Charlie Sheen & The Reclamation Of The Celebrity Meltdown


Last night, shortly before Charlie Sheen was ridiculed on Saturday Night Live, he released his own live, 50-minute broadcast on UStream. Speaking from a desk in his home, “Sheen’s Korner” involved numerous references to “winning” before devolving into fart jokes and Charlie repeating the word “duh” over and over. (This doesn’t really rate on the list of bizarre behavior from Chuckles recently, but why spell corner with a “K,” and use the part of your name that doesn’t start with a “C”?) Though the video was universally dismissed as “sad, boring and pointless,” it does highlight something unique about his meltdown. Never before has a star embraced their own media shitstorm as Charlie has.

Sheen’s tabloid storyline started out much like any other. Gossip sites posted documents from his various court appearances, Charlie’s rep released statements, and quotes were collected from shady anonymous sources. In late January, Charlie’s story was still following the typical scandal trajectory when he was hospitalized after allegedly partaking in a briefcase full of cocaine. His rep claimed he had developed a totally unrelated hernia, and after various lady friends shared the details of his bender with the tabloids, it was announced that he was taking time off from Two and a Half Men to enter rehab. (We later learned his stay in at-home rehab was quick, as he can cure addiction with his mind.)

But on February 14, Charlie began crafting a new model of shitstorm when he trashed his bosses at Two and a Half Men and AA in a “highly erratic” interview on the Dan Patrick radio show. A short time later, Charlie’s long-time publicist quit, apparently leaving no one to talk him out of calling into other radio programs, doing a round of manic interviews on Today, GMA, and TMZ, then continuing his bizarre press tour on Piers Morgan Tonight. No one smoothed things over with CBS executives or issued a retraction saying Charlie’s words were taken out of context.

Most star meltdowns carry a degree of shame, but that doesn’t appear to be part of Charlie’s colorful vocabulary. While other celebrities are “caught” and information is “revealed,” he’s adding fuel to the fire himself. With Charlie’s repetition of insta-mems like “winning” and “tiger’s blood,” he clearly thinks there’s a large segment of the public that’s laughing with him. That’s true to some extent, as the unhinged behavior just feeds into the idea that he’s a guy who “loves to party” not a dangerous psycho who beats women. But the complicity in his own downfall is a new invention. The equivalent would be Tom Cruise following up the Oprah couch-jumping incident by hopping on an ottoman in his next interview to show how enthusiastic he is about Scientology, or Mel Gibson starting a Twitter feed and telling the world to blow him because he deserves it.

Certainly Charlie isn’t the first to cast himself as the architect of his own scandal. Stars like Madonna, Kanye West, and Lady Gaga have purposely provoked people into gossiping about them. The difference is they’re usually doing it to promote an album or do some meta commentary on the nature of fame. Plus, they aren’t insane. Charlie may think he’s in control of his story, and he’s even poised to make money off his online infamy. However, the reality is, no one actually thinks Charlie’s “winning,” they’re just relishing in the humor and entertainment of wondering what he’ll do next. Never before have we been granted so much access to a disturbed star’s ruin, but ultimately it isn’t Charlie who’s driving the story — it’s his illness.

Charlie Sheen Addresses Fans Via Web Cast [UPI]
The Disposable Woman [NYT]
How Charlie Sheen And Other Stars Get Paid To Tweet [WSJ]

Earlier: Charlie Sheen Hospitalized, Had “Briefcase Full Of Cocaine
Charlie Sheen Trashes CBS Bosses, Says His Sobriety’s “Off And On”
Charlie Sheen’s Manic Monday Interviews
Charlie Sheen Continues His Bitchin’ Press Tour

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