Well, some would argue that it’s all dark side. Still, there’s little doubt that a large chunk of humanity has responded to the recent Charlie Sheen meltdown with amusement. A seemingly smaller group find the entire escapade appalling for a number of reasons, including addiction and possible psychological issues. What is often overlooked is Sheen’s history with women.
A recent New York Times Op-Ed by Jezebel founder Anna Holmes calls out media and contemporary culture for its reluctance to confront the issue of Sheen’s treatment of his companions consorts GODDESSES.
Even now — after Mr. Sheen began carpet-bombing his bosses in radio rants, prompting CBS to shut down production on the show — observers still seem more entertained than outraged, tuning in to see him appear on every talk show on the planet and coming up with creative Internet memes based on his most colorful statements. And while his self-abuses are endlessly discussed, his abuse of women is barely broached.
Our inertia is not for lack of evidence. In 1990, he accidentally shot his fiancée at the time, the actress Kelly Preston, in the arm. (The engagement ended soon after.) 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.) “Lies,” Mr. Sheen told People magazine.
There’s no doubt that Sheen’s reprehensible and inexcusable history with women is overlooked in the meme factory, and I am glad that these issues are getting some sunlight.
That said, I’m grappling with feelings of guilt and complicity, having indulged — perhaps overindulged — in the freewheeling satire and commentary that’s accompanied the Sheen incident(s). On one hand, the shit is funny. On the other, there is the problem of separating Sheen the zinger machine from Sheen the abusive trainwreck.
Aside from the issues of violence against women, substance abuse and potential mental imbalances, there are aspects of our current media landscape that have been laid bare by the Sheen phenomenon. Although the NYT piece is a quality feminist critique, it doesn’t examine why it’s been so easy to indulge in the WTF aspects of situation.
I’ll give it a shot.
Sheen’s recent displays of lunacy have been verbal, which allows them to be placed in a largely meta construct. You can divorce the words from the man and arrive at a peculiar prose that is entertaining in a way that’s similar to, say, Hunter S. Thomson or Klaus Kinski.
Again, aside from the very real issues that I mentioned above, I think that discomfort with Sheen’s shenanigans may be more due to the ubiquity of TV cameras and the 24-hour celeb-news cycle than the actual behavior or underlying causes (grim as they may be). For better or worse (probably better), HST or Kinski’s rampages were not fodder for cable TV and the internet.
In a world where CNN broadcasts “Autotuned Gaddaffi,”it is incredibly difficult to separate horror from humor. But perhaps it always was.