His lovers are goddesses.
Adonis DNA constructs the tiger blood flowing through his veins.
Like a Greek god on Mount Olympus, he looks down on us from the Hollywood Hills, as well as from his personal heights of “bitchin’-ness” — and he likes the view.
Charlie Sheen has been saying a lot lately — rapid-fire, literary device laced rants that reveal a man, in his own mind at least, of mythic proportions. He challenges his (now ex-) employer, touts his successes, and claims personal awesomeness. And, when his soliloquy pauses, ever so briefly as he recharges for another scene (yikes), silence does not hang in the air. Instead, a cacophony of voices chime in from his massive Greek chorus (i.e. us), and we all sing.
According to Encyclopædia Britannica, “The chorus in Classical Greek drama was a group of actors who described and commented on the main action of a play with song, dance, and recitation.”
Sheen’s chorus is large.
The Classical Greek chorus ranged from 12 to 50 singers. Barely over a day after creating a Twitter account, Sheen had one million followers. As I type, he has 2,544,426 followers (no, just for the record, I am not one of them) drooling over his every tweet. This, of course, does not include the millions who have inadvertently caught glimpses of the story in print and on television, as well as the active seekers who click on and marvel at the latest YouTube posting featuring the soon-to-be star of Apocalypse Me.
Sheen’s chorus has not been lacking in content for its lyrical response.
“Did you hear what he said now? ‘Fire breathing fists.’ I don’t even know what that means.” “He wants to start a ‘porn family.’ I feel sorry for his real family.” “Wow, a kid who grew up rich in Hollywood got into drugs and lost his mind — what a shocker.” “He was the highest paid actor on television? I didn’t even think ‘Two and a Half Men’ was funny.” “ Didn’t he get arrested for paying for sex? — disgusting.”
The Classical Greek chorus had much to say about the action of the play at hand. The modern Sheen chorus says much about our culture.
Yes, there is a schadenfreudian element to the fascination. Charlie Sheen was born into privilege with a front-of-the-line-pass to success in Hollywood because of his lineage. He chose not to graduate from high school, like most of the rest of us needed to do to ensure a chance at an income above the poverty line, yet he seemed to effortlessly rise to truly epic heights of fame and fortune (must be that Adonis DNA). After years of his escapades in excess, he now falls, to the delight of some.
And, there is a sensationalistic element to the fascination as well. Sheen tells us, in his own words, of a personal tale of sex, drugs and megalomania, and it’s hard not to pay at least some attention. “I was bangin’ seven-gram rocks and finishing them because that’s how I roll, because I have one speed, one gear, go…”
But, there is something more. The Sheen chorus sings in catharsis. Unlike the star of this drama (Or is it a tragedy? Or is it a comedy?), most of us watching from the wings of the stage are well-enmeshed in civilization, and the corresponding behavior it demands — and for good reason: This civilization, and its rules, has doubled our life expectancy; it has led to life affirming creations such as the William Tell Overture, the polio vaccine, the Frappuccino. However, this civilization can also at times feel like a straitjacket we wear to prevent us from harming ourselves and others; it inhibits some of our strongest and most passionate desires from being acted upon. This straitjacket of civilization is on tight; it often chafes as it guides us down the narrow path.
Sheen has thrown his straitjacket to the ground. The fabric is composed of restraint, humility, kindness, responsibility, decency, respect; it is stitched together with inhibition. He tramples on it daily as he descends into apparent mania and insanity. We watch his arms flail about him. He is a danger to himself and others. We ask him to put his straitjacket back on before it’s too late.
The angry Narcissus cockily dismisses us; our mouths open a bit wider to sing louder.
Sheen said of his co-partiers: “I exposed them to something that they otherwise would not see in their boring normal lives…” The words seem to be directed to his chorus, too. Sheen has indeed exposed us to something–what a person looks like who has freed himself from the restraints of civilization, and possibly from reality itself. From the inside, it apparently feels immensely empowering. From the outside, it at first looks amusing, then bizarre, for a few fleeting moments heroic, and finally tragic.
The Greeks gave us Narcissus, Adonis, and a cast of other colorful characters — some heroic, many flawed — whom we can learn important lessons from. Hollywood has given us Charlie Sheen.