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Why the Media Obsession With Charlie Sheen Is Harmful and Ill-Focused

 
 
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The nation is gripped by Charlie Sheen's meltdown, no question -- countless internet memes, late-night talk show segments, and even a Taiwanese animation have been devoted to the story. At first, many of us may have been mildly amused by the jokes. But as Sheen-mania started to eat up more and more of the media's attention (it's not like it's been a slow news week!), and more details of Sheen's fall from grace emerged, it all stopped being so funny.

Craig Ferguson was ahead of the curve on this, announcing early in the week that he would stop doing Charlie Sheen jokes because the story was starting to remind him of a 19th century mental hospital, where one could pay a penny to poke and enrage the patients. On Wednesday, New Republic editor Seyward Darby noted that she too is fed up with the story: "Are his comments absurd? Yes. Are they vicious? Yes. But they are also sad. Sheen could not be more clearly unwell; he even looks haggard and makes jerky, discomfiting motions when talking. (And, no, I don’t think he's faking this whole episode, Joaquin Phoenix-style.) The last thing he needs is a limelight that exacerbates his sick state."

Now, Jezebel founding editor Anna Holmes has weighed in on the fiasco for the New York Times, focusing specifically on the media's reluctance to broach Sheen's history of violence towards women. She starts off by noting Sheen's recent (and now infamous) interview with CNN's Piers Morgan, in which Morgan barely addressed the subject of domestic violence.

That Mr. Morgan didn’t press the issue of domestic violence shouldn’t have come as any surprise. CBS executives, not to mention the millions of viewers of his “family” sitcom “Two and a Half Men,” have consistently turned a blind eye toward Mr. Sheen’s history of abusing women. Part of this, of course, is about money. The actor’s F-18 of an id — to borrow a metaphor from Mr. Sheen himself — had long provided the show a steady stream of free publicity. It also helped make Mr. Sheen the highest-paid actor on television, at $1.2 million an episode.

But it’s also about apathy. 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.

What's more, Sheen's awful treatment of women (including ex-wives Denise Richards and Brooke Mueller, ex-fiancee Kelly Preston, and sex film actresses Capri Anderson and Brittany Ashland) is being treated as something mildly amusing, bordering on "cool":

[Sheen's] behavior has been repeatedly and affectionately dismissed as the antics of a “bad boy” (see: any news article in the past 20 years), a “rock star” (see: Piers Morgan, again) and a “rebel” (see: Andrea Canning’s “20/20” interview on Tuesday). He has in essence, achieved a sort of folk-hero status; on Wednesday, his just-created Twitter account hit a million followers, setting a Guinness World Record.

Charlie Sheen's "super awesome" meltdown: officially over it.

AlterNet / By Lauren Kelley

Posted at March 4, 2011, 7:34am

 
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