The Charlie Sheen Case
In late-February-early-March American actor Charlie Sheen looked like he was having some kind of meltdown. First, the star of the hit TV comedy “2½ Men” (which I have never seen) had one of his infamous, orgiastic parties - this time a non-stop 36-hour escapade of alcohol, drugs and girls in his Los Angeles home. He was summarily hospitalized, but only for a day. His agent claimed the hospitalization was for rehabilitation, he claimed his agent lied, then his agent quit. What agent can survive in the entertainment business after his credibility is scuttled like that? Next, he had a row with his show’s producers over remuneration and with the script writers about ... something. Consequently the show was cancelled for the rest of the season and blamed on Charlie’s so-called erratic behavior. So Charlie was left without an agent and without a job. But wait, there’s more! Then he conducted a radio interview by telephone widely described as a rant in which his language was labeled suggestive of mental instability and his behavior a textbook of addiction-denial. Finally, he temporarily lost joint custody privileges of his two young children after threatening to decapitate his estranged wife and send her head to his mother-in-law. Wow!
With his colorful verbiage and verbal bravado Charlie Sheen is a poet.
Charlie is 45-years-old - younger than me. But I think he is probably rich enough from his acting career so far that if he handles his money cautiously he probably doesn’t need to work at all for the remainder of his life. So if his recent antics threaten his employability we might say that that is not a problem for him. But that doesn’t mean that Charlie still is not in a pickle. But I suggest that the pickle he’s in is primarily a public relations matter, not a health matter. So far, at least.
I listened on the internet to some of what he’s said in his radio interview tirade and I’ve read quotations in the press credited to other incidents. It’s very entertaining, but I don’t see that he is necessarily wrong in much of what he said - even about decapitating his wife - despite the predictable reflex avalanche by entertainment industry talking heads about substance abuse, mental illness and other “issues.” I think Charlie might more accurately be called a poet!
Social life is largely theater, isn’t it? Who has the right to tell us how to play our parts?
The single biggest PR impediment for Sheen is not that he might be a defiant substance abuser or addict in denial, or mentally unstable but that he is not playing his role properly as contemporary American culture sees it. I mean, instead of playing the penitent, helpless substance abuser who goes to rehab like an injured and helpless victim he is fighting back loudly with colorful verbiage and verbal bravado. People - doctors, counselors, journalists, fans, the public, entertainment industry executives, fellow actors, etc. - are angry at him for not playing his role, for displaying bravado rather than humility. But I think, “Way to go, Charlie!”
The same happened to Tim Blackman, the father of murdered British hostess Lucie Blackman. Tim has been criticized in the British media for his role during the investigation of his daughter’s murder in Japan (July 2000). Why? Because instead of playing the passive, grieving and helpless victim drawing on our sympathy that we expect he took a very proactive role in the matter, constantly pushing Japanese police and British and Japanese politicians alike to keep the investigation current, transparent and in the public eye. He was not a bystander but an active player in the investigation, which - although it was a good thing because without his effort the Japanese police might never have resolved Lucie’s case - was not the role that society expects from a family member of a murder victim. The British newspaper-reading public became angry, or was led to feel angry with him for not satisfying public expectations by playing the assigned role.
The same happens to foreigners in Japan who decline to play the “foreigner” role that Japanese expect of us - the English teacher, the poor Japanese language speaker, the clumsy fools on TV, the vainglorious baseball player. Long term residents and those who marry Japanese women, or foreigners who have virtuoso knowledge or skill in a traditional Japanese art or who become naturalized citizens have more to say on this. As a general rule I think defiance of prescribed roles is good even while recognizing that there are social consequences. Social life is largely theater, isn’t it? Who has the right to tell us how to play our parts?
“You can’t process me with a normal brain.”