Throughout his six-month plunge off the deep end from being TV’s highest-paid actor to trashing hotel rooms, abusing cocaine, and dating multiple adult film stars while referring to them as his “goddesses,” Charlie Sheen has seemingly been living out every stereotypical college bro’s dark fantasy.
While the overwhelming majority of civilized society frowns upon Sheen’s out-of-control lifestyle—and I am no exception, despite how much fun the concept of having goddesses seems—his crazy escapades have given the former Two and a Half Men star a bizarre, newfound popularity. With his recent, earth-shattering entrance into the Twitter world, the celebrity spectacle that is Charlie Sheen has begun to approach levels unseen since the baby-dangling heyday of Michael Jackson.
Even so, the tidal wave of attention for Sheen and all things tiger blood is puzzling. Why should our society reward someone for living a reckless lifestyle complete with drug abuse, property damage, misogyny and ranting interviews?
The answer lies within the fabric of the nature of celebrity itself. The makeup of our society and the tools we offer to celebrities allows them to be famous just for the sake of attention. Our biggest cultural icons—Michael Jackson serves as a perfect example—often gain their celebrity stature simply by being completely loopy—and even loopier when the cameras are rolling.
Today, thanks to the pervasiveness of the 24-hour celebrity news cycle and the growth of social media like Twitter, the cameras are always rolling for people like Sheen. Accordingly, Sheen’s first tweets, which included triumphant declarations that he was “winning,” curious references to things like “tiger blood” and TwitPics of his goddesses, set off an almost instant Internet firestorm. He set a new Guinness World Record by earning one million Twitter followers in just over 25 hours and currently sits at over two million. Surely this is a claim to Sheen’s raging popularity, along with the fact that his tag “#tigerblood” has been trending on Twitter for nearly a week.
In a sense, Charlie Sheen is “winning”—he has successfully harnessed all of the tools available to him as a public figure and used them to the best of his ability. The modern celebrity doesn’t actually need to do anything legitimate or noteworthy to be famous (the cast of “Jersey Shore” is living proof of that point), and Sheen has fully taken advantage of this fact. By turning his Twitter page into a public running diary of crazy, Sheen has put the cherry on top of his bizarro fall from grace.
By slowly acting more and more insane, Sheen has become far more of an icon than he ever could have been by proceeding as a normal actor. Our favorite TV shows and actors come and go. A coked-up Charlie Sheen having regular sex with pornography stars and then spilling all of his thoughts to national media through nonsensical TV interviews, on the other hand? Now that’s a celebrity we’ll remember. That’s what winning looks like.
Evan Ribot ’14 is a Crimson editorial writer in Thayer Hall.