Why are We So Captivated by Charlie Sheen?


There are actually a number of reasons why so many people have found themselves glued to the next installment of the Charlie Sheen Shenanigans. Different people are motivated by different reasons but there are some common themes that tend to run through the human condition that can explain this ongoing captivation.

Part of it has to do with our fascination with public figures who have it all and then seem to throw it away for no apparent reason – Tiger Woods only recently left this arena! Many an average working person believes that if they had the fortune, the fame or the opportunities, their lives would be smooth, happy sailing.

So while most of us can’t imagine what it would ever be like to be rich and famous, to see someone who is, especially someone as handsome and healthy as Charlie Sheen, we are drawn, in some disbelieving way, to watch his demise. And in a culture that typically roots for the underdog, sometimes we like to see the mighty fall.

Someone who has had it all, but loses it because of their own human failings is typically not looked upon with compassion. Most people will think, “I don’t get any breaks and look at this guy who has it all and doesn’t even know how to handle it!” We can revel in his misfortune believing if we were in his shoes, we’d never squander it all away.

Another part of it is that while we are repelled in one way, in another we recognize a bit of Charlie within ourselves. We don’t have the public platform that he does, but most of us have a part deep down where we wonder what we’re capable of under certain conditions. Many people worry whether under the right circumstances if they’d act out in a crazy manner.

If you are skeptical about this, ask any new parent who has stayed up night after night with a crying child or ask someone who has found themselves in an untenable situation in a job who finds themselves mouthing off to their boss. We can all, if pushed, do things we’d like to think we’re not normally capable of and Charlie is acting out some of our greatest fears on the public stage.

And, if we don’t want to acknowledge that we fear this behavior in ourselves, we might have to admit that we are fascinated by him because his situation gives us the chance to point our finger and say, “Look at that crazy guy – I would never do anything like that. What is wrong with him?” It makes us feel superior – “look at the rich, successful, talented person who throws it all away. I’m a working person who holds myself together with all of the pressure I’m under.” So if we are honest, there might be either an aspect where we relate to Charlie and fear we may be like him, or an aspect where we are repelled by him and can feel superior. 

Lastly, a reason for the captivation stems from the media coverage of the ongoing saga. Instead of listening to news about war, politics, health care or something equally distressing and seemingly unsolvable we can actually distract ourselves with Charlie Sheen. In one way he is providing a healthy outlet for our fascination.

He isn’t going to come into our lives and do anything that can hurt us personally. And so becoming obsessed with him, we don’t feel so burdened or overwhelmed as we might with other things being profiled in the media on any given day. Charlie is a safe outlet for our attention that pulls us away from other things we can’t control. We can control our day-to-day behavior and if we are staying in control and holding it together, we believe (relative to what Charlie is doing), we must be okay!


Beverly D. Flaxington is an accomplished consultant, personal and career coach, author, college professor, corporate trainer, facilitator, behavioral expert, and business development expert. She has most recently appeared on “The Balancing Act” on Lifetime Television, "The Jordan Rich Show" on WBZ Boston, "Dr. Michelle" on LATalk Radio, Talk Back with Chuck Wilder" on CRN, "The Gary Baumgarten Report", "Central Valley Business Times" with Doug Caldwell, and several others. Here latest book is: "Understanding Other People: The Five Secrets to Human Behavior" and her Web site is http://www.understandingotherpeople.com


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