TCW - Jobs, Money & Opinion

When It Comes to Charlie Sheen, We're All #Losing

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This past Saturday in Detroit, audience members who paid $150 to see Charlie "Tiger Blood" Sheen take the stage turned against him within 20 minutes, booing his attempts at entertainment. The 5,100 seat Fox Theatre went from sold out to only a few hundred patrons as Sheen paraded his "goddesses" around and shouted, "I've already got your money, dude," in response to hecklers. 


I'd like to say that guests who left the show had the good sense to abandon a sinking ship; unfortunately, they already had the bad sense to buy tickets in the first place. So let's call it a wash. 

One could be fooled into thinking the negative Detroit reaction signals a turning of the tides against Sheen. But I'm not really holding out hope.
All day Sunday, his Chicago show was still being heavily hyped, with plenty of Sheen-themed parties to go around. After taking the stage at the Chicago Theatre to talk about smoking weed, paying for hookers because he "ran out of things to buy" and blame Detroit's disastrous outcome on, well, Detroit, he was rewarded with a standing ovation.

Sheen's 20-city "My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not an Option" tour, which sold out in minutes, is billed as a "variety show," but anyone who's been paying attention to Sheen for the last, oh, 15 years or so would have been able to predict there wouldn't be any more variety in his on-stage antics than there has been in his off-stage.

I'm referring not to his "rock start from Mars" quips, but to his long and well-documented history with domestic violence. The New York Times sums it up: 

In 1990, he accidentally shot his fiancée at the time, the actress Kelly Preston, in the arm...In 1994 he was sued by a college student who alleged that he struck her in the head after she declined to have sex with him. (The case was settled out of court.) Two years later, a sex film actress, Brittany Ashland, said she had been thrown to the floor of Mr. Sheen's Los Angeles house during a fight. (He pleaded no contest and paid a fine.)

In 2006, his wife at the time, the actress Denise Richards, filed a restraining order against him, saying Mr. Sheen had shoved and threatened to kill her. In December 2009, Mr. Sheen's third wife, Brooke Mueller, a real-estate executive, called 911 after Mr. Sheen held a knife to her throat. (He pleaded guilty and was placed on probation.) Last October, another actress in sex films, Capri Anderson, locked herself in a Plaza Hotel bathroom after Mr. Sheen went on a rampage. (Ms. Anderson filed a criminal complaint but no arrest was made.) And on Tuesday, Ms. Mueller requested a temporary restraining order against her former husband, alleging that he had threatened to cut her head off, "put it in a box and send it to your mom." (The order was granted, and the couple's twin sons were quickly removed from his home.)

And in 2010, CBS bumped Sheen's salary from $850,000 to nearly $2 million per episode, making him the highest paid actor on television. They fired him only after he began his highly publicized, oft-incomprehensible campaign against his studio bosses. 

Let's recap: Hold a knife to a woman's throat, get a 200% raise. Call your boss a "troll," then get fired.

He may have been canned by CBS, but his career is far from over. What the public's feelings toward Sheen seem to be aren't repulsion, or pity, or even apathy. It's adulation. And that's pretty sad.

Our endorsement of Sheen - by booking him on morning news shows, by watching him, by buying tickets to his shows, by repeating his crazed quotes as punchlines, by cheering him when he enters a room - serves to highlight the low value we place on women. Every time I saw an "Adonis DNA" joke or a #winning hashtag on Twitter, it was a verbal reminder that, by society's own admittance, the women he hit are not worth as much as Sheen himself. Sure, some gals may have been hurt in the process, but look at the highlight reel we got out of all of this! 

The female victims in this story are just collateral damage on the way to the next awesome catchphrase. 

Even Chris Brown, who was universally vilified for his brutal beating of Rihanna in 2009, dropped by major sponsors and blacklisted by radio stations, seems to be winning lately. His most recent CD debuted just last month at number one on the Billboard 200, and he's still heavily promoted by his label, Jive. Despite a violent outburst in their greenroom, Good Morning America has said that they'd invite him back on the show. 

