After his firing, Charlie Sheen leverages social media to make enablers of us all
(UPDATE: Warner Bros. has officially fired Charlie Sheen, dropping the other shoe after an excruciatingly long wait. Here's my essay for the St. Pete Times on the allegations in the 11-page letter sent to the actor's reps explaining why he was let go, along with a few thoughts on what it means that TMZ.com had it online within minutes of news breaking that he was fired.)
When world famous basket case Charlie Sheen debuted his webcast Saturday, I didn't bother watching -- and not just because all the Twitter tweets told me everything I needed to know.
How could I tune in? After writing a passionate column last week on how media should go cold turkey on Sheen, I couldn't belly up for another heaping helping of his manic ego and hanging-on-by-my-fingernails bravado.
But Sheen has proven himself a master at using the shape of new media to turn the entire world into one giant enabler -- from the 1 million Twitter followers who clicked onto his account hoping for a tweet-by-tweet account of his disintegration, to the hapless 115,000 folks gathered at the start of Saturday's spectacle.
This is how personal Sheen's public breakdown has become for consumers, thanks to social media; each of us must decide whether the prurient appeal of his decline is worth the twinge of regret which comes from participating in the online circus he has created.
Of all the Sheen-related work I've seen in the past couple of weeks, G.Q.'s recent in-depth profile of the star comes closest to providing real journalism, tracking down longtime pals such as Sean Penn and recent, um, acquaintances such as porn star Kacey Jordan to fully flesh out the actor's bizarre private meltdowns.
"Coke, Hookers, Hospital, Repeat," touches many important bases, from Sheen's failed collaborations with star director Oliver Stone -- after working together on Platoon and Wall Street, Sheen missed the chance to star in JFK and Born on the Fourth of July -- to his habit of violence with women and some pals' unfortunate habit of explaining away his worst qualities (Penn, for example, calls Sheen one of the most honest artists he knows, overlooking the fact that the actor hired scored of prostitutes while married and has likely lied about never using controlled substances at work.
The New York Times takes a look today at the showbiz enablers helping feed Sheen's issues, leading with Tom "ex-Mr. Roseanne Barr" Arnold, a recovering addict who has developed a reputation as a quiet mentor for Hollywood stars struggling to overcome addiction.
This stuff is highly preferable to the two media poses we've seen through most of Sheen's crisis: open derision and sycophantic sucking up. Either reporters are acting like NBC's Jeff Rossen and CNN's Piers Morgan, shamelessly supporting Sheen's wild-eyed antics for a front-row seat to a ratings magnet, or they are cracking bruising jokes as TV's highest paid actor was suffering through a DUI arrest.
Nevermind that a once-talented actor has lost his job, temporary custody of his children and perhaps his career.
The cynic in me can't help wondering if the minds who came up with Sheen's pay-for-tweets scheme, effort to auction a memoir (does any publisher seriously think he could sit still long enough to even help someone else write it?), webcast and t-shirts aren't just trying to squeeze every last commission from his career before the inevitable end.