While flipping through my Facebook app last week I came across a post shared by a good friend of mine. It was of Robert Downey, Jr. getting his driver’s license renewed at the Santa Monica, CA, DMV. He was wearing a sharp suit, cool glasses, and was flashing his Tony Stark smile. Hell, he could have been on a break from filming Tony Stark for all I know! The point is that he looked good. Damn good. And I felt really happy for him in that moment because he is doing what so many millions of addicts struggle to do everyday – stay sober. I had a moment of happiness for him and then went back about my day.
That happy thought about Robert Downey, Jr., led me on a thought process that could be described as a mental tangential log flume. Here’s the highlights:
Robert Downey, Jr. > drugs > tv > Charlie Sheen > Chuck Lorre > Chaim > drugs > porn stars > tiger blood > Radio City Music Hall > show on FX > Martin Sheen guest starring on show on FX > sober? > sad realization
Before I reveal what my sad realization was, I think it’s fair for me to explain a couple of those thoughts – namely about Martin Sheen. Sometimes I feel like Papa Sheen is enabling his son’s behavior. He’s been a guest star on two of his shows (Two & A Half Men, Anger Management) even though there have been times when he’s spoken publicly about Baby Sheen’s need for help. Isn’t this kind of back and forth a common sign of enabling? It feels like it to me. I saw a lot of similar behavior in my own family growing up; the only difference being my family was decidedly not famous.
Then I remembered something I had read (probably on Gawker) where Charlie says that he’s sober. And that there was some sort of corroborating evidence!
Could this be? Could he really be drug-free? Could he really have tiger blood running through his veins?!
And that’s when the sad realization hit me: Charlie Sheen is probably just an asshole.
Duh, right? But it was a “aww sad” moment all the same. Charlie Sheen has been a part of my pop culture universe since I was a kid. My dad and I bonded over Platoon and Wall Street. I always thought he was the cuter of the Estevez brothers. When his career hit the skids, I rooted for him. I didn’t care that he hired escorts from Heidi Fliess. He was a bad boy and, as the 90s passed, he seemed to be calming down. And when he began Two & A Half Men he looked like he was enjoying retirement. I guess I had conveniently forgotten about the multiple cocaine busts, the domestic violence, the bad, bad movies…
Now, please don’t think I’m sitting in a corner, clutching old pictures of Charlie, and crying “Why? Why?” I was a casual fan of his – that’s all. But being a fan of any celebrity means that the reality of who they really are can be a disappointing revelation. These people make us happy, so we want them to be happy. Their work feels perfect to us, so we want them to be perfect. It hurts when they aren’t happy and are anything but perfect.
Which is probably why I was so happy for Robert Downey, Jr. We know that he’s not perfect. We know just how hard the road of sobriety has been for him. He seems to accept his imperfection, which is an important step for someone in recovery. To me, his DMV photos showed someone taking pleasure in the mundane. It’s not hard not to root for someone like that.