Charlie Sheen & The Bart Simpson Complex

by MATT STOKES | MARCH 15, 2011

An encounter with an electronic ticket kiosk, owning a smartphone, and viewing Apocalypse Now get me very close to answering all of life’s questions.

Whenever I’m in a car and I drive by a mirrored office building, I look in the reflection.. to see if I’m still in the car. This is information I already have—what am I looking for? Why am I checking? And what would I do if I looked and I saw a small Korean woman driving my car? I would have to stop, get out, go up to the reflection. And if there were still a small Korean woman, I would have to say, “Alright. I stand corrected.”
-Jerry Seinfeld

A Cautionary Tale

Fat Tuesday—Mardi Gras Day—is a day on which most native Louisianans are done with partying and wish only to enjoy their day off while the rest of the nation goes to work like idiots, like TROLLS. And so they head to the movies, which is exactly what I did that day.

I was meeting several people at the movies and was running late. The movie we were seeing, The Adjustment Bureau, started at 2:05, but by 2:01 I had only just pulled up to the theater. Approaching the ticket line I could see that I was in for a long wait—the line was sprawling all the way out into the parking lot. My friend, however, was kind enough to wait in line with me even though he’d already bought his own ticket. He knows my phobia of being the guy wandering through a dark theater in a pathetic search for his friends.

As the line stalled to a dead halt, however, I could feel the sense of dread building up inside me. We’re not gonna make it, I thought, as the minutes ticked by… 2:02 . 2:03. And so on.

And it was then I saw on the other side of the theater the considerably shorter line for the electronic ticket kiosk.

“That line’s much shorter,” my friend said to me, noticing what I had begun to stare at.

“Yes it is,” I said. “But of course, that’s one mistress you don’t want to sleep with.”

Which is to say: The electronic ticket kiosk line may always be shorter than the actual ticket line but it is, on average, 15 times longer of a wait (I’m basing this on hard evidence.). That’s because the people who use the ticket machines are typically baffled and clueless as to how to operate said machines.

“No one understands what they’re doing,” my friend told me. “Those machines are so confusing to people. I don’t get it… you just press the screen—’Two tickets to Big Momma’s Ass,’ and select the showtime, swipe your card, and you print. What’s so hard about that?”

“I’m not sure,” I said. “You know who these people are? These are the same people who can’t use the self-checkouts at Wal-Mart. They’re confused by them, they bring the entire line to a standstill, and they have to keep waiting for an employee to come bail them out. And yet they continue to try. ‘Durr where’s the bar code durr?’ It’s disgusting.”

“A disgrace.”

“Mm. You know who’s lightning-fast on those machines?” I said. “Me. I think I’m gonna do it.”

And so I tempted fate and abandoned the physical-ticket-counter line. I was all in. I joined the other line.

When the walking cadaver in front of me finally completed his purchase and walked into the theater looking slightly suspicious of the tickets he now held in his hand, I stepped up. PURCHASE TICKETS! I selected. THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU! I selected. 2:05 SHOWING! I selected. I was flying, threatening to break my own personal record time. ADULT! I selected, and THEN I SWIPED MY CREDIT CARD.

“Purchase successful,” the screen told me. “Receipt printing.”


I nodded smugly over at my friend, who returned my glance with a big thumbs-up. All was well.

And then I looked at the screen and noticed something a little jarring. The “Purchase Summary” showed the cost of my transaction: $14.50.


Two tickets printed out. Two.

I stared down in horror, and it dawned on me what I’d done—I’d hit the ‘Up’ arrow next to ‘Number of tickets’ twice, by mistake, and hadn’t noticed the error.

“Wh-?” I muttered aloud. “Buh? Pha?”

“Come on, let’s go in, the movie’s started,” my friend said.

But I was still standing there, holding up the line.


“Buh? Wha-? $14.50? I… Wha?”

My friend guided me into the theater.

“No,” I said quietly. “No…”

“What?” he asked.

“I… think I accidentally bought two tickets.”

“Oh man, that sucks.”

A slight whimper escaped my mouth, and in mere seconds I was writhing on the ground, screaming a mixture of curses and Godzilla-like noises.

So message received, God. Like Achilles, I committed the sin of hubris. But never again.

From now on, I will not fuck with the electronic movie ticket kiosks.


I love the text message, I really do. It’s opened the door for a world of communication we’ve never seen before: The running commentary on life. With text messaging, life is basically just one long Seinfeld monologue.

