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Are We Really Missing The Point on Charlie Sheen?

March 14, 2011 4 comments

“The midlife crisis is the moment in a man’s life when he realizes he can’t (or won’t) any longer maintain the pose that he thought was required of him.”

Bret Easton Ellis

Bret Easton Ellis. Autograf session in Milan

Bret Easton Ellis

We’ve all been watching a drug-induced breakdown, but is that all it is? I was just as mindlessly – thoughtlessly – mesmerized as everyone else, until Bret Easton Ellis (Author: Less Than Zero, American Psycho) suggested that there may be a broader point that we’re all missing. And if anyone knows about the mentality behind nihilist narcissism of L.A., it’s this man.

Ellis, while promoting a new book in 2010, started terming our current pop-culture status as “post-Empire.” I understand now that this term is in reference to Gore Vidal‘s use of the word, and Ellis uses it to call to mind a decaying and dying old order being replaced by a new reality.

“Empire,” in Ellis’s frame, refers to the framework of social expectations that govern pop culture, or did govern it until recently. Those artists and icons deemed “Empire,” are those who play by the rules of conformity to these norms, and usually hypocritically so. In the sixties, they would have probably used the word “establishment,” but even anti-establishment icons like Hendrix or Mohammad Ali were still not transparent. They still in some way conformed to acceptability. Even Jim Morrison was not completely unguarded with us in the way pop culture is unguarded with us now. They were all sanitized to varying degrees, and therefore they all belonged to – and reinforced – the Empire sensibility. Read more…