Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
American actor Charlie Sheen has got himself into a tight public relations squeeze right now. I’ve listened on the internet to some of what he’s said in interviews and I’ve read quotations in the press. It’s very entertaining, but I don’t see that he is necessarily wrong in much of what he has said, despite the predictable reflex avalanche by entertainment industry talking heads about substance abuse and mental illness. 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 that he is not playing his role properly as contemporary American culture sees it. I mean, instead of playing the penitent, helpless substance abuse victim who goes to rehab like an injured and helpless victim he is fighting back loudly. I think, “Way to go, Charlie!”
The same happened to Lucie Blackman’s father, Tim, who has been criticized in the British media for his role during the investigation of his daughter’s murder in Japan. Why? Because instead of playing the passive, grieving and helpless victim drawing our sympathy he took a very proactive role in the matter, constantly pushing Japanese police and British and Japanese politicians to keep the investigation current, transparent and in the public view. It was a good thing, too, because without his pressure there is a good chance that Japanese police would never have resolved Lucie’s
The same happens to foreigners in Japan who decline to play the “foreigner” role that Japanese expect of us. Long term residents and those who marry Japanese women 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?