Devil’s Advocate is a regular column assuming an alternate viewpoint on a topical subject of the week.
If there’s one thing that’s become evident from the current whirlwind that constitutes Charlie Sheen’s ‘winning’ life, it’s that the media simply don’t know how to handle a celebrity who is enjoying themselves to the max, rather than wallowing about the pitfalls that traditionally come attached to being a famous individual.
For those who’ve been living under a rock for the past while (or more likely who just have far better things to do with their time than pore over the latest celebrity gossip), filming on US top-rated sitcom Two and a Half Men was cancelled late last month after Sheen – getting a reported $1.8 million per episode – attacked its series creator and lead writer Chuck Lorre in an interview.
Since then Sheen hasn’t been far away from the headlines, making a series of outlandish statements – find some choice quotes here – and fighting his corner while his recent hard-partying ways have made him the subject of almost hysterical speculation. His binges have been so allegedly “epic” that few commentators will be surprised if he stays up for the whole of March, sleeps with California’s entire porn star community in one marathon romp at the local gymnasium, and then ends up snorting a whole dolphin up his nose in one go.
Speculation has been rife that he's still been on drugs – or is suffering from mental illness – but in front of a doubtful media he's passed several tests earlier this past week to prove himself clean. (Though as the man himself has said: “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.”)
Not that that matters, when we have before us a star who has been taking drugs, sleeping with porn stars (apparently even trying to house a group of them nearby), and partied for days on end, yet who hasn’t publically and tearfully said sorry for his “outrageous” behaviour. Time for our self-appointed moral arbiters to purse their lips and cry “Shame on him!” Ah, how drearily predictable...
The problem for them is that their feigned outrage hasn’t had its intended effect. Sheen seems unrepentant, not in any mood for apologising to get back onto his hit show, and even worse after joining Twitter on Tuesday he had acquired an amazing 1.4 million followers by the time of writing, many of those Tweeting their support for the "fallen" idol. (I held a small tea party in my flat for me and my array of grimly lifeless teddy bears after I’d got 12 followers within the space of two months on my Twitter account, should that comparison illustrate his relative success, which has seemed almost effortless...)
Why would this be so? Well, perhaps it’s because we’ve got tired of seeing most everyone who "makes it" being subsequently reduced to little more than the after effects of their grimmest moments, even our brightest success stories reduced to whatever childhood trauma they suffered after not being picked first for the school netball team. The media has increasingly become unable to congratulate someone on their success – or God forbid, let them actually enjoy it – without dragging them back down to their lowest point, all so that us perceived morons who consume their products don’t feel out of sorts that somebody has it far better than we do. It’s almost unimaginable to have a star such as Sheen talk about how he’s “winning” without a trace of irony, let alone when he’s been on said roll while consuming illegal narcotics and having dalliances with women of “questionable virtue”. (Who of course also have to be portrayed as victims in all of this, because again, God forbid that they might also be enjoying this. Who on earth could possibly like sex, drugs and most likely a little bit of rock 'n' roll?)
Not that Sheen should be let off for any more odious aspects of his past behaviour, not least any anti-Semitic edge to the comments aimed at Lorre, but this has to be distinguished against what has made him so popular over the past couple of weeks.He’s been enjoying the fruits of his success, and doesn’t exactly seem in any desperate hurry to return to his day job, which makes him a bit of a hero for anyone who's similarly felt the desire to chuck in work and go out on the razz for a decade or two.
Who’s there to feel sorry for in the current situation that Sheen's created for himself? It’s not as though his co-stars or other crew on Two and a Half Men are exactly going to be on the breadline. Though it’s not ideal for his children, with Sheen’s wealth they’ll be well taken care of, and the star has seemed more concerned for them than many fathers are. Nowadays we’re well used to parenting situations that seem far from the norm; our fathers and mothers aren’t the chaste figures that they used to be, and we have to be prepared to deal with information about the more embarrassing aspects of their life. As Sheen said when asked about what his kids would think of his behaviour: “I hope they say ‘Dad, fill in the blanks, this s***’s gnarly. This stuff’s epic.’”
Even better for onlookers, Charlie seems aware of how slanted the media coverage will be against him, whatever he does. (You know, because journalists all hate that sort of behaviour, and would never ever make complete hypocrites out of themselves in that regards.) He’s been blasted for “incoherent ranting” despite the fact that what most of what he says pretty much makes sense in a slightly bizarre sort of way, when you consider the circumstances. And if his responses have indeed been bombastic, that could well be because he’s aware of how absurd the situation is. Why not have fun with it? Far better to coming out winning in this sort of scenario! When there’s revolutions going on in the Middle East, people sacrificing themselves in the process, surely the more ridiculous thing would be for Sheen to talk about his situation with complete solemnity, as though it was a deeply important issue? (Of course, the focus of those on his case is too myopic for them to have considered such an obvious point.)
Perhaps it’s not a revelation to fans of Hot Shots! Part Deux, but Sheen is actually a very funny guy. (I’d say it’s hard to star in a top-rated sitcom if you’re not amusing, but the continued success of My Family puts paid to that notion.) Indeed, he’s always keenly perceptive for what’s expected of him - even at this moment in the spotlight - starting a 42-minute live interview on TMZ by making a joking request to the host: “If you can create the moment where you ask me that hard-hitting question about when I hit rock bottom, and then you go to a slow-motion shot of me blinking and looking down... It’s like stop, we’re not fooled.”
And that’s it: he’s refused to play the showbiz media’s game, and they’ve responded by trying to manipulate the truth into whatever it is they want to hear anyway. They hate him for it, but the public – not so easily fooled – love him for it. If the man’s in a relationship with two platinum-blonde ‘Goddesses’ in a luxurious LA mansion, and has passed drugs tests that were taken in front of the media, what’s the problem? He’s not breaking any laws, and nobody’s suffering as a result. No wonder Sheen's publicist Stan Rosenfield quit – what need is there for him in an age where celebrities such as Sheen can now talk directly to the public via Twitter, rather than having mealy-mouthed mea culpas issued on their behalf to pathetic idiots, ones who are never satisfied anyway until the subjects of their concerted efforts are on their knees begging and screaming for mercy? Just because they're after blood, it doesn't mean that it's the best thing for you to give yours to them.
Right now Sheen isn’t settling for the ordinary, and he’s making everyone feel a lot more boring by comparison. No wonder so many want to stop him! But wouldn’t it be better to take a leaf out of his book and embrace the joys that life has to offer? Of course, we can’t possibly borrow Charlie’s brain, but a bit of a Sheen-like polish surely wouldn’t do us any harm. Then we’ll all be winning, and far better that than to be a loser stuck on the sidelines.
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