Last week, most of us watched the now-infamous meltdown of troubled Two and a Half Men star Charlie Sheen. It’s okay to admit you watched it—it was like a car wreck, you want to look away but you just can’t. Plus, if ‘looking away’ meant changing the channel, that didn’t help. As a direct result of Sheen’s admitted drug-induced behavior, he was fired from his top-rated sitcom, lost custody of his children, and has been the subject of numerous police investigations. All of which seem to be appropriate consequences for his actions.
However, as an indirect result of his behavior, something entirely different has occurred: Sheen garnered 2 million Twitter followers (in one day), he created his own webcam talk show where he continues his rants, and he booked two live performance dates promising audience members “truth torpedoes.” Both shows sold out in minutes, and there is talk of expanding the tour. So in the end, he may end up making more money than ever before. Now we all know that people are tuning in to his broadcast and buying tickets to his performances because everybody loves to see a rich and famous person fall from grace. Ironically, in doing so, we are keeping him rich and famous.
Most of us credit Anna Nicole Smith, Corey Feldman or any number of tragic child stars with this fall from grace phenomenon, but really it has been happening for decades. Orson Welles started his career writing, directing and starring in Citizen Kane—a film many consider to be the greatest movie ever made—but finished it by voicing a robot in an animated Transformers movie and hawking Carlsberg beer. Mel Gibson, Nicholas Cage and Kevin Costner all won Oscars. There is only one thing we can credit for causing such epic meltdowns, massive overspending and, well, Water World: ego.
Fame can be a difficult pill to swallow, and it is—in a way—a drug. And like most drugs it has side effects and people react differently to it. Take Charlie Sheen’s Men co-star John Crier. He is the star of a top-rated sitcom, makes millions and millions of dollars, and manages to avoid the spotlight entirely. Well, I think his wife tried to murder him, but other than that…In any event I wish we weren’t encouraging Sheen’s behavior. It sends the wrong message. We’re not rewarding talent or skill. We’re rewarding the freak show. It’s too bad, too, because without a fall from grace, Sheen can’t make the one thing we all love more than the knock down: the comeback. LN