“I expose people to magic; I expose them to something they’re never otherwise going to see in their normal lives.”-Charlie Sheen
He claims he is on a drug called Charlie Sheen, and it seems many of us can’t get quite enough of it. Most can quote at least one, from the long list, of his infamous one-liners–from “I’ve got tiger blood” to “I’m not bipolar, I’m bi-winning.”
Like Sarah Palin, Charlie Sheen is what late-night talk show hosts call a gift from the comedy gods. He’s honest, he’s loud, and he says whatever he darn well pleases as we watch, read, discuss, Google, tweet, Facebook or youtube his every single word.
Very few personalities keep Americans this interested, but every so often somebody comes along that stops us dead in our tracks. And from one crazy debacle after another, Charlie Sheen and his antics have done just that. This is the kind of stuff no one can make up. Before us, has been the unfolding of a man who has lost it, and both the young and old just can’t stop talking about it.
According to recent reports his comedy tour sold out in 18 minutes, faster than it takes most folks to choose a brand of toothpaste. His fans want one thing, and one thing only: to be entertained, and Mr. Sheen is poised to deliver.”
At City College Sheen is the talk of the campus. He is the butt of classroom jokes and a constant topic of hallway banter. As Dustin Plutzer, a 27-year-old MCA major puts it, “I just don’t get enough; he is so much fun to watch. And in most of my classes the topic just keeps coming up.”
What exactly is our fascination with this actor and his demise? Haven’t we seen this storyline already, and don’t we know how’s it’s going to end? Could it be that Charlie Sheen is simply what we’ve been craving? In a world of contrived moments, seven-second television delays, not so real reality television, politicians selling audiences a bill of goods, and media conglomerates feeding us information, it all can feel like one giant dog and pony show. When you can no longer trust your priest, is there anything you can believe in?
Americans love the Wild West and celebrate outlaws from Butch and Sundance to Eminem. We believe in the bad boy. “We’re conflicted. We’re horrified by Sheen because his defiance seems more destructive than constructive,” explains CCNY professor Michael Macina. “On the other hand, people who defy authority and embrace their individualism inspire us. After all, defiance is what the country was built upon.”
We also crave redemption, especially in our celebrities. We fall down, but we get up. “America is celebrity driven and loves someone who despite the odds, manages to persevere and make tons of money in spite of their missteps in life,” says Lynne Scott Jackson, distinguished lecturer in the CCNY MCA department.
The media must shoulder the blame for the Charlie Sheen train wreck. But the real moral of this story is what it says about us. Charlie Sheen is ill, a victim of addiction, and clearly needs help. But as he continues to spiral out of control, ratings soar, and public interest remains at an all time high. No matter what happens, there will be no shortage of cameras and reporters to record every second of this tragedy, as long as his self-destruction proves profitable.
But when do we stop? When do we say enough is enough? Is it that we don’t because Charlie Sheen helps us all feel a little bit better about ourselves?