One occasional annoyance of living in the Western world (it's not just America, though we fucking rule at this just like EVERYTHING ELSE) is that the commercialization of the media leads to stupid shit getting a ton of coverage because real news is boring. So, at a time when the people of seemingly every country in the Middle East and North Africa are in the streets engaged in (mostly) non-violent protests demanding democracy, our news media here in the United States of Apathy is largely occupied by the activities of Charlie Sheen's penis, liver, and nasal membranes.
And fuck it, I'm not above writing about this shit. All I know about the pro-democracy protests in the Middle East/North Africa is “Good luck, y'all, hope it works out for you,” and I don't really have anything more substantial to write about it than that, other than to say that having a sitcom starring the deposed Gaddafi, Mubarak, and Ahmadinejad all forced to live in the same apartment splitting rent after all their shit gets seized would be funny. They could even call it Two and a Half Men because Mubarak and Ahmadinejad would misogynistically make fun of Gaddafi for having female bodyguards. And with that, we segue back to Charlie.
Like most people, my reaction to Charlie Sheen's exploits is a Venn diagram of exasperation and disgust, though mine has a third circle: a hazily laissez-faire “hey, fuck it, if he can do 8-balls the size of his fist and bang porn stars and drink like a fish with a drinking problem, let him do it.” Cuz, really?As someone who's a little unconventional about who he goes to bed with and also been unwise with the controlled substances his own self, I can't really talk. Beyond that, I don't have anything emotional invested in this cat. I could concoct some kind of “he was one of the most compelling leading men to arrive in the mid-to-late 80s but never fulfilled his promise as a movie star in part due to his spiralling substance abuse issues” argument, except that's kinda bullshit. Sure he's on a sitcom now, but TV is far from its former status as purgatory, and he is getting motherfucking paid to be on that thing. Cat makes $40-50 mil a year or some shit on that damn show. It may not be any kind of apex of artistic achievement, but money's money and this is America. Not to mention, the show is incredibly patient with him; if they haven't fired him yet, they're not going to. He could fuck the boss' wife in the ass while spooning coke into his daughters' noses and still not get fired at this point.
That's probably the weirdest thing about the media narrative on Charlie Sheen. People can do all the hand-wringing they want about how he's self-destructing, consciously/unconsciously committing suicide, all that jazz, but the fact of the matter is, he's got probably more job security than anyone in the business (CBS is only now hesitating about bringing him back). Certainly more than the other tabloid piñata we'll be discussing today, Lindsay Lohan.
Lindsay Lohan, from all available and objective accounts, drinks and snorts less than Charlie, and does not have a terribly seamy sex life. Sure she likes chicks, but she doesn't piss on them or lock them in closets or anything, she just has lesbian sex with them, and lesbian sex is one of the cornerstones of a civilized society. This is how you can tell all the homophobe religious people are full of shit; anyone who claims to not like lesbians is either a fucking liar (unless you're a straight girl in a bar dealing with a belligerently determined drunk one who isn't listening, and even then if you blame the faults of each on all you're making a moral mistake) or seriously misguided.
Even if one presupposes that the tales of Lindsay Lohan's debauchery are factual and that the nature of said debauchery is as severe as all the tabloid tut-tutters maintain, she's hardly unique. There is a well-established tradition of child stars, denied a proper childhood due to having spent the entirety of it onstage or on a movie set, freaking out and getting fucked up on drugs in their teen years and young adulthood. Lindsay ain't the first and she sure ain't the worst. The tone of the vast majority of the tabloid reports on her exploits is 90% faux outrage and 10% content (Ed. Note: stats courtesy of NASA in collaboration with the Trilateral Commission) and when you sift through and find out what they're actually accusing her of doing is having a couple drinks and then passing out because she's tired. Even the necklace thing isn't all that cut and dry: celebrities get given free shit all the time and sometimes signals get crossed. Is it dumb to walk off with a necklace and assume it's free? Sure. But it ain't all on her.
So. Whence this contrast, and to what end? Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan are but two examples, the most current, of heavily-chronicled celebrities who like getting fuggedup. There are two important dichotomies at play here:
a) Charlie Sheen is male and Lindsay Lohan is female
b) Charlie Sheen makes evil white guys in suits money and Lindsay Lohan no longer does.
