Pop Culture

Can Charlie Sheen Ever Be Charlie Sheen Again?

It's hard to tell the exact moment it happened, sometime between his entrance and dramatic exit from the show Two and a Half Men, but this country has become obsessed with the crazy person that is now called Charlie Sheen. The reasons behind our infatuation with the man who once famously took on Gordon Gekko in Wall Street are simple and obvious. We love a train wreck; we want to watch to see what will happen next.

Sheen has been a rolling snowball for years. His legal troubles date back close to two decades, and his affection for narcotics is legendary. He has said that his 1998 overdose was due to injecting himself with cocaine. But we often forget that Charlie Sheen used to be a really good actor. The movies he made in the early part of his career, Platoon, Wall Street, Eight Men Out, Young Guns, hell, he even knocked it out of the park in Major League (bad pun). Throughout his success, he struggled with drugs and to say "struggled" means he liked doing them. Until his '98 OD, he never outwardly admitted to trying to put the kibosh on his addiction. And we, as a culture, couldn't care less. We loved him for being honest and still thought of him as a good guy.

Sheen allegedly stayed clean for several years and reinvented himself. He turned to comedy, doing movies like Hot Shots and then, when he replaced Michael J. Fox on the television comedy Spin City, it seemed that he had finally found his home. TV was a great place for Sheen! He was working steadily, looking good and he was so funny! His move to Two and a Half Men only solidified this, and he climbed back up the height of his popularity, even higher than before. But then something went wrong.

His TV persona of the playboy Charlie Harper engulfed him but to the umpteenth degree. He turned into a total scumbag. Stories began to surface: drugs, whores, beating whores while on drugs, beating wives, girlfriends, more drugs. What the hell happened here?

Like many celebrities who go through rehab after rehab after rehab, we welcome them back with open arms. We understand! You are under a lot of pressure to make a movie or whatever. People make mistakes and deserve multiple chances, and often we, as a media-loving audience, are rewarded for our generosity. Robert Downey Jr. has risen above as a shining example of what an ex-addict/actor can become -- Iron Man! There are so many other examples of how celebrities have revived their images. Snap a photo or two giving away hot lunches at a soup kitchen and we will forget all about when you threw a phone at your assistant. Show us that you are a devoted mother and your umbrella duel with a car never enters our mind. It's PR magic at its best and very often it works.

Earlier this week, Sheen announced that he would donate $1 million to the USO. The news media is abuzz with excitement over this gift. The next moment, Sheen decides (or is wisely advised) to eradicate himself from Twitter, saving himself from any 140-character outbursts he may not be able to control. Yesterday he throws it out there that he could be a contender as a replacement judge on American Idol. Appearing on his show, Sheen told Jay Leno that he could "give kids some guidance."

All of these things seem to be adding up to one thing: image revamp. Sheen doesn't necessarily need a new image; he's been doing quite fine playing the asshole, but that gets boring eventually and people stop wanting to do work with you (Lindsay Lohan can attest). So is Sheen attempting a do-over and, furthermore, is that even possible? Has he gone too far into the danger zone to turn back into a nice, regular old family man-type actor who loves his kids and doesn't beat prostitutes?

Even if it's possible for him to do a 180, it is hard to say if America wants that Charlie Sheen. We seem to thoroughly enjoy his messy lifestyle. We hang onto his every word and we hashtag them, too, until they are trending. We buy OK Magazine when he's on the cover allegedly being nasty to his wife and kids again. We like this version of Charlie Sheen better than the last one, and Sheen might have a much more difficult time shaking his bad-boy image than some other celebrity.

If Major League II has taught us anything, it's that no one liked Ricky Vaughn (Sheen's character) when he cleaned up his act; it hurt his career. Only when he embraces his destiny as the messy-haired, attitude-fueled, take-no BS "Wild Thing" does the world fall in love with him again. Life imitating art imitating life? If you want to actually call Major League II art, that's another story.

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Abby Koenig
Contact: Abby Koenig