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Sunday, March 13, 2011

You Are Fired, Charlie Sheen - Analyzing Celebrity Notoriety

Analyzing Celebrity Notoriety of Charlie Sheen

How will the fifteen million Americans survive without the uncouth presence of Charlie Sheen on their television screens?

It was the firing that took the entertainment industry and popular culture by storm.  The notorious Charlie Sheen, television's highest paying actor, was terminated from his employment at CBS/Warner Brothers after his multiple public altercations with Two and a Half Men executive producer Chuck Lorres.  Like two children slinging insults across the school playground, Sheen and Lorres used the media as a platform to express their obvious disdain towards each other, until Warner Brothers finally had enough and cut the 45-year-old actor away for good.  A scandal of this magnitude would have been the biggest public disgrace in any actor's career; but for Charlie Sheen, it was just a typical stumble among his many public wrongdoings in the past.

The story begins with our protagonist (antagonist?) Sheen checking into rehab for his drug/sex/take-your pick addition.  He is scheduled a temporary vacation from his regular taping of Two and a Half Men during the recovery.  All went well and CBS wished him the best, but the problem arose when Sheen felt patronized by his employers.  They did not truly care about his "ailment"; they are more concerned about keeping Sheen's problems under wraps so their moneymaker program will stay on the air for as long as possible.  Sheen begins to act out, demanding a salary raise to $3 million, and vocally broadcast all his dirty laundry with producer Chuck Lorres.  His unruly behaviour reached a point of unacceptability, where he was even accused of being anti-Semitic, and  so Charlie Sheen was officially fired from Two and a Half Men.

Of course, Sheen is no stranger to media notoriety in the past.  This is a man with an admitted drug (cocaine) addiction.  This is a man who also got busted in multiple prostitution scandals.  This is a man who even previously reported a murder to the police (it turns out to be a very realistic snuff film).  Charlie Sheen is already used to being in the spotlight.  He's used to being a topic of discussion in our pop culture.  Unlike other celebrities, however, he thrives on the negative publicity and becomes even more popular as the undisputed bad boy of the television industry.

His latest employment scandal should not come as a surprise to anybody familiar with his past track record.  One must wonder though if Sheen truly crossed the line this time.  By engaging in such a nasty altercation with his boss, did he sink to an irredeemable new low?  The millions of viewers who tune in to watch Charlie Sheen on Two and a Half Men may forgive his past indecencies with drugs and escorts, but will they continue to put up with his delinquent behaviour?  When does the lovable bad boy become the unlovable media scoundrel?  

How much bad press is too much?


Born as the son to famed actor Martin Sheen, the notorious Charlie Sheen began his acting career in many movies during the 1980s, including Platoon (1986) and Wall Street (1987).  Elevated by his father's fame and the right movie roles, Sheen quickly transformed from a rising star to a bonafide celebrity.  Despite spurning out decades of performances, Sheen's film career went mostly unawarded, other than a nod for his relatively small role in Being John Malkovitch (1999).

Charlie Sheen Popular Culture
It wasn't until he made the transition to act in television that he began receiving accolades for his work.  He won a Golden Globe after his two-year stint in TV sitcom Spin City (2002), which led to his starring role in another massively popular sitcom - what is now known as Two and a Half Men (2003).  The show features Charlie playing a womanizing character much like his real-life persona, along with Jon Cryer as Sheen's brother and the young Angus T. Jones as the 'half man' in the equation.  The trio live together and form an odd little family as they work through each other's hilarious hijinks.  Watched by millions of viewers, this half-hour comedy instantly became a hit among viewers, and its popularity never waned throughout the seven years of broadcast.  It remains consistently one of the highest rated television programs in modern times.

As his career flourishes, Sheen's personal life takes one harmful stab after the next due to his irresponsible actions.  The media constantly reports his sexual escapades with adult actresses, and the major news breakthrough is when Sheen was linked to a high-end escort service (of the Heidi Fleiss infamy). Around the same time, Sheen also overdosed on cocaine and rehabilitated himself through a rotating door of visits in rehab.  These scandals were followed by a mess divorce with his wife Denise Richards, who accused him of alcohol, drug abuse, and threats of violence during the marriage.  Sheen continues to get in trouble with the law, including assault and 'criminal mischief'.  Most recently, his latest scandal is the aforementioned employment termination from Two and a Half Men.


In an industry where the tiniest of scandals can ruin careers forever, Charlie Sheen rose to infamy and only became more popular due to his misdemeanours.  In fact, his entire characterization on the sitcom Two and a Half Men closely refers to his real-life bad boy persona.  It is not a stretch to say that Charlie Sheen has became a celebrity based on his constant and consistent moral indecencies.  He is the bad boy that everyone loves watching; let's watch him on a sitcom and laugh at his