A year ago, when Charlie Sheen was melting down for fun and profit on his post-Two and a Half Men tour, Rolling Stone wrote this about him:
Staring failure in the face and calling it “winning” — that’s the closest thing we have to an American religion. It’s the native tradition, from Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick to Ron Burgundy in Anchorman. And if that’s our religion, Charlie Sheen is our Vatican assassin warlock. Lots of us can look back on ruined lives, lost jobs, squandered fortunes. But to look back on it all and shrug, “I’m tired of pretending I’m not a total bitchin’ frickin’ rock star from Mars”? That’s up there with Ahab threatening to strike the sun if it insults him.
Now, in the same magazine’s pages, in a Q&A that’s out in print today and that I’m looking forward to getting my hands on, he’s singing a rather different tune: “Clearly, a guy gets fired, his relationships are in the toilet, he’s off on some fucking tour, there’s nothing ‘winning’ about any of that. I mean, how does a guy who’s obviously quicksanded, how does he consider any of it a victory? I was in total denial.” Of course, he also says “I mean, the shit works. Sorry, but it works. Anyway, I don’t see what’s wrong with a few drinks. What’s your drink? Tequila? Mine’s vodka. Straight, because I’ve always said that ice is for injuries, ha ha.” And this week, he melted down, cursing out a security guard at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
I remain curious to see Sheen’s new show, Anger Management, if only to see if FX president John Landgraf, who said he accepted the pitch because he was convinced Sheen wanted to reexamine his life and his relationships with women, is right. But there is something wearying about this kind of cycle: a fall from grace, a spectacular burnout, a withdrawal, and a reemergence. As with Britney Spears’ return to music-making, touring, and now acting as a judge on the X Factor, Sheen’s semi-contrition tour feels like recovery as a product, as a means of restoring the value of a profitable franchise. I’m queasy about the repackaging of the wrenching, non-linear processes that are recovery and reinvention into a consumable format.