I Still Can’t Look Away

In March, 2011, I wrote a blog entry about Charlie Sheen’s meltdown after being fired from the hit sitcom, Two and a Half Men. I’ve always admired Sheen’s acting abilities, dating all the way back to Platoon and Wall Street; especially Wall Street because he personified a certain type of asshole that my generation must claim responsibility for. What type of asshole is that, you ask? The yuppie (young upwardly mobile urban professional) – the hipster antecedent who cared about nothing except making money, and gave birth to the materialistic mindset we’ve been cursed with since Michael Douglas’s character Gordon Gekko uttered the phrase, “greed is good”. The yuppies have now descended into middle age, but you can tell which ones are still a little “Bud Fox” around the edges, and long for those Halcyon days of insider trading and Reaganomics.

Bud Fox was a seminal role for Charlie Sheen, one that should have cemented his career as a major player in Hollywood. Instead, he plummeted into a world of booze, drugs, and prostitutes, becoming one of the industry’s most glaring cautionary tales for how easy it is to fuck up your life when you become famous. It wasn’t until Chuck Lorre cast him in his ridiculously smart and successful half-hour program that Sheen became the quintessential Hollywood renaissance man. He managed to control himself well enough to deliver intelligent, bitingly sarcastic dialog, and become a grounded family man in his personal life. Unfortunately, the good times didn’t last, and his latest transgression, the revelation that he is HIV positive, is hardly a surprise.

It saddens me greatly to witness the downfall of such a promising talent. It upsets me even more to learn that Sheen has been living under threat of extortion from the undesirables he chooses to associate with. Yesterday, he gave a revealing interview to NBC’s Matt Lauer, and admitted that he’s spent in the neighborhood of $10 million in an attempt to quiet speculation about his diagnosis. Think of how many people living with HIV he could have helped, or the resources he could have provided to the medical community researching methods to treat, and hopefully one day find a cure for the virus. It is absolutely heartbreaking.

I hope that going forward, Charlie Sheen will join the ranks of Elizabeth Taylor, Elton John, Magic Johnson, and other prominent public figures who have chosen HIV and AIDS as their cause célèbre, rather than perpetuate the dirtbag behavior that has compromised his health. He confessed he no longer does drugs, but still drinks, which leads me to believe he has a long way to go before he is able to completely vanquish his demons. It’s a shame; he’s only 50 years-old and has a lot of life left ahead of him to accomplish something meaningful. It’s unrealistic to think that with only a reliance on anti-viral drugs, he will continue to keep the virus at bay, without including some significant soul-searching and lifestyle changes to go along with them.

There was a time when I would have continued to poke fun at Charlie Sheen for his shenanigans, but cancer changed all that for me. There comes a time when you have to wake up and take responsibility for yourself. When you reach a certain age, that much should be evident, but for some of us, unfortunately, not even a catastrophic diagnosis can affect that sort of change. Suppression only works for so long, and I know that all too well. Let’s hope Charlie Sheen can figure that one out for himself.

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