You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

No More Vicarious Living Through Charlie Sheen?

“What do you do when you’ve got studio heads that won’t hire you, even though you screwed the same whores? Yet they pull you aside at a party and say that you’re their hero for the things that you do … If I go away and start wearing wooden shoes and fake leather, who’s left? I feel like Vicarious Man. I am Vicarious Man!”

 —Charlie Sheen to Details, March 1998.

Oh well, I guess we can all stop living vicariously through Charlie Sheen — except, of course, for the media, which, let’s face it, can’t get enough of him for all the obvious reasons.

The news media does, indeed, live vicariously through characters like the “Two and a Half Men” star, 2halfmen mostly because they give us all an excuse to talk about things that we know generate web traffic and ratings — like pampered millionaire actors cavorting with hookers and (allegedly) hosting two-day cocaine parties.

This morning, the anchors on KNX-AM radio in Los Angeles sounded positively indignant about Sheen’s behavior, with one pointing out the rumored drug use is illegal. Still, they covered what little they knew about his recent hospitalization dutifully and extensively — taking their lead, increasingly, from Harvey Levin and his merry band of jackals at TMZ — as if it was the most important thing going on in the world.

 Well, sure, it’s not like the Middle East is in chaos or anything.

Sheen might be self-destructive, and it’s probably high time that CBS and Warner Bros. stopped coddling him and ignoring the tasseled elephant in the room — just because he’s worth tens of millions to them — and did something that just might help save the guy’s life. Consider it a good investment. 

But the actor had it right in that melt-down interview a dozen years ago: People do like to live vicariously through the extragavant excesses and shenanigans of the rich and famous — and the mainstream media pander to those impulses now, I’d argue, more blatantly than ever before. Otherwise, the pages of US Weekly would be 80 percent blank, and “Nightline” would have to come up with a real news story to rock us to bed each night.

So there, we’re all part of the problem — and I’m just manly enough myself to admit it.


More Voices

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    WGA, Agents Face Tough Issues on New Franchise Pact (Column)

    The Writers Guild of America and the major talent agencies are seven weeks away from a deadline that could force film and TV writers to choose between their agents and their union. This is a battle that has been brewing for a year but few in the industry saw coming until a few weeks ago. [...]

  • FX Confronts Streaming Thanks to Disney

    Kicking and Screaming, FX Is Forced to Confront Future in the Stream (Column)

    During his network’s presentation at the winter Television Critics Assn. press tour, FX chief John Landgraf made waves — and headlines — by mounting perhaps his most direct criticism yet of Netflix. Landgraf, whose briefings to the press tend to rely heavily on data about the volume of shows with which FX’s competitors flood the [...]

  • Longtime TV Editor Recalls Working for

    How a Bad Director Can Spoil the Show (Guest Column)

    I have been blessed with editing some of TV’s greatest shows, working with some of the industry’s greatest minds. “The Wonder Years,” “Arrested Development,” “The Office,” “Scrubs,” “Pushing Daisies” and, most recently, “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” I have earned an Emmy, ACE Eddie Awards, and many nominations. But whatever kudos I’ve received, over my [...]

  • Stock market Stock buyback

    Stock Buybacks Leave Firms Without Funds to Invest in Future (Column)

    Corporate giants on the S&P 500 have spent more than $720 billion during the past year on stock buybacks. Media and entertainment firms account for only a fraction of that spending, but even $1 million spent on share repurchases seems a foolhardy expenditure at this transformational moment for the industry. The record level of spending [...]

  • Hollywood Has Come Far With Diversity

    An Insider's Look at Hollywood's Diversity Efforts and How Far It Still Needs to Go

    I am a white man working in Hollywood. I grew up in Beverlywood, an all-white, predominantly Jewish, Los Angeles neighborhood sandwiched between 20th Century Fox Studios and MGM, where my elementary school had only one black student. I am compelled to write about diversity in Hollywood because “diversity” — in front of and behind the camera [...]

  • Venice Film Festival A Star is

    How Venice, Toronto and Telluride Festivals Stole Cannes' Luster (Column)

    In all the years I’ve been attending film festivals, I have never seen a lineup that looked as good on paper as Venice’s did this fall, boasting new films by Alfonso Cuarón (“Roma”), Damien Chazelle (“First Man”), Paul Greengrass (“22 July”), Mike Leigh (“Peterloo”) and the Coen brothers (“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”) in competition, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content