Jeannie asks, “Why are you here?” and Charlie, dead-panned, replies, without regret: “Drugs.” And then he slowly disarms her bitchiness with his outrageously sexy insouciance, transforming her annoyance into delight (they end up making out).
That’s when we first really noticed Charlie Sheen, and it’s the key moment in his movie career (it now seems to define and sum up everything that followed). He hasn’t been as entertaining since. Until now. In getting himself fired from Two and a Half Men, this privileged child of the media’s sprawling entertainment Empire has now become its most gifted prankster. And now Sheen has embraced the post-Empire, making his bid to explain to all of us what celebrity means in that world. Whether you like it or not is beside the point. It’s where we are, babe. We’re learning something. (…)
Post-Empire isn’t just about admitting doing “illicit” things publicly and coming clean—it’s a (for now) radical attitude that says the Empire lie doesn’t exist anymore, you friggin’ Empire trolls. To Empire gatekeepers, Charlie Sheen seems dangerous and in need of help because he’s destroying (and confirming) illusions about the nature of celebrity. He’s always been a role model for a certain kind of male fantasy. Degrading, perhaps, but aren’t most male fantasies? (I don’t know any straight men who fantasize about Tom Cruise’s personal life.) Sheen has always been a bad boy, which is part of his appeal—to men and women. There’s a manly mock-dignity about Sheen that both sexes like a lot. What Sheen has exemplified and has clarified is the moment in the culture when not giving a fuck about what the public thinks about you or your personal life is what matters most—and what makes the public love you even more (if not exactly CBS or the creator of the show that has made you so wealthy). It’s a different brand of narcissism than Empire narcissism.