The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Charlie Sheen’s Hollywood Bedlam

Posted on | March 5, 2011 | 19 Comments

“Bedlam,” final scene of William Hogarth’s series “A Rake’s Progress” (1735)

“”I’m tired of pretending I’m not special. I’m tired of pretending like I’m not bitchin’, a total freaking rock star from Mars.”
Charlie Sheen, Feb. 28, 2011

Last night, the Trainwreck Called Charlie Tweeted that Rachel Oberlin — a/k/a, porn performer “Bree Olson,” the more attractive of the two not-very-attractive “goddesses” with whom Charlie has been shacking up — had split the scene:

People magazine reports that Oberlin/Olson may have returned, but trying to figure out the complicated erotic entanglements inside “Sober Valley Lodge” requires more effort than it probably deserves.

What is interesting, however, is that Oberlin’s mother is reportedly worried about her living with Charlie Sheen. One might have thought that Mrs. Oberlin had more reason to worry when, in 2008, her daughter won an award for “Best Anal Scene” in a porn video whose title we won’t repeat here. Let’s pause to contemplate the moral universe in which being sodomized on camera is OK, but living with a millionaire TV star is cause for concern.

Having stared momentarily into that abyss, let’s permit Craig Ferguson to put some historical perspective on what’s really happening here:

There was a mental hospital in London, it’s been there for a very long time. It started as a priory in I think the 12th or 13th century. Anyway, it’s called Bedlam. And what happened was, in the 18th century, people used to go along and pay money — they would pay a penny — and they would look through the peepholes of the cells. And they would look at the lunatics and they would laugh at them. …

In one of his several recent media interviews, Sheen referenced the fact that he starred in an Oscar-winner — Oliver Stone’s Platoon (Best Picture, 1986) — when he was just 20 years old. As with Hogarth’s tale of Tom Rakewell’s degeneracy in “A Rake’s Progress,” Sheen was a young man of almost infinite promise, and there is something of genuine tragedy in his having become the punchline of jokes like Sheen Wars:

Amusing enough for us as spectators, so long as we can ignore the tragic dimension, and forget the humanity of a man so obviously nearing the end of the road to complete self-destruction:

He is trying very hard to convey the impression that he’s having fun — “Winning!” – but I’ll bet it’s a lot less fun than it looks.

For all his arrogant ranting about “tiger blood” and “Adonis DNA,” Charlie Sheen must be desperately embarrassed by the mess he’s made of his life. He may yet be able to redeem himself, but in the meantime we are transfixed by his lunacy, like those 18th-century Englishmen paying a penny to peek through the peephole at the inmates of Bedlam.


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