We are obsessed with celebrities. Countless magazines’ sole purpose is to dismantle the private lives of the rich and famous for all to see. And within this celebrity-obsessed culture nothing gets us going like a good breakdown. These usually work by the same script. Stardom, followed by breakdown, followed by rehab and/or apologies. These breakdowns have achieved such a ritualistic quality that South Park made an episode about it, claiming they are human sacrifices, made to bring in a good harvest.
The American actor Charlie Sheen seems to be next in the line of human sacrifices. Following in the footsteps of Britney Spears and Mel Gibson, Sheen has received massive media attention after he was fired from “Two and a half men” earlier this year. (Everyone not familiar with Sheen’s recent activities can find more information here )
There is an important difference, however, between Spears’ and Sheen’s story. While Spears was already famous and the press gloated in mock concern about the tragedy of her downfall, Sheen has been propelled to stardom after his breakdown. His interviews have quickly become iconic for his unapologetic explanations of his lifestyle that portrays his self-image as almost god-like. “Charlie Sheen” has even become a verb, which the Urban Dictionary defines as:
Unequivocally winning, regardless of circumstance, conditions, or whatever anyone else thinks or does. You have beaten life. Drive on!
or as an adjective:
To be intoxicated to the point of incoherence. To take more drugs for longer periods of time than one should safely get away with.
There is also a wide collection of pictures online of people who have Charlie Sheen Tattoos (here)
So, where does this fascination, and admiration, for Sheen come from? The most obvious reading, of course, is that everyone is just staring on in morbid fascination, waiting for Sheen to crash. It is obvious, that Sheen is practicing behavior that most people would consider as problematic. Is everyone just waiting for the great crash to then shake their head patronizingly saying: “Well, it was bound to happen.”?
This would explain the media coverage Sheen has been receiving not, however, the admiration. Another hypothesis is that we are living through Sheen. As the New York Times puts it:
As Secret Superhero of the Id. Profoundly influential yet puzzling. At a time when few of us know firsthand exactly what total self-gratification would constitute if our means and our access to party supplies were infinite, we are left to infer from Sheen’s aftermath appearance … what it’s like to do everything you want to anyone you want to do it to in a safe and luxurious environment while you’re the highest you can be.
I think there is a third way of reading Charlie Sheen though. Sheen is a rebel – of sorts. He deifies the construction of himself as deviant. Or rather, he deifies the construction of his deviancy as negative. Asked if he was taking drugs Sheen answered: “I am on a drug – it’s called Charlie Sheen. It’s not available because if you try it, you will die. Your face will melt off and your children will weep over your exploded body.” and: “The only thing I’m addicted to right now is winning.”
He has no trouble admitting he is deviant, or special: “I’m tired of pretending I’m not special. I’m tired of pretending I’m not a total bitchin’ rock star from Mars.”
The attraction to Sheen might stem from exactly this quality. Sheen breaks the script. The moral superiority the journalists interviewing Sheen put on is drenched in hypocrisy. (See video below) I doubt that even they themselves believe that they are truly concerned for the wellbeing of the people they drag into the spotlight to feed on their misery. Watching these ceremonies of degradation one cannot help to cheer Sheen on, when he refuses to bow to the moral supremacy of mainstream culture.
How can you not love a guy who refuses the label of „bi-polar“ and instead labels himself „Bi-winning“?
Some more thoughts on why we love celebreties can be found here.
And who thinks she can distinguish quotes from Sheen from those of Gaddafi, may try here.