Bret Easton Ellis on Charlie Sheen

16 Mar

With his tweets, his manic interviews, his insurgent campaign against the entertainment world, Charlie Sheen is giving the world exactly what it wants out of a modern celebrity. Who better to comment on it than author Bret Easton Ellis? In this week’s Newsweek, Ellis explains how you are completely missing the point if you think Sheen’s meltdown is about drugs:

You’re completely missing the point if you think the Charlie Sheen moment is really a story about drugs. Yeah, they play a part, but they aren’t at the core of what’s happening—or why this particular Sheen moment is so fascinating. I know functioning addicts. They’re not that rare or that interesting. What this moment is about is Sheen solo. It’s about a well-earned midlife crisis played out on CNN instead of in a life coach’s office somewhere in Burbank. The midlife crisis is the moment in a man’s life when he realizes he can’t (or won’t) any longer maintain the pose that he thought was required of him. Tom Cruise had a similar meltdown at the same age in the summer of 2005, but his was more politely handled (and, of course, he was never known as an addict). Cruise had his breakdown while smiling. He’s always essentially been the good boy who can’t say “Fuck you” the way Sheen (or even someone as benign as Cee Lo) can. Cruise is still that altar boy from Syracuse who believes in the glamour of Empire earnestness, and this is ultimately his limitation as a movie star and as an actor.

It’s thrilling watching someone call out the solemnity of the celebrity interview, and Sheen is loudly calling it out as the sham it is. He’s raw and lucid and intense: the most fascinating person wandering through the culture. (No, guys, it’s not Colin Firth or David Fincher or Bruno Mars or super-Empire Tiger Woods.) We’re not used to these kinds of interviews. It’s coming off almost as performance art and we’ve never seen anything like it—because he’s not apologizing. It’s an irresistible spectacle. We’ve never seen a celebrity more nakedly revealing—even in Sheen’s evasions there’s a truthful playfulness that makes Tiger’s mea culpa press conference look like something manufactured by Nicholas Sparks.

Read Ellis’ full piece here.

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