But at least GMA's Robin Roberts asked about Brown's violent history. Sheen's numerous counts of domestic violence are a rarely mentioned blip on his list o' crazy. In most recountings of his "colorful" history, they barley merit a footnote - if they're cited at all. Piers Morgan lobbed a couple softball questions to him on CNN, but let him off with a vague "women are not to be hit, they're for hugging and caressing." (Even when he's attempting to be conciliatory, he's demeaning.) Piers later called Sheen "one of life's great characters," and suggested the only reason his "high spirited" behavior was being called into question was because he was the star of a family sitcom, not a rock star; he told Sheen he was "entitled to behave however you want."

Entitled to behave however he wants. Why does Charlie Sheen's violent past get a pass?

Amy Winehouse refuses to go to rehab? Britney Spears? Lindsay Lohan? Those poor, sad, pathetic, addiction-riddled girls, we say. We wonder when their fathers or mothers will step up and force them - all well over 18 - in rehab. Miley Cyrus gets caught doing a bong hit of salvia and the Internet wrings its hands over what a poor example she's setting. Newscasters fret over the influence they have on our girls; what it says about our society when these young, beautiful women fall prey to the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. And if it goes on long enough, we turn against them, taking delicious pleasure in watching them fall off their pedestal, convinced that they deserve what's coming to them. 

Charlie Sheen refuses to go to rehab? Hilarious! we say, and pull up a chair to await the next awesome drug-fueled rant. What a loveable rebel! we say, as we grab the popcorn. What a bad boy! No one seems concerned about the influence his outbursts have on the 11.6 million viewers who tune in to see re-runs of the inexplicably Emmy Award-winning show (or on his co-star, who was 10 years old when the show debuted), which airs on a major network in the middle of primetime and exploits Sheen's own reputation as a "womanizer." 

CBS won't give him a paycheck anymore? No problem - we will! (Not to mention the royalty checks he's receiving as "Two and a Half Men" runs in syndication ad nauseum.) We eagerly - gleefully! - shell out $150 for a front-row ticket to the "Violent Torpedo of Truth," not even flinching at the first word in that title. Fans compete to be his next intern; the news proudly covers their local contestants. Girls line up to be his next "goddess," and, oddly enough, no one frets over the welfare of these girls; in fact, the overt misogynistic tones of his entire shtick are overlooked. He's booked on show after show, his particular brand of crazy parading as "news" longer than we should be willing to admit. 

Instead of vilifying him for his actions, we boost him up on our shoulders. Hip-hip-hurray to the hero.

I know: It's just a joke. But it's not funny. Every time his acts of domestic violence are brushed over, it reinforces a truth: that the lives of these women matter less than that of their abuser. If we treat Sheen as someone worthy of our praise because of, not in spite of, his manic actions, then we've made the women whom Sheen has abused just as interchangeable as his goddesses are to him. 

Charlie Sheen will make an estimated $7 million off his tour; Chicago after-party host Enclave planned on charging up to $20,000 for a table near Sheen last night, with VIPs reportedly being flown in from around the country for the opportunity to party with the winner himself. In 2001, the Illinois State Police recorded 95,000 incidents of domestic violence. I promise these patrons of the arts could have found a woman beater to hang out with for a much more affordable price.

Responding to Sheen's behavior with laughter normalizes it. Responding with a paycheck rewards it. Our willful ignorance makes domestic violence something that can be committed consequence-free, if you're rich and famous enough, no matter how many people have heard the story. It makes domestic violence something that should be dismissed, or preferably, ignored altogether, if it's of the slightest inconvenience to the truth that's more fun to believe. 

It's really not that big of a deal, we say with every time we watch him on YouTube or perk up when he appears on a late night talk show. It's really none of our concern.

And if it's "none of our concern" for the women whose cases have been well-documented in police records, in court and in newspaper headlines, then what hope is there for women who suffer at the hands of abusers far from the media spotlight? If we don't care for the women who are suffering in front of our faces, then clearly, we're incapable of caring for the women suffering far out of sight and out of mind.

