She Negotiates’s Victoria Pynchon has written an illuminating post on why we gossip about Charlie Sheen, and why we gossip in general. There are, she argues, social benefits to gauging what happens when one member of society violates its norms, as Sheen is doing—over and over, and very publicly.
But after watching Sheen’s interview this evening on 20/20, I’m feeling queasy. To me, Sheen came across not so much as the typical celebrity having a meltdown moment a la Britney Spears or Mel Gibson, but as someone severely disturbed. He couldn’t stop fidgeting, smoked incessantly, was deathly pale, and was sweating like Martin Short as shady lawyer Nathan Thurm in those old Saturday Night Live skits. And, of course, he was sticking his foot in his raving mouth every second he got.
In fact, Sheen began to remind me of none other than Howard Beale, the paranoiac mad prophet of the airwaves in the classic 1976 movie Network. In Network, as the anchorman slips further and further into bloviating delusion, he is cheered on by TV audience masses—these days, it would be the Tweeting masses, and if you follow those following @charliesheen, you will see what I mean. He is also abetted by the network (in this case, networks plural) that cynically takes advantage of Beale’s goldmine of ratings-reaping rants.
I’ve written two blogs about Sheen—about his bosses, really—and I’m very tempted to say I’ll write no more, because I’m beginning to feel akin to someone pointing and laughing at a frenetic schizophrenic on the subway. However, I know myself well enough to know that if a particularly interesting Sheen angle occurs to me, it’s going to fly out of my fingertips and into cyberspace.
I won’t be able to help myself anymore than Sheen can. For that, I’m not proud. I don’t think anyone in the media should be.
The actor’s ramblings included montages of various “winning” situations and “winners,” including a slideshow of photographs depicting cats “winning” against dogs. He also urged “winning” voters to open the windows of their homes and chant with him, while he and his posse repeatedly yelled “winning!”
If this doesn’t echo the famous chant of Network’s Howard Beale, who urged viewers to open their windows and yell, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” then I don’t know what does. Still, Sheen is no Paddy Chayefsky.
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