And so today begins just like yesterday: with more from Charlie Sheen. His interview with 20/20, which was filmed this past Saturday and from whence the “I am on a drug. It’s called Charlie Sheen” quote comes, aired last night on ABC. He said during yesterday’s Howard Stern chat that there will be no more interviews (we’ll see), but he joined Twitter and has taken to it like a man desperately seeking attention would: He’s a natural. For all of his derangement, it’s been kind of a hoot watching him go … most of the time. Last night, Beverly Hills police came to take his twin boys away after his ex-wife Brooke Mueller filed a restraining order, claiming that when she tried to get them back on her own, he threatened, “I will cut your head off, put it in a box, and send it to your mom.” (The downside of Sheen’s logorrhoea is that his threatening wordplay is now as readily identifiable as his catchphrases.) Even before that news broke, some media critics were interrupting the gleeful sideshow to call all the interviews exploitative. It’s a bit head-spinning: For all his obvious lunacy, Sheen’s eloquent and hyperbolic monologues are hilarious, and have rightfully spawned a thousand sayings (and counting). But when you think more deeply on the matter, there’s so much that’s heartbreaking, sad, and uncomfortable there. You want it to stop — or to at least stop paying attention. And then someone makes a “Winning!” joke and you snap out of it. The cycle begins anew. So, please, allow us to trace the Möbius strip of what happens in the human brain when it really thinks about Charlie Sheen.
Ha, Charlie Sheen is so crazy! Look at him, talking about warlocks and tiger blood and octagons! What a joker! He’s always saying how he’s tired of pretending he’s not special. He’s totally special. He is especially good at saying crazy-ass things.
But when people are on drugs, or having mental-health problems, they are good at saying crazy things.
Fine, but we’ve watched a lot of celebrities go nuts and take drugs. Usually they speak in a sad, demoralized, disoriented, Britney Spears kind of way. If he’s going to talk to basically anyone with a pulse and a recording device in such a highly entertaining fashion, what’s the harm in being entertained? Certainly it’s what he wants. After forcing Two and a Half Men on us all these years, he pretty much owes us.
But what’s really entertaining us? Did you see him last night on 20/20? When he said, “I’m different. I have a different brain, different heart. I have tiger blood, man. Dying’s for fools. I’m proud of what I created [by partying so hard]. That was radical,” you could laugh about his hubris or his tiger blood, but it’s such a profoundly idiotic thing to say: Dying isn’t for fools, it’s for everyone! And, that’s the real dark side of this whole spectacle: Dying is also for Charlie Sheen. Face it, this is a guy who could die. Just look at him!
You’re taking this way too seriously. He’s not going to die. I totally have him in my celebrity death pool just in case, though.
But don’t you see how cynical that is?
What is wrong with being cynical about Charlie Sheen? I’m not saying I want him to die, but why should I feel bad for him? It’s not like he’s a good dude. It’s not even like he’s a normal dude. Can’t I enjoy the Schadenfreude? He’s insanely rich and entitled. He took it back, but he thought he deserved a raise on Two and a Half Men after all of this nonsense. And, more important, he has this sordid history of intimidating and hurting women.
But then how can you bear to watch all of these interviews, where no one is taking him to task for being a bad guy? These news outlets tut-tut in their framing, but are so gleeful to have scored an interview, they’re totally willing to enable him, just taking his word for it when he dismisses an uncomfortable question. Like when Piers Morgan asked him if he’d ever hit a woman and Sheen said that whole nonsense about how “women are not to be hit. They’re to be hugged and caressed … There was an incident years ago where everyone thought I hit [a woman]. I was trying to contain her. I had her arms and we both went down to the ground … I felt terrible and delivered her to a plastic surgeon … She was attacking me, though, with a small fork — like a cocktail fork. And she had it with her; that was the weird part. What was she doing with, like, a shrimp fork in her purse? She stole it, clearly. From a buffet.” I’m sorry, what? Morgan is going to let that answer stand?
Fine, this isn’t great journalism, but audiences are savvy; it’s not like we need Piers Morgan to go all heavy hitter on Sheen to know Sheen’s a wackadoo, and that that isn’t the whole story. (We may need to know if Morgan is a serious journalist, but that’s a conversation for another time.) Sheen seems crazy, that’s not up for argument. Maybe one percent of people who watched him say that thought, “Oh, sure, I buy that.” Everybody else knew that story made no sense.
But is it that simple? Isn’t the whole thing about being entertained by him, by being blown away by his language, by wanting a T-shirt that says “Winning,” isn’t it more than Schadenfreude … I’m sorry, but aren’t you starting to maybe like him a little?
No. No. I’m laughing at him. Well, I’m pretty sure I’m just laughing at him.
But then you know you’re not just laughing at an unhinged, violent guy with a drug problem, but an unhinged, violent guy with a drug problem and children. I didn’t bring it up until now, because it’s so upsetting: He has kids. They were in his house. He has a fence up around the pool, to keep them from falling in when he’s off … not paying attention.
Yeah, but they’re out of the house now, and they shouldn’t have been there before. Earth to baby mama. And besides, how does it make the kids’ situation worse that I’m watching his interviews? They’re already Sheen’s kids. At this point, every interview he does is basically like an SOS to social services anyway.
Fine, but if Sheen dies, gets hurt, or hurts anyone in his care, you’re going to feel bad you enjoyed this so much.
Well, next September, when Charlie Sheen has penitently contrived his apology, claimed he’s thinking more clearly now, and is back starring on the tenth season of Two and a Half Men, you’re going to feel bad you didn’t enjoy this so much.