Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Charlie Sheen's meltdown is both funny and sad

I find it fascinating that people still crave fame. It's long been known that living in a fish bowl is not good for your mental health. But the damage it can do seems to be worse than ever these days.

Take the case of Charlie Sheen. He isn't the first famous actor to go off the rails because of an excessive lifestyle of sex, drugs and celebrity. But his case is very different to most others. You usually hear all the sordid details after they occur. But Sheen is courting the media as his life, career and mental state are falling to bits. And because of the reach and immediacy of modern technology you can watch it all happen almost in real time. 

He's just joined Twitter, and immediately garnered hundreds of thousands of followers. But surely the motivation most of those people had in following him so quickly wasn't that they greatly admired him and his work (which is the usual reason tweeps follow the famous). It was to be first in line to get the latest crazy utterance from him.

He's stuck in a real Catch-22. If he's ever going to regain his equilibrium he's got to take a step back from the spotlight. But he clearly doesn't want to. And even if he did, he'd be aggressively pursued by the media. It's like the poor bastard sold his soul to the devil of celebrity culture, and he'll be devoured no matter what. 

Sure, the whole thing is pretty funny. Stand-up comics and talk show hosts are going crazy with it all. It's also proving to be good fodder for cartoonists. But it's also really sad. The guy may well never work again. And even if he stays off the drugs, which is unlikely, he's almost certainly got a serious mental illness to deal with. Unless some kind of miracle happens he'll either be dead or in a mental institution before too long. And millions of people will have watched every sordid step of his descent.

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