When I tell people that I cover entertainment news, I feel compelled to add that Collider doesn’t cover celebrity gossip. I’ve always found such coverage to be incredibly perverse. Stardom breeds a familiarity that doesn’t actually exist. I’ve seen plenty of movies starring Brad Pitt, but I don’t know Brad Pitt. Brad Pitt doesn’t know me. We are strangers, and yet because of his fame, his life is now a free-for-all. There’s absolutely nothing about being a famous actors that automatically entails an invasion of privacy. And yet paparazzo are paid stalkers and publications on the checkout line and worthless TV shows and websites feel the need to tell us that Jake Gyllenhaal was seen buying a smoothie and Katie Holmes may have a tapeworm the size of Chile. When there’s a plea to leave these people alone, the nonsensical response is that “They knew what they were getting into” and it’s a “double-edged sword”, which to me seems like resentment. The greater questions is why anyone cares in the first place about a total stranger’s life.
To the best I can deduce, it comes down to schadenfreude, and we can see that clearly in the public meltdown of Charlie Sheen. Charlie Sheen is an unimportant man and none of us know him personally. And yet I have been guilty at laughing at his non-stop public implosion as he chose to speak to anyone with a microphone, a camera, and the willingness not to tell him “You sound psychotic.” I was okay laughing at his outburst because no one had invaded his privacy. No one forced him to sit down with The Today Show, refuse make-up so he would look as strung-out as humanly possible, and say things like “Don’t pick a fight with a warlock,” and “I have tiger blood and Adonis DNA.” To quote Sheen, he really thinks he’s “winning”, and as we all watch in fascination of this human train wreck hurtling towards organ failure, he actually is winning.
Sheen currently has almost 500,000 followers on Twitter on an account he started less than 6 hours ago. His mad ramblings have been parodied with a random quote generator and Family Circus comics. This man is crumbling before our eyes and we want to derive the maximum amount of comedy we can before…what? How does this end for Charlie Sheen? Does he just go away? Do people tire of his antics? What if madness becomes violent?
I don’t mean to be a spoil sport or pretend that I haven’t laughed at his antics. We can all say that he brought this on himself. He’s the son of a respected Hollywood actor, he’s gotten breaks that most people would kill for, his brother Emilio turned out fairly normal, so why should we pity this man? We shouldn’t. We shouldn’t pity him and we shouldn’t pay attention to him. Like the most odious of celebrities, Charlie Sheen is using his fame to further his fame. He’s not trying to call attention to a particular humanitarian cause and or even call attention to a particular entertainment project. And every Twitter follower, every news item, every interview only furthers the perception that Sheen is a man who’s worth our attention. Sure, he’s good for a cheap laugh, which is more than I can say for his sitcom. But after what feels like an eternity of having one famous man’s madness shoved in my face at every turn, I’ve had enough. There is so much more in this world that is worthy of our attention and our amusement.
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