Saturday, March 05, 2011

Worse Than the Romans: The Charlie Sheen Freak Show

Latest Newspaper Column: The Pilot

(I'm not sure why this ran Friday on the website rather than the usual Sunday, but what the hell):

You know, there are times I look around me and I go, "Wow, we are worse than the Romans."

Oh, sure, the Romans put on brutal gladiatorial contests in which men fought each other to the death, or fought against wild beasts.

But you know what the Romans didn't do? They didn't put their mentally ill in the middle of the Coliseum and encourage them to rave for the amusement of the people. Which, when you think about it, is exactly what the media are doing with "Two and a Half Men" star Charlie Sheen.

Sheen's been notorious as a Hollywood bad boy for years now, what with the hookers, the alcohol, the cocaine, the porn-star girlfriends and whatnot. It was actually pretty shrewd casting when "Two and a Half Men" producer Chuck Lorre hired Sheen to play the boozing, womanizing Charlie Harper, brother to the nervous and wimpy Allan, played by Jon Cryer (this generation's answer to Don Knotts).

Sheen's been pretty amusing as a drunken whoremonger on TV. In real life, however, the act has been less funny. A whole lot less, in fact, with Sheen being arrested for domestic violence and trashing hotel rooms, going in and out of rehab, and generally acting, as we say down South, like he's got no raising at all.

All of this was bad enough, but not, unfortunately, uncommon enough in Hollywood to grab the front pages. Nor did it result in the same sort of employment consequences you or I would suffer if we were frequently seen in public completely blitzed, in the company of adult movie actresses. In fact, Sheen's income kept going up as the show became a mainstay of CBS's prime-time line up.

Then Sheen started imploding in a particularly flamboyant fashion that even Hollywood couldn't ignore. He began giving interviews in which he ranted and raved, calling producer Lorre a "maggot" and other endearments not suitable for a family newspaper. Not surprisingly, Lorre immediately suspended production on the show, because let's face it, if you call your boss a "maggot," you're probably going to get canned, even if you are Charlie Sheen.

The suspension apparently acted upon Sheen's mind in much the same way a red cape acts upon the mind of a maddened bull. Suddenly, Charlie Sheen is everywhere, giving interviews right and left on "20/20," "Good Morning America,", NBC, CNN, MSNBC, etc. He's given an interview to everyone but "Highlights" magazine, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him on the cover of the next issue.

And what bizarre interviews they are. Sheen claims to have "tiger blood" and "Adonis DNA." He's also repeatedly called himself a "warlock," which upset a group of "actual" warlocks so much they promised to put a "binding spell" (which is apparently the magical equivalent of a restraining order) on him.

He brags that "most of the time - and this includes naps - I'm an F-18, bro. I'll destroy you in the air," and gripes that he's tired of pretending like he's not special. "I'm tired of pretending like I'm not a total bitchin' rock star from Mars," he says. "You can't process me with a normal brain."

I'll confess, I've laughed at some of this blather. But I'm getting more and more uncomfortable about it. When you read and hear the increasingly grandiose and delusional things Sheen's said and get a look at his manic, beady little eyes, you can tell that this guy isn't just drunk or coked up. He is out of his mind. He is mentally ill. And yet every media outlet in the country seems positively joyful at the opportunity to put the crazy guy on screen and poke him with a stick to see what nutty thing he'll say next.

It's becoming the high-tech equivalent of the old carnival freak shows, where people would gather to see some poor addled soul bite the heads off live chickens and other humiliating acts. Charlie Sheen hasn't actually bitten the head off a chicken yet, but if he does, you can bet that someone will be there with a camera, ready to put it on the air and on the Internet.

Then we really will be worse than the Romans.


Anonymous said...

I treat the mediagasm over C. Sheen the same way I did with OJ...turn the channel (or the off switch) immediately. I don't need to give brain-room to this crap. There's some unavoidable slop-over before I can get to the remote, but I can honestly say I have never deliberately tuned into *any* show with him on it. And that includes the "hit" show, which as far as I can tell, has thoroughly uninspired writing and an odious concept.

Electrical Book Store 118 said...

the way Charlee sheen is trending is quite unbelievable. he is worse than romans , lol!!

J. E. Medrick said...

The fact that Sheen is still walking free (and not in restraints for Everyone's Safety) is terrifying.

I never watched "Two and a Half Men" because I found the pilot to be boring and unoriginal. I doubt it got much better from there... When Sheen started having problems and people still encouraged me to watch it, I said, "Why? I don't like Charlie Sheen. I don't like how he behaves and I don't want to support him." They said, "You're not supporting _him_, you're just watching a show he's on!" How is that not supporting...

I do think it's disgusting, the coverage he's getting. He needs help, not interviews.

J. E. Medrick

Celine said...

I am delighted to be able to say that until this nine-days'-wonder, I had never even heard of Charlie Sheen. And once his fifteen minutes are over, I'm sure I'll never hear of him again. Because that's one other thing you can say about the crowd at the Coliseum -- there's nothing older and more boring than last week's New Hot Sensation.