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March 9, 2011

Charlie Sheen and Disposable Women

Kevin E. Dayhoff

The recent media frenzy over Hollywood idol and role model Charlie Sheen has once again moved my threshold of amazement for contemporary society’s ability to reward bad behavior.


In the latest episode of the chainsaw massacre reality show that is Mr. Sheen’s life, on Monday, Warner Brothers, which both owns and produces the primetime television show “Two and a Half Men,” fired the career misogynist, drug addict, and non-specific generalized social deviant and all-around sociopathic pariah.


I’m proud to say that I have never watched “Two and Half Men.” In spite of the fact that, according to various media reports, it is the highest rated situational comedy on television.


First of all, if “Two and Half Men” is the highest-rated, I’d shudder to watch the situational comedy that staggers-in at last place, much less whatever program is the second highest rated.


And, candidly, what self-respecting nation in world history would ever allow it to be known or reported by the media that “Two and Half Men” was on television, much less that our nation has become so morally depraved that a program about an immoral womanizer – read, misogynist – is so popular.


I have calamitously stumbled upon the program on occasion while mindlessly channel surfing and I was amazed that network TV would air such a blatantly offensive program about debasing, demeaning and objectifying women.


Calling Mr. Sheen an actor is quite a stretch for anyone who is even vaguely aware of his antics for the past two decades. He’s really just doing what comes naturally.


If you or I had behaved as badly as Mr. Sheen has in the past 20 years, Mother Teresa would have come back from the grave to personally run us through a wood chipper from the middle of the Route 15 Bridge over the Potomac River while the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang “The Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah.”


Instead, collectively, our society has not only given Mr. Sheen, who is reported to have a net worth of $85 million, a pass, it has outrageously determined that the 45-year-old emotionally stunted middle-schooler is worthy of being paid between $1.2 and $1.9 million per episode.


I’m not making this up.


Well beyond the media’s moribund sick fascination with the trials and tribulations of Hollywood-tabloid-heroes of the likes of Mel Gibson, Lindsey Lohan, and Paris Hilton, is a more revealing societal psychological defect that may be more insidiously disturbing than the ancient Romans partying in the stands while the lions feasted on the Christians in the arena.


And that is, what does the attention heaped-upon Mr. Sheen say about our collective apathy and silence over his abuse of women.


There, I said it. While you are looking down at the floor, shuffling your feet and slowly wringing your sweaty little hands, please be aware that I am not the only one saying it.


If there is any silver lining in the media’s glamorous celebration of Mr. Sheen’s churlish behavior, may it be a collective blowback on the major networks for giving this misogynistic sociopath a platform and a megaphone.


Anna Holmes, a writer and founding editor of the Gawker Media web publication Jezebel, said it well in a New York Times’ op-ed, “The Disposable Woman,” published last Thursday:


“…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.”


Let’s review… For starters, Mr. Sheen remarked several years ago that the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were an inside job of the George W. Bush Administration.


However, it has been his personal lunacy that makes him the pin-up poster boy for sociopaths.


According to numerous news reports but succinctly reported by Ms. Holmes:


“Our inertia is not for lack of evidence. In 1990, he accidentally shot his fiancé 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.…


“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… called 911 after Mr. Sheen held a knife to her throat… 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.’ ”


Of this behavior, Ms. Holmes said:


“It’s these sorts of explicit and implicit value judgments that underscore our contempt for women who are assumed to be trading on their sexuality. A woman’s active embrace of the fame monster… we seem to say, means that she compromises her right not to be assaulted, let alone humiliated, insulted or degraded; it’s part of the deal. The promise of a modern Cinderella ending – attention, fame, the love and savings account of a rich man – is always the assumed goal.


“Objectification and abuse, it follows, is not only an accepted occupational hazard for certain women, but something that men like Mr. Sheen have earned the right to indulge in.”


That said, hey, if you want to watch “Two and Half Men,” have at it. If you think this guy’s behavior is worthy of gratuitous coverage by the media – whatever…


It’s a free country – of sorts. But freedom comes with responsibility and the glorification of Mr. Sheen is an abdication of a basic responsibility that we have as a society to ourselves in general and women in particular.


…I’m just saying…


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