I take endless pleasure from sending and receiving texts. If it were up to me, I’d never speak to anybody again, choosing to live in a cave and sending out my thoughts via SMS.

There’s nothing that delights me more, in fact, than when I wake up in the morning and discover a text from the previous night that I hadn’t read. Like this one, which I received last week, sent in the middle of the night completely apropos of nothing:

(click for explanation)

So the text message has obviously revolutionized our world, changed the human race for the better. Except in one area: Dating. Texting has detonated the traditional ideas of dating.

I feel like, because of the text message, more communication goes on in one month of dating than would have occurred over ten years of a marriage between a British couple circa 1808. (Don’t want to talk to your wife? Just go spend the day shooting pheasant, or maybe take a nice long ride “into town,” and return in a couple weeks. Or maybe even a couple of months: “Where were you, my love?” “I was bedridden with the Fever for six months!”) This is a shame for guys like me, who have but a limited window of opportunity before the lady realizes what frauds we are. 20 years ago we could have kept this window open for months—years, even—but now everything happens at hyperspeed.

Were I a more confident and self-assured person, I’d stay out of this texting thing all together. Play it cool. Be like Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice. Think he’d go for that text messaging shit? No way man. Or my beloved Steve McQueen? Would Rick Blaine have sent Ilsa 45 messages a day? Would Han Solo have responded “i kno” to Princess Leia’s “I l you!” texts? Fuck no.

As Tony Soprano used to say: “What ever happened to Gary Cooper?”

I don’t know, Tony. I just don’t know…

In Which I Get Very Close To Figuring Out the Meaning Of It All

During my brief stint at a Catholic all-boys high school, I was something of a miscreant, a troublemaker, a no-good non-conformist rallying against a system that just couldn’t contain me. And so it was that one day I was sent to the school guidance counselor, who hoped to give me some direction, son.

The counselor employed the trick of letting me sit silently in his office for a few minutes, waiting for me to speak first. He stared at me smiling as I surveyed the office and noticed there was Simpsons memorabilia scattered about.

“Hey,” I said, “I love The Simpsons. It’s my favorite show.”

“I love it too,” he told me, and from there we got to talking.

No more than five minutes later, the counselor gave me a very serious look and said, “I think I know what your problem is, Matthew.”

“You do?” I said.

“Indeed I do: You want to be Bart Simpson.”

“I want to be Bart Simpson,” I repeated.

SO HE FIGURED IT OUT. All this time, nobody could get a read on me, but this pensive old man sees right through me.

Okay, so, even at 14 I knew that school guidance counselors were hacks, and pop psychology diagnoses such as, “He makes shitty grades because he wants to be Bart Simpson” (I don’t even like Bart that much!) are bogus. But that didn’t stop me from recently making the same kind of diagnosis of Charlie Sheen.

(I know everybody’s sick of Charlie Sheen, but bare with me. I came up with this idea eight days ago when people still cared, I just haven’t gotten around to writing about it until now.)

If you read the recent GQ profile of Sheen (If you haven’t, you really should. It is astounding.), you know that Sheen is obsessed with the movie Apocalypse Now. He thinks about it all the time and says understanding that movie is key to understanding him.

And so I sat down and watched all 202 interminable minutes of that film—which I hadn’t seen in years and wasn’t a big fan of to begin with—to try to mangle some kind of clue. The prevailing wisdom is that Charlie sees himself as taking the same spiritual journey as Willard, the character portrayed in the movie by Martin Sheen, Charlie’s father. Charlie, they say, is taking his own (figurative) riverboat journey upriver through Cambodia, meeting eccentric characters, taking drugs, and embracing the meaninglessness and absurdity of it all. This was borne, see, of his weird upbringing amongst movie stars, fame, drugs, and easy success.

But no, I don’t think that’s right. Sheen isn’t Willard. He’s Kurtz, the Marlon Brando character. He’s already taken the river journey, and now he sees things we don’t see. He knows how crazy our world really is, that we’re all just minions obeying the arbitrary rules of ‘civilization,’ clinging to our make-believe ideas about humanity that keep us just barely above the rest of nature. And it won’t be long before we descend into complete and utter animalistic madness.

Charlie Sheen

Or something. I think I came pretty close to figuring it all out too—realizing the true meaning of existence—but then I fell asleep toward the end of the movie (‘Cause it sucks.). I can’t tell you how many times that’s happened to me.

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