Last Words on Charlie Sheen
In the wake of the devastating earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster in Japan, news about Charlie Sheen’s ongoing meltdown has understandably and necessarily been relegated to the background, to my relief and that of other thinking people. I actually feel like a big jerk even bringing up this hackneyed story, but I proceed anyway, with the idea that American society has something important to learn from our treatment of Charlie Sheen, and all any nation can do, in addition to helping other nations in need, is better itself.
Charlie Sheen may be showing his negative drug tests to any reporter who’ll look at them, but the truth is, he probably should be taking medications, as long as they’re prescribed to him by a mental health professional. Any Psych 101 student can identify that Sheen’s self-aggrandizing highs and hotel-trashing lows are classic signs of bipolar disorder, and that Sheen’s addictions are likely symptoms of bipolarity, rather than the other way around, as he’d like us to believe. Sheen himself has denigrated therapeutic psychology (as many mentally ill people do; it’s true that this field of study hasn’t yet worked out all the bugs, but at least people aren’t getting regular electric shock treatments or lobotomies anymore), but it’s clear that he needs help, and the folks around him aren’t helping him get it; in fact, no one is.
I don’t pretend to understand the motivations in the hearts of the two women who are currently sharing his home; I’m naive enough to suggest that, hey, we all did inexplicably stupid things when we were 24, but I’m also wise enough (at 33) to know that these women don’t just have stars in their eyes for Sheen, who, in comparison to their porn-ready bodies and smiles, appears as nothing more than a haggard, middle-aged burnout. Maybe they want his money, or the cameras, or a story to tell their grandchildren (?), but honestly, I’m less disappointed in these women than I am in American society; at least they seem willing to take care of Sheen for whatever reason or benefit.
We, on the other hand, have some explaining to do. Also in the news lately have been countless stories about bullying and how it continues to be a major problem in our schools, but I’d argue that it’s a problem among adults, too. In my opinion, our treatment of Charlie Sheen as a society exemplifies that adult bullying. By circulating his inane rants and tuning in to see what he’ll do next to mar his image, we’re bullying Charlie Sheen. In just the same way that the popular clique of girls starts a campaign to get the heaviest girl in class elected prom queen as a joke, we pop some popcorn for his interviews, and buy tickets to his “shows” (whatever on Earth those will entail). We’re not joining his cult, and our interest in him is not sincere; we’re bullying him because he’s an easy target and we can’t help ourselves. I did it too, until I realized what I was doing when I saw him on TV; almost mindlessly, I was pointing, laughing, and shaking my head.
We can do better than this; we can be better role models for those schoolkids whom we’re trying to educate about the cruelty of bullying. At best, we should have sympathy for Sheen, and at worst, we should only show polite indifference rather than a great hunger for his obvious decline. When and if he “comes to,” as the result of medication or counseling or both, he ought to be very angry with us, those who not only let him fail and flail, but enjoyed watching it happen.