Charlie Sheen and why some celebrities act all crazy and everything

Ain’t no going back.  You can’t get unfamous.  You can get infamous.  But you can’t get unfamous.  Dave Chappelle

I was reading the Entertainment Weekly coverage of Charlie Sheen, and thinking about how many stars flame out.  The head shaving, the shop lifting, the outbursts, the throwing things, the ranting and raving.

There must be as many reasons for this behavior as there are celebrities.  But what if there’s a secret motive?

Maybe some of these people want to stop being famous.  

It’s hard for the non-famous to imagine this. Wealth, glamor, adulation, media coverage. What’s not to like?  

But of course the costs are high.  You give up your privacy.  You give up amiable for adulation. You take on a team that must be fed, a lifestyle that must be maintained.  But the real cost might be: you can’t leave.  Fate has claimed you.  You have lost your mobility.  You can’t go home again.  Actually, you can’t even leave the house.  

This would explain how strange these outbursts are.  Celebrities believe themselves to be as gods.  So when they tire of celebrity, I expect they believe they can just up and go.  And it’s here that they begin to glimpse the truth of Dave Chappelle’s comment above.  They are struck.

This is why it goes steadily from bad to worse.  They begin with small acts of rebellion. Attempts to scale the wall.  And those don’t work.  They try a little more bad behavior and this too leaves the door closed.  It’s not very long before they are using their talent for drama and very considerable ingenuity to see if they can just get the f*ck out of here.  

This would explain why the crisises are so public.   I mean, celebs have the money and the staff to contain or conceal their moments of difficulty.  Things find there way into Entertainment Weekly precisely because eventually that’s the very point of the exercise: is to evade the controlling power of this money and this staff.  Celebs are looking for anything that works.  

The Chappellian revelation must be a moment of pure terror.  This beautiful garment is actually a trap.  It went on so easily.  It looks so stunning.  It became you until you became it. Now it won’t come off. Now it’s time to panic. All that wealth, profile and adulation you worked so hard to get…

In their heart of heart, celebrities continue to believe in their talent and their ingenuity. Surely, they just have to work a little harder.  There has to be some way out of here.  What if I steal this piece of costume jewelry.  That should do it.  No?  What if I go on top of a building with a megaphone.  No?  Ok, what if I …   

By the time we get the news, the celeb is deep into the Chappellian cycle.  They’ve tried A and B and are now working their way to M and N.  It looks to us like they have boarded the crazy train, but in fact this is merely the last stages of a rational undertaking.  Celebrities are producing crazy behaviors only because the rational ones will not pan out.  And they are trapped.

In an interview with James Lipton on Inside the Actors Studio.  Rebroadcast on Bravo, December 18, 2006.

6 thoughts on “Charlie Sheen and why some celebrities act all crazy and everything

  1. Joakim Sternö

    Hey Grant,

    Interesting post. A quote from the 2005 Eminem song “The Way I Am” immediatly pops up in my head.

    “I’m so sick and tired of being admired/
    That I wish that I would just die or get fired/
    And drop from my label and stop with the fables/
    I’m not gonna be able to top what my name is/”

  2. Venu Gopal Nair

    I don’t think celebrities are trapped in their image at all. They worry about the time they will be inconsequential.
    Fame may get tiring when it is in full flow but it’s just as disquieting for the celebrity when the phones just don’t ring anymore

  3. Leo Daedalus

    This is is arguably why, as Plato would have it, Odysseus chooses reincarnation in a quiet life, knowing first-hand the tribulations of an ambitious and highly celebrated one, eh?

    Doubtless there’s a gamut of motivations, from the essentially rational attempt to return to the Eden of unfame, to shameless leveraging of the old “no such thing as bad publicity” policy, to outright mental illness (much of which doubtless exacerbated by the meat-grinder of celebrity itself). In any case, it doesn’t help that the people seem to have an unquenchable appetite for the incendiary madness of its shooting stars. The would-be ex-celebrity is a moth fanning his own flames.

    Thanks for the post!

  4. shsfgnjsfg

    Hmmmm…maybe that’s what the song Hotel California is about?


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