You’re completely missing the point if you think the Charlie Sheen moment is really a story about drugs. Yeah, they play a part, but they aren’t at the core of what’s happening—or why this particular Sheen moment is so fascinating. I know functioning addicts. They’re not that rare or that interesting. What this moment is about is Sheen solo. It’s about a well-earned midlife crisis played out on CNN instead of in a life coach’s office somewhere in Burbank. The midlife crisis is the moment in a man’s life when he realizes he can’t (or won’t) any longer maintain the pose that he thought was required of him. Tom Cruise had a similar meltdown at the same age in the summer of 2005, but his was more politely handled (and, of course, he was never known as an addict). Cruise had his breakdown while smiling. He’s always essentially been the good boy who can’t say “Fuck you” the way Sheen (or even someone as benign as Cee Lo) can. Cruise is still that altar boy from Syracuse who believes in the glamour of Empire earnestness, and this is ultimately his limitation as a movie star and as an actor.
But oh, no, not Sheen. Arrests. Accidental overdoses. Halfhearted stints in rehab. Martin Sheen’s teary-eyed press conference. The briefcase full of coke. The Mercedes towed out of the ravine. The misdemeanor third-degree assault on the third wife, who also went to rehab. Sheen allegedly threatening to cut off same wife’s head, put it in a box, send it to her mother. Sheen chain smoking on TMZ. The priceless dialogue. (On CBS executives: “They lay down with their ugly wives in front of their ugly children and look at their loser lives.”) The September 11 conspiracy theories. Shooting Kelly Preston in the arm. Fucking porn stars Ginger Lynn and Heather Hunter and Bree Olson. Compared with Cruise, Sheen has put on a mesmerizing and refreshing display of midlife-crisis honesty. He’s just himself, an addict—take it or leave it.
And actually, I only half-understand what he’s talking about between empire vs. post-empire, but it sounds good.