When a celebrity gets arrested multiple times for embarrassing actions, goes to rehab, wrecks his car, loses one of the most lucrative jobs in television acting history, and goes on a tear of unexplainable public appearances and interviews, one has to think he’s an absolute moron. Add social media to the equation and some would call him a genius.
I don’t think he’s a genius. He has, however, turned his situation around in through sites like Twitter and Facebook in a way that was definitely not expected and will likely vault him into a higher status of celebrity that will keep him in the news and making movies for a long time to come (except at the Warner Bros studio, from which he is permanently banned).
What happened? How did he do it? More importantly, why did we allow him to do it?
The Dark Path
One look at the path that Charlie Sheen has traveled over the last year reveals something very obvious: this guy is crazy. The phrase “living like a rock star” doesn’t do it justice. Most rock stars wouldn’t be so bold and reckless.
A look back over the decades reveals that he’s always been a little crazy, but the real questions started popping up in October when he was found passed out and naked in a trashed hotel room. Capri Anderson reportedly locked herself in the bathroom at the Plaza Hotel and called security because she was afraid of Sheen.
Everything started going downhill from there. In the past, this would be the end for any celebrity.
“The Warlock” is not just any celebrity.
When You're Beyond the Point of No Return…
… you just have to swim through to the other side. That is what Sheen is trying to do. The best PR firm in the world wouldn’t be able to turn around his reputation at this point. His only option: play the “crazy beyond recognition” card and reinvent himself into something that better fits his skin.
So far, he’s played the card masterfully.
If it bleeds, it leads, and Sheen’s antics are bleeding all over the gossip wires. He’s getting mentioned by everyone from O’Reilly to Oprah and the masses are wondering what he’s going to do next. It’s a debacle of the downfall of society, but it’s working.
The Twitter Factor
While everything else has been a wild mess, the move to join and subsequently take over Twitter was brilliant. Facebook pages and websites are popping up to support (and in some cases, denounce) Sheen and his unofficial quest expand his reach and stay relevant long enough to take advantage of the press he’s receiving.
Therein lies the difference between today and yesterday.
Because his actions have been so insane, so far off any path that has even considered getting beaten, he is being idolized by millions. A few years ago, he would have been dismissed and our heads would have been shaking over the fallen star. Today, thanks to a shift in what society perceives as admirable and the massive ability of social media to maintain our shortened attention spans, Sheen is well on his way to just about whatever he wants.
He can get his own talk show. He can do high-dollar cameos in every comedy that gets made in 2011. He could start trends that have never been conceived before.
Thanks to Twitter and social media in general, Charlie Sheen can generate a following that will blow away Ashton Kutcher, the Dalai Lama, or Lady Gaga within a few months. He has transcended to a level where today’s leaderless pop culture society may be willing to follow him if he plays his cards right.
He will be the first Twitter user to break 10 million followers.
It’s hard to believe, but a large mass of viewers tuned in to watch Sheen and his cohorts do a live broadcast on Ustream. I hopped in long enough to see how many people were watching – over 100,000 at the time. I checked in just now to see how many views it received. As of 6 hours after the broadcast, it’s over 600,000.
It’s never good to be judgmental about something that you didn’t view, but I couldn’t do it. I needed that hour of my life for more important things. Still, it goes to show that celebrities can reinvent themselves very quickly following a meltdown by taking on a new role through social media. All of the questions surrounding Sheen come down to this: Are we laughing with him or laughing at him?
It’s the ugliest use of social media that I’ve ever seen.