If I'm someone who might physically or emotionally harm my partner, this tells me, It doesn't matter, as long as people think you're funny. If I'm someone who's been abused, this tells me, It doesn't matter. You don't matter. He who has the most fans gets the last laugh.

We may think we're laughing with Charlie Sheen, or even at him, but the truth is, we are the butt of this joke. 

We've taken a violent, verbally and physically abusive man with chemical dependency issues, someone who's a danger to both himself and others, and held him up as some sort of avant garde genius. We've turned his delusional stream-of-conscious rants into inescapable Internet memes. At least Sheen has the possibility of chemical dependency or mental illness to explain his behavior. What's our excuse? 

Journalists at the Detroit and Chicago shows reported that the phrase "winning" could be heard over and over from the enthusiastic attendees, all of whom came to cheer on Sheen. They came to laugh with him, to applaud him, to maybe even party with him. 

Winning? The only person "winning" in this scenario is Charlie Sheen. And he's the person least deserving of a victory. 

Image: Angela George via Creative Commons.

As always, find me on Twitter at @CassandraGaddo

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2 Comments

DDOGA said:

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Quoted Text:
“Our endorsement of Sheen - by booking him on morning news shows, by watching him, by buying tickets to his shows, but repeating his crazed quotes as punchlines, by cheering him when he enters a room - serves to highlight the low value we place on women. Every time I saw an "Adonis DNA" joke or a #winning hashtag on Twitter, it was a verbal reminder that, by society's own admittance, the women he hit are not worth as much as Sheen himself. Sure, some gals may have been hurt in the process, but look at the highlight reel we got out of all of this! ”

I can’t find a single flaw in the logic or truth of any part of your posting. I could not agree more, and I don’t wish to diminish the validity or impact of your statements. However, your rant, if I can call it that, dovetails nicely with a rant of my own, so I hope you won’t mind if I horn in, so to speak.

Notwithstanding the validity of every word in your posting, especially the portion I quoted, there is in my opinion a sort of foundation underlying all of the C.S. phenomenon and even the male/female aspects of the C.S. phenomenon that I think forms the very bedrock of the reason why the C.S. phenomenon is possible. I’ll point out that C.S. has, to my great disappointment and amazement, female fans, only as evidence to support the existence of this underlying foundation: American adoration of All Things Celebrity is grossly out of proportion to their actual value.

Now don’t conjure up some vision of a dope like C.S. and think “Well yes, that’s certainly true in some cases.” I’m talking about the nice celebrities too, those who are kind to their adoring fans, serve as wholesome role models, donate a small percentage of their great wealth to charities or have other saintly qualities which make them shine like a gift from God above. Yes, C.S. has no value, but even The Best of the Best cannot possibly be good enough to match the adoration and wealth we heap upon them. Celebrities after all were mere mortals once, they came from us, and they’re capable of all the character flaws we are all subject to. That’s why it’s possible for a C.S. to exist.

The next time you see people standing in line, foregoing potty breaks for the slim chance they’ll get a glimpse of some sit com star or sport celeb, ask yourself if you can find any reason to deify anyone to this level.

In my opinion our value system in America would benefit if the Celebrity Industry Market were to undergo a “reset” similar to that which the housing industry is going through right now. A reset to about one percent of current perceived worth would be just about right.

By the way, there is one thing I applaud C.S. for, and that is that he is after all only happily accepting all the adulation and wealth that that we (at least some of us) are willing to bestow upon him. I guess if I were being painfully truthful I’d have to admit that I too would accept enormous wealth for making a fool of myself, at least for a little while. I think most of us would. In the end, it’s C.S. enablers, we who watched his mindless sit com and paid to listen to him, who are responsible for C.S.

gwill said:

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Charlie Sheen's lifestyle is why terrorists hate us.......and I sure ain't on the side of terrorists.

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