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Posted at 5:57 PM ET, 03/ 3/2011

Sheen madness

By Ruth Marcus

Call me Number 1,279,090.

That would be my place among the ranks of Twitter followers amassed by public meltdown artist Charlie Sheen in little more than 24 hours.

If there is a better illustration of the decline of American culture, the triumph of technology over privacy, and the end of shame as a motivating force, I can't think of one.

The spectacle of the celebrity in drug-fueled, alcohol-induced, sycophant-enabled collapse is so familiar it has become a lucrative industry of relentless paparazzi and voyeuristic Web sites. We have been treated to Lindsay Lohan's gallery of mug shots; Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic tirade upon being arrested for drunk driving; Alec Baldwin's voice mail raging to his 11-year-old daughter that she is a "thoughtless little pig."

And, of course, Sheen, in serial meltdowns involving cocaine, prostitutes and assault charges.

Sheen's latest unraveling, though, is remarkable for his unabashed, come-on-down approach: This star is not fleeing the press but inviting it to watch in real time.

I have -- at least I had -- zero interest in Charlie Sheen. I could not tell you what the television show he gets paid a reported $1.8 million per episode is about. But I am fascinated by the phenomenon of popular fascination with Sheen.

We know the man is deeply troubled, self-absorbed to the point of being grandiose. We in the press know we are exploiting his obvious mania and egotism.

"I'm tired of pretending like I'm not special," Sheen told NBC. "I'm tired of pretending like I'm not bitching, a total freaking rock star from Mars." About what he wants his daughters to think about the incident last year in which Sheen, allegedly accompanied by a prostitute and high on cocaine, trashed his Plaza Hotel room while the girls slept next door, Sheen told ABC's "20/20":
"They'll wake up one day and realize how cool dad is. And you know, he signs all the checks on the front, not the back."

The decent thing to do would be to avert our eyes and hope he gets help.

But human nature is what it is. Everyone slows down to see the car crash. And this time, the car's driver is giving interviews -- endless interviews. He has invited the networks -- except the one that just suspended him -- to get a glimpse of his life with the live-in girlfriends he calls the "goddesses," a porn star and a marijuana magazine cover model.

And, until they were mercifully removed from his custody Tuesday night, Sheen's nearly 2-year-old twin boys. On Wednesday morning, Sheen was back on the air for a predawn interview with NBC: "It's not about ego. It's not about emotion. It's just about getting very focused and getting very much in touch about what I have to do to complete the task of bringing these two beautiful young men back home to the home they deserve to be raised in, with more love, compassion, support, child care and everything else you could possibly want for a child."

Well, a stable father and stable family would be nice.

And now, perhaps inevitably, we have Sheen tweeting the breakdown, complete with pictures of him, one of the goddesses and a bottle of chocolate milk. "Pardon my absence. . . . My first concern is my kids," Sheen tweeted Wednesday. Three hours later? "Ready for my next fastball, world? PLAN BETTER. Applies to everything where an excuse now sits. Try it. U won't be wrong. Ever."

By the time I finished writing this, Sheen's number of followers was up to 1,328,407.

By Ruth Marcus  | March 3, 2011; 5:57 PM ET
Categories:  Marcus  
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Thanks for having the guts to take on the important issues, Ruth.

Posted by: tjtucker | March 3, 2011 7:26 PM | Report abuse

It never ceases to amaze how the dregs of society receive followers, accolades and big bucks for being "bad boys" or "bad girls". No wonder society is creaking with little respect for others, or anything.

Posted by: TheBBG | March 3, 2011 8:52 PM | Report abuse

Wow, an entire article that I agree with.
Except the part where you say you are part of the problem and don't intend to change. Why can't you see you are "one of those kinds of people who follow Charlie Sheen on Twitter"? I am not, and proud of it!!

Posted by: dcjayhawk2 | March 4, 2011 6:06 AM | Report abuse

Although I refuse to follow Sheen on Twitter, or even most of the news, I have to wonder if he's not actually doing average America a favor.
As people watch him, they realize how much worse life actually could be -- and how much better off they are; so they stop focusing on the bad and start focusing on the good.
Maybe that's really what Lindsey, Brittney, Mel and Charlie give us... the idea that no matter how bad things seem, we're still not them, so it's ok.

Posted by: MadiganT | March 4, 2011 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Ruth writes about the decline of American culture and the end of shame. Respectfully, Ruth, look in the mirror. Those declines are consequences of certain aspects of the liberal-Democaratic worldview. Consider that the Charely Sheen farce you lament involves nothing so much as the entertainment industry (sometimes called "Hollywood" for short) and the media, TV and print in this case. Hard to find many conservatives in those milieus.

Democrats have a problem with things like grace, decorum, propriety, modesty as social virtues. Fact.

Posted by: Roytex | March 4, 2011 9:25 AM | Report abuse

"Consider that the Charely Sheen farce you lament involves nothing so much as the entertainment industry (sometimes called "Hollywood" for short) and the media, TV and print in this case. Hard to find many conservatives in those milieus."
For the simple reason that conservatives do not have the skills to entertain, which involves contributing something to culture, rather than trying to tear it down. Conservatives are soulless. Fearful greed and bigotry are not entertaining.

Posted by: dnahatch1 | March 4, 2011 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Charlie will end up dead for sure. Some fool will get on stage and tell you what a nice guy he was. Bad karma for this whole family.

Posted by: jheidel | March 4, 2011 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Consider that the Charely Sheen farce you lament involves nothing so much as the entertainment industry (sometimes called "Hollywood" for short) and the media, TV and print in this case. Hard to find many conservatives in those milieus.
I know just what you mean. Why a person could spend all day watching Fox News or Fox Business News, listening to any talk radio station, or reading newspapers such as the NY Post, Wall St Journal, Washington Times, etc. and never once experience a conservative viewpoint! It's disgraceful the way lefty commie liberals completely dominate all media.

Posted by: dizzy7 | March 4, 2011 4:00 PM | Report abuse

In your portrayal of Sheen's recent behavior, you refer to his "obvious mania". Then you provide examples of the salient features of mania: grandiosity, delusional thinking and flight of ideas.

Mania is a disease, a biochemical affliction, not a chosen pattern of behavior. You seem surprised by Sheen's irrationality, but thinking during manic episodes is, by definition, irrational, so "logical" actions such as seeking treatment are not expected.

You and your readers will not likely witness such a classic and public example of mania in the future, yet it is a not uncommon psychiatric illness. A teachable moment is being missed.

Posted by: tttt1 | March 5, 2011 1:35 AM | Report abuse

When those children grow up, they should pass Charlie at about 4, and look back on this episode they will be so ashamed of their fathers behavior. Maybe this is the legacy that he wants to leave for them. It's not for me to say but I know that I would hate to have to live under the cloud of a sick alcoholic, druggie, and self proclaimed rock star father such as Charlie. Thank goodness that his wife had the good sense of getting the children out of that situation. Charlie loves himself more than he ever could those kids or anyone else.

Posted by: racam | March 6, 2011 9:30 AM | Report abuse

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