The first is important because forgetting that the vast majority of people calling the shots in the entertainments industry are guys is a mistake. It's probably the main determining factor in the bile that arises from the second point. If you're a fucked-up guy former child star, you get to be Corey Haim (well, til you OD, but you get the point). People sigh and make mean jokes about you, but there's a fondness in the way you're remembered (especially after you OD), even if it's couched in smarmy irony. Lindsay Lohan isn't getting any of this slack. This assessment has a bit of subjectivity to it, of course, and I have way the fuck better things to do than reading everything motherfuckers write about her, but it seems like there's a lot more anger to the way people write about her, and a whole lotta schadenfreude when one of her pictures flops.
None of this bullshit would be happening if she wasn't making atomic turds like I Know Who Killed Me (which is student film quality garbage) and Georgia Rule (which is just jaw-droppingly awful). Both of those are several years ago at this point, reinforcing the already painful truth that the difficulty curve for a career comeback is vastly steeper for women in the business than it is men. A couple flops, and a couple instances of unladylike public behavior, and the industry goes “My word!” and turns into a fuckin spinster aunt from a fuckin 1920s melodrama, whereas Robert Downey, Jr. (to be fair, a much different type of actor than Double-L, who at her peak was a highly competent comic leading player rather than a chameleonic Method lunatic like RDJ) is that nice young man who just needed to be given a hand.
Gender isn't the only element at play here, though. Remember, Charlie Sheen is on a massively successful TV show (forget that it looks fucking retarded, it prints money) and RDJ had that slam-your-dick-on-the-table blockbuster with the first Iron Man picture. So while Lindsay Lohan being a girl is arguably responsible for the severity of the critique she receives for her behavior, motherfuckers wouldn't give a flying fuck if she was making hits. If the right producer offered her the right project where she could transition into more adult roles, in one of those performances that gets written up as a “revelation” in the press, that turned into one of those $50-75 mil grossing Indiewood pictures and got nominated for awards and shit, next thing you know Chris Nolan rolls the dice and casts her as Harley Quinn or some fuckin thing and boom, she's in “I guess we gotta put up with the lateness and booze breath” Sheen territory.
That last brings up one of the potential elements one might bring up to counter my argument. “Charlie may get fucked up and have nine-ways with porn stars, but he always shows up to work. Lindsay is so often late and absent that guy had to send an open letter to the media complaining about her behavior.” First, let's not hold the guy who sent the letter up as some kind of crusader for decency. If you have a problem with someone, tell them about it, not the fuckin media. And second, dealing with crazy girls requires a bit of compassion; it's tempting, as a guy, to just say fuck it and wash your hands of the whole situation, but not all crazy girl craziness is malignant or personally directed at you. A lot of times it isn't even craziness, it's just behavior grounded in unfamiliar premises. Granted, Lindsay actually is kind of nuts (poor Samantha Ronson), and producing a project where your lead actor is always late is frustrating. But goddamn, dude, trying to shame her into better behavior through the media was like “Holy shit my house is on fire, let me put it out with this giant can of gasoline.” Because maybe it works temporarily, but the next time she's in a bad mood and has a couple drinks, she's like “THE FUCKING MEDIA IS RUINING MY LIFE” and next thing you know they're dragging her into a limo with no panties on and there goes that meeting the next day; “Fuck it, we're casting Emma Stone, this is too much headache.” There's a point where responsibility for one's own actions becomes moot: the feeling that the entire fucking world is conspiring against you leads to despair, nihilism, and an abandonment of any desire to play by that goddamn world's fucking rules.
And so this is why Charlie can give interviews saying sobriety is boring and nothing'll probably happen, where if Lindsay tried to pull some shit like that she'd get fired from projects she wasn't even attached to. I won't recap the reasons why, but I will add an emotional tag: it kind of pisses me off. To the point where I'd write and direct a comeback vehicle for her if I could get funding for it, just to be like “Fuck you, it can be done.” I mean, I'm not saying I'd do it without a really good contract and a couple ex-Mossad agents to follow her and keep her sober, but I'd give it a go.
As for Charlie, it's a moot point considering that show is all the work he needs to do, and if he's banked even a tiny percentage of his insane salary from that show he's set for life, however much of it is left. But I don't know, the only advantages I can see working with him are easy access to coke and porn stars. I have no use for coke, and I hang out with burlesque performers and models on the regular. Sorry, Charlie. I think you can deal with the disappointment.