Charlie Sheen came back from the brink of crazy and is now comfortably languishing in the meadow of crazy, where TV producers, satellite providers, and Italian loafer-sized cars lavish him with generous contracts and feed him very expensive grapes. How is it possible that such a seemingly irrelevant and unhinged celebrity — whose last real big-screen hit (Hot Shots!) came out when Bush Senior was president and whose small-screen success consisted of replacing Michael J. Fox in Spin City and cracking masturbation jokes with a 13-year-old in Two and a Half Men — could maintain his kung-fu grip on the spotlight even after what might have been a career-killing media tour, a "downward spiral" during which he sang the praises of tiger blood? Because nobody will buy a Fiat from a sane person.
The Daily Beast's Maria Elena Fernandez recounts Charlie Sheen's odyssey of madness, a period of time when each new tweet, sound bite, or report about Sheen embellished his legend as a man who had seemingly ran out of fucks to give about losing a lucrative job on network television and abusing a whole rainbow of substances. She explains that, far from sounding a career death knell, Sheen's breakdown has helped make him a particularly effective pitchman for 18-34-year-old men, a notoriously thorny bramble of a demographic for advertisers. His new show, Anger Management, has turned his penchant for wild-eyed outbursts into comedic fodder (ex-wife Denise Richards made a cameo in which she deadpanned to Sheen's character that her ex-husband is "a real whack job" har-har-har), and Fiat cast him in the infamous house-arrest ad that features Sheen Tokyo-drifting in a pog-sized car through a mansion filled with beautiful women and then getting out of his ride to show off his ankle monitoring bracelet. He's under house arrest, get it???
Though he'll probably never again see the sort of money that Two and a Half Men was paying him, Sheen seems to be doing pretty well for a guy who remains unapologetic about both his drinking (he hasn't been shamed into rehab like so many other boozing celebs) and the huge liability he represents to a production company looking to cast him. With his exclamatory media binge, Sheen achieved a relevancy he hadn't had in years — he's now familiar to 87 percent of Americans six years and older according to his Q Score, which measures the broad appeal of celebrities and brand names. His negative score increased from 31 to 47 in a single year, too, meaning that more Americans regard him with a mix of disgust and pity, but gigs like the Fiat commercial have helped glamorize Sheen's misbehavior for young men (his appeal among women has effectively nosedived) everywhere who aspire to be the sorts of unrepentant douchebags that make for such dynamic movie and TV characters.
Sheen's instability has been spun into something a little more marketable — he's a wild card, a rebel, the unapologetic jerk-off who offers the finger when people suggest that he ought to get some help. We've had about a decade of that now and, frankly, it's boring. Let's just assume for a moment that none of us particularly care whether (insofar as we aren't personally acquainted with him) Charlie Sheen kicks the drugs and booze, gets his act together, and reprises his role as Bud Fox in the final installment of Oliver Stone's Wall Street trilogy. Is he going to buy any credit amongst the American viewing public by making a perfunctory trip to rehab? Or would such a trip, however salubrious it might be, just erode that last 18-34-year-old demographic?
Charlie Sheen's appeal is like Archer's or [Name of It's Always Sunny Character's] appeal — he seems to flaunt the rules that most people follow. When Rule-Abiding-Citizen takes a spin in a Fiat, steps out and exclaims, "Goodness, what an efficient little automobile!" nobody rushes to their nearest Fiat dealer and says, "Me, now, in this car." Charlie Sheen can sell Fiats to people who wouldn't even consider riding around in cars that look like the Crocs toddler giants kicked off their feet during earth-shaking temper-tantrums. The only problem with lionizing Sheen's behavior is that, if you have any empathy at all, you realize that he's not a booze-swilling cartoon secret agent or a sociopathic sitcom character — he's a real dude who's in the process of making a career out of self-destruction. So, what happens when Sheen's shtick stops being marketable?
Charlie Sheen: Anger Management on FX, DirecTV, Fiat [Daily Beast]