Sad. It is agreed that this man is to be felt bad for. And it would be seen as insane and offensive for any of us to mock him for being crazy.
I have personally known people that have gone the kind of crazy that Sheen is going. This isn’t special – many people have known those that have gone the Sheen kind of crazy. But we don’t treat them the way we treat Sheen. We don’t treat that homeless guy with ridicule, scorn, and what ultimately amounts to an extreme amount of attention and, yes, fandom. We look upon these people with sadness, we ignore them, we tell other people we’re sorry for them – “Sorry, he hasn’t taken his medication” – we give them change when they beg for it, we avoid them, we think of these individuals as disturbed and troubling. But Sheen – well, we just make fun of Sheen and make a huge fuss about how batshit his behavior is. And we love it. We love Sheen.
Today, on some morning show – maybe Today, I wasn’t paying attention – one of the feature stories was, of course, Sheen’s mess of a show in Detroit on Saturday. Clips were played of the scene after the show in which members of the audience were asked to provide their reactions. “That was a waste of my time!” one said. “That sucked soooo-oooo bad! I want my money back!” Another said something like: “No way, don’t go to this, a complete waste of your time.” But all of them were like, grinning into the camera as they said these things. They were all visibly excited and elated. And so I sort of felt like saying to these people, “You liked seeing Sheen go out like he did. You went there to boo him off the stage. Stop lying. The only reason you went to Sheen’s show was to see the trainwreck. You wanted to stake your claim as part of it. That wasn’t a waste of your time – you went there with a mission and you accomplished it. Now you have something to talk to your friends about; to write emails about; to laugh at while wondering how people get that way. You can now say that You Were There. You’re lying because what happened that night was exactly what you wanted.”
I’m not defending Sheen. I promise that I’m not defending him. I think we can all agree that the person that is now Sheen sucks. And I understand that I’m just one of many stating the obvious: that we need to stop paying attention to him. I just think we need to chill out on this whole thing. Overall, as told, Charlie Sheen’s story is sad, and it’s made sadder by the fact that we’re all pointing our fingers like fourth graders, laughing, ridiculing, and lavishing him with attention. This behavior not only speaks for the kind of people we all really are, but it gives Sheen reason to perpetuate his dumbass behavior that everyone finds so appalling (and so secretly delicious). If we really hate Sheen – if we really think he’s a Bad Person – the worst thing we could do to him is crush his massively inflated ego, and we can crush his massively inflated ego by leaving him alone. We can dismiss him as unimportant and not worth listening to. Because this recalls an image of Sheen alone in his mansion with a bottle of cheap vodka in hand, disgusted by the world but having absolutely no justification for his disgust. It recalls the picture of a bitter, alone and out-of-touch old man, and if that’s what we all think he deserves, then maybe we should grow up a bit and just let the dude have it.