Charlie Sheen and the anatomy of winning
"I don't know, winning, anyone? Rhymes with winning? Yeah, that would be us." - Charlie Sheen
Winning is what it's about these days. It's been Sheen's byword in a series of rants on our television screens and radio shows. He is, he insists, contrary to any and all appearances, winning. His bio on Twitter says it all: "Born Small... Now Huge... Winning... Bring it..! (unemployed winner...)"
Unemployed winners? That's you! That's me! I mean I! But it was right the first time, too, because whatever I say is right.
We are all Charlie Sheen.
"I'm tired of pretending I'm not a total bitchin' rock star from mars," Charlie Sheen says.
Aren't we all! I know I am.
It's hard to blame me. Like everyone else, my family spent my formative years trying to convince me that I was Somehow Different. We read books with titles like "You Are Special" and "You Are Special and Best of All" and "God Made You Special" and "There Is Only One You: You Are Unique In The Universe." I am not making any of these up. I can't wait for the sequels: "You Are Especially Unique And Uniquely Special" and "Evolution Was Directed At Producing You" and "They Should Change Its Title To The Guinness Book of Us," which is Charlie Sheen's suggestion.
So, naturally, when I ran into obstacles in life, I had little idea what to do about them. "But I'm greater than Shakespeare!" I insisted, when my teachers told me to stop meowing in class. My crayon drawings were essentially Picassos. Why were they coming back with B's and C's? Didn't they get it? I was special! I had tiger blood. Or something!
I knew that I was better than everyone else. Where else would I have gotten all this self-esteem? But better how? Maybe I was the most humble. I spent a day being excruciatingly humble -- and no one paid any attention! That couldn't be right.
Humility, I decided, was for people no one has ever heard of.
Maybe I was taller. But, objectively, I wasn't. Smarter? More attractive? Fists made of fire? No, no, and not on weeknights! Finally I whittled it down to the tautological Seussism: "Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!" "Yes!" I proclaimed. "I'm better at being me than anyone!" Although I always suspected that, if given the opportunity, Minka Kelly would do a pretty good job.
And now here I am. And, somehow, no one is appreciating me as I feel I deserve - worshiping the water I walk on, giving me fame, fortune, and control of large portions of the Holy Roman Empire.
Is this my fault? Nonsense! There's only one explanation -- as Sheen put it, "I'm surrounded by fools and trolls."
"My genius is not adequately appreciated," I mutter to myself on the subway, startling the people across from me on the metro. "Look at these senseless clods. I'm the only living person in a world of automatons!"
Now, Charlie's become my voice. It's not that he's the Ultimate Man or the Unfettered Id. It's that he's isolated his sense of self-worth entirely from, well, anything. He's jobless. He's on drugs. His kids have been repossessed. So what? He's a self-proclaimed God, a Vatican assassin with fire-breathing fists.
Our lives can never be like his, he insists. Well, perhaps not.
But Vatican assassins aside, we know what he's thinking. We get it. We are all superstars.
We are a nation of unemployed winners. Our test scores are slipping. Our students feel like geniuses but perform like dunces. The recent unemployment reports may have been more promising than they've been in months, but our joblessness is still at highs not seen in decades. Meanwhile, fix the deficit? Deal with rising health-care costs? Do something about All This? Nonsense!
Didn't you get the memo? We're winners! We can do no wrong! Fix things? You can't fix something if you can't see that it's broken!
The worst thing about modern life is having to pretend, as Charlie says, that your life isn't "perfect and bitchin'." Sheen has shrugged that off. And, for the moment, we're with him. This F-18 has taken off and latched onto the public consciousness, as a leech latches onto your privates during a camping trip. He's spawned countless memes. He is, as CNN reported, "winning the Internet."
And maybe it's telling that in Internet lingo the polarity is between Win and Fail - not winners and losers or failures and successes. Epic win. Epic fail. Charlie isn't succeeding. He's winning. Success doesn't have to have a victim. But for there to be winners, there must be implied losers. Charlie is winning at someone's expense - the Other People, the women he's threatened with violence, his producers, the "fools and trolls" who sit at home with their ugly wives and want him to come back down to earth
Winning also implies luck. In the bizarre casino of Sheenland, the roulette wheel keeps hitting the black.
But for how long? There's a definite train-wreck aspect to this -- or in this case, smouldering F-18 crashlanding. It's not that, if pressed individually, we wouldn't want this man to get help. But our mocking celebration comes to the accompaniment of a low baying for blood. If this fame Sheen has can be called a crown at all, it's a crown of thorns. For now, he's winning. But eventually, the house always reasserts itself.
But while the ride lasts, in Sheen's own words: "Change the channel. I dare you."
| March 4, 2011; 6:47 PM ET
Categories: Epic Failures, Only on the Internet, Petri | Tags: America, Charlie Sheen, winning
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