Charlie Sheen on Twitter: How much more damage can he do?
The idea of the outspoken and off-kilter Charlie Sheen going onto Twitter suggests a public-relations apocalypse. But some media experts say it's a perfect match.
Twitter, it seems, was made for this.
Charlie Sheen, the actor whose voice has been virtually everywhere in rants against subjects ranging from CBS executives to Alcoholics Anonymous, now has his very own, 140-character soapbox. And the world is watching.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, when Mr. Sheen registered a new Twitter account Tuesday, he amassed one million followers faster than any other user in history – a mere 25 hours.
But is that a good thing? What happens when a man who has already been at the top of the tabloids for months for wild parties, a stint in rehab, and a series of outlandish-verging-on-nonsensical interviews gets to say anything he wants to the world, uncensored?
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has been lampooned for inventing the word "refudiate" on Twitter. Musician Kanye West caused a stir by tweeting that some women get pregnant on purpose to extort money from rich performers. Many pro football players trod a fine line when they called out Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler for not playing through a knee injury in the NFC Championship game.
But for Sheen, who has already said virtually everything, whatever damage can be done probably already has been done, say media experts.
“Anyone who thinks going on Twitter is a bad idea for Sheen doesn’t really understand that stopping him would be like shutting the barn door three days after the herd already left,” says Robert Thompson, founder of the Bleier Center of Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. “The milk’s been spilt.”
To the contrary, this is Twitter's moment of apotheosis. “This is the perfectly logical extension of what he is already doing, and the perfect use of the tool," says Mr. Thompson. “The whole point of Twitter – the whole reason for it – is that people make instantaneous comments that are the opposite of a well-thought essay and don’t go through the usual editing process."
Others agree that Twitter is the ideal platform for Sheen, who has seen the final four episodes of his No. 1 CBS comedy, “Two and a Half Men,” canceled, as well as his twin children removed by police after their mother won temporary custody.
“He’s turned himself into a folk hero,” says Fordham University media scholar Paul Levinson, author of “New, New Media." “What started out as a guy with a drug problem fighting with his producers and family has mushroomed into something much bigger. This is now about two things: Charlie Sheen vs. the law and Charlie Sheen vs. CBS.”
In his custody battle, Sheen’s side of being the mistreated celebrity – by virtue of the judge taking custody of his children late at night without recourse – is now being told, says Mr. Levinson. In his battle with CBS, Sheen is being seen as the loner taking a stand against the “big, corrupt network.”
“Clearly, being on Twitter helps him get his side of the story out,” adds Levinson.
So far, his side of the story has been tied to his repeated insistence that he is "winning."
“Winning…! Choose your Vice …” was his first Tweet, linked to a photo of Sheen holding a bottle of chocolate milk alongside porn star Bree Olson – one of his two, live-in girlfriends – who is holding a Naked Juice brand fruit smoothie.
On March 2, in the afternoon, he sent out another message, “Still Winning … Pong!” showing the actor pointing his fingers at a wall-mounted TV .
“Given the amount of TV exposure he’s already gotten, I’m surprised the number of Twitter followers wasn’t 10 times one million,” says Thompson.