Charlie Sheen isn’t the exception that proves the rule.
He’s the new rule.
Forget the days when misbehavior wasn’t rewarded. These days, misbehavior is actively encouraged.
If there’s anything we can learn from Charlie Sheen and his newly announced sitcom, “Anger Management,” it’s that behaving badly is the new road to success. Charlie Sheen did everything that we were told not to do, lest we ever wish to hold down a job. He embarked on a series of drug-addled rants, proclaimed himself “winning” and announced that he was a warlock who lived with “goddesses.” And we devoured it. Now he’s back with a new sitcom.
Behaving immaturely actually gets you farther. Politeness? Courtesy? Civility? All non-adaptive traits, these days.
Mature? That’s a euphemism for “old.”
Follow instructions? Listen to others? We don’t go to followership camps for a reason. Act as though the world didn’t revolve around you? Nonsense.
The meek will inherit the Earth? Please. By the time the non-meek have gotten through with it, it’ll be a flaming, environmentally exhausted ball of rock devoid of any fossil fuels.
Perhaps it’s the Internet’s fault. It’s torn down the walls that used to separate what was Fit For Polite Conversation from What Everyone Was Actually Talking About. Why put on a metaphorical tie and attempt to be civilized? Loosen that collar and fling some feces at the wall. More people will click on it.
Look at the guests on Bill Maher this weekend, expressing the desire to do indelicate things to presidential candidates, or even Mark Halperin, who called the president a rude name and who will probably be back on television in a few shakes of a lamb’s tail. They aren’t even Hollywood actors!
Don’t follow the rules. Following the rules never got anyone anything, except not expelled from the youth soccer game.
Act like an adult?
The only kind of adult we have nowadays is the kind that stars in X-rated films.
Once if you went on a drug-addled rampage and told everyone you were a warlock, you would be bound and locked in some dark room. These days, those are exactly the people we want to see on television.
Or are they?
They say that no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the average viewer.
Not only don’t we mind having our intelligence insulted, we actively ask for it. “Could you say that again, but maybe less polysyllabically, and with more finger-pointing?” we ask.
Tact is the art of knowing how far to go too far, Gide said.
These days, so is commentary. Or rather, it’s the art of thinking you knew how far to go too far — until suddenly the rug gets pulled out from under you. Last week’s insulting reference to the president was all nod-and-wink, is-the-bleeper-on — until the backlash.
Some individuals make misbehavior this their specialty. Some institutions do.
There’s a strange thread linking Charlie Sheen to the Murdoch scandal. Never mind those who resigned indignantly when Murdoch bought their papers, departing with withering quips such as “No self-respecting fish would be wrapped in a Murdoch newspaper.” Most of us eat it up, from Page Three to the murder reports.
Up to a point, we reward bad behavior. Make your own rules! Just keep us entertained!
But the location of that point is elusive. Perhaps it’s arbitrary. Turn a blind eye to phone hacking until it touches the investigation of a murdered 13-year-old girl? That’s clearly awful, but what an oddly specific line.
Meanwhile, the Warlock king is rising in the west.
What works for Charlie Sheen doesn’t work for anyone else? Nonsense.
From the songs on the radio — “Forget You” by Cee Lo Green topped the charts for weeks, and it wasn’t simply because of its infectious tune — to the pundits on television, we are demonstrably sick of pretending to be mature.
Sure, every so often we snap back, and we snap hard. We fire people who say inflammatory things. Even Sheen lost his job.
But the point at which we do so seems increasingly arbitrary, and the return to prominence happens more and more swiftly.
I’d wish Charlie Sheen luck on his new endeavor. But I don’t think he’ll need it. He’s the future.
Forget raising your kids right. Rear them to be like Charlie Sheen.
Don’t speak unless spoken to? How will you get on cable? Don’t volunteer information without being asked? That’s the whole point of Twitter. Pay attention to people when they’re talking to you? Not if you have a smartphone. Don’t use obscenities on television? Don’t talk about performing lewd acts with presidential candidates anywhere that anyone can hear?
I’m sure all three people who click on that will appreciate it. Meanwhile, there’s the rest of us to consider.