AA case of denial?


Following Charlie Sheen’s slandering of AA on American radio, Natalie Voorheis examines the links between celebrity and the obsession with self-destruction

On February 24th, actor Charlie Sheen took to American radio on The Alex Jones Show and ranted his way through a slot about his personal life and working on the hit show Two and a Half Men.

Sheen has had a troubled and complicated personal life, and his lengthy alcohol abuse struggles have been very publicly played out in the media, a trend fuelled by Hollywood’s sensationalist reporting surrounding celebrity rehab stints. Sheen has roughly five of these rehab stays under his belt.

Sheen vented his frustration with the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) group involved in his treatment in a barrage of abuse on national radio. He likened the AA to a “bootleg cult” and called its founder “desperate and broken down”.

Sheen went on to express his deep-seated cynicism of AA’s objectives and achievements by saying: “They urge you to put down your sword and come join the winners. In 22 years, the only winners I can locate in their toothless war were either driving a convertible van or living like trolls under some abandoned bridge. Another one of their stupid models, Alex, is don’t be special, be one of us. Newsflash, I am special and I never will be one of you. There it is.”

Sheen went on to say that while others might be having no fun at all at AA meetings: “I’m gonna hang out with these two smoking hotties and fly privately around the world. It might be lonely up here, but I sure like the view.”

Sheen claims to have cured himself of his multiple decade-old alcohol addiction in a matter of seconds, by simply thinking himself out of the situation. He said: “I have cleansed myself. I closed my eyes and in a nanosecond, I cured myself from this ridiculous model of a disease, which became an obsession… I dare anyone to debate on things. Debate me on AA right now. I have a disease? Bullshit! I cured it with my brain, my mind. I’m cured. I’m done.”

Sheen’s rant on national radio has caused the filming of Two and a Half Men, for which Sheen has been acclaimed in his role as Charlie Harper, to be axed.

Sheen’s outpouring is just the latest in a constant stream of train wreck celebrities public displays of strange behaviour all seemingly routed in alcohol and substance abuse. The world of celebrity has always been synonymous with a seedy underbelly of excess and addiction. Modern stars such as Pete Doherty, Lindsay Lohan and Amy Winehouse have almost become more famous for their lifestyles than for the talent that originally placed them there.

These celebrities’ personal problems usually become public knowledge, due to the utilisation of online media and the birth of such websites like Perez Hilton.com. Fans and cynics alike have, as a result, access to information about incidents of debaucherous and outrageous behaviour within seconds of its occurrence. The celebrity has never been so much an object of public ownership. A chance encounter and perhaps a compromising Twitpic taken by a random passer-by can fuel a media frenzy around the globe in seconds.

Far from creating a generation of celebrities who lock away their personal lives, modern media has created a set of celebrity monsters feeding of their very exposure. Instead of retaining their own sanity, modesty and the integrity of their chosen profession, the modern celebrity is less routed in quantifiable talent and more dependent on his or her skills of unashamed self-promotion.

Do something untoward and sell your story to a magazine, call the paparazzi on yourself while drunk outside a club, star in a reality TV show and check into rehab and you will have well and truly made it in the fame game. The exhibitionist culture of the 21st century seems to know no bounds.

Today it is a norm for famous talents to have their intimate personal problems exploited by the media and for average nobodies to themselves exploit that same media by feeding it and rocketing themselves to the status of celebrity. Think Big Brother, Paris Hilton and the Kardashian sisters.

As Amy Winehouse would sing on her worldwide hit record released in October of 2006: “They tried make me go to rehab but I said ‘no, no, no’”. What a quintessential insight into the modern management machine this was and how strikingly ironic it turned out to be.