P101: Sean Penn is Decadent and Depraved

Sometimes it seems like there’s a Hunter S. Thompson quote for every occasion. This week can only belong to a line from his great 1973 piece for Rolling Stone titled “Fear and Loathing at the Super Bowl

”When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

Weird: Notorious drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera is recaptured just six months after his dramatic escape from a maximum security prison.

Pro Weird: Rolling Stone publishes a gauzy profile of El Chapo written by the actor Sean Penn, who traveled to meet Guzmán in secret – a meeting which directly led to Guzmán’s capture.

Think about that for a second: Sean Penn takes his bad ideas on a white privilege adventure, pals around with a drug lord, tosses some softballs in a half-baked Q&A session, leads the Federales directly to Public Enemy #1, then fails just so spectacularly at, you know, actually writing up the thing that he makes reading about a secret journey to meet a mass murderer seem like work. Penn’s masturbatory prose echoes the most gratuitous excesses of Gonzo without any of the charm and wonder that Thompson or Vollmann bring to the proceedings. To top it all off, the whole piece was submitted to El Chapo for approval before being published.

All this for what? Guzmán is back behind bars (for now) and the people who are interested in his story have to wade through Penn’s bloated mess of an article, only to be left wondering what a more skilled practitioner could have produced. Rolling Stone continues its downward spiral and thousands of people who have lost loved ones to the Sinaloa Cartel get to relive that pain whenever Fast Times at Ridgemont High comes on TV. The only question remains: who has the bigger ego, Penn or El Chapo?

Periodically yours,

Bob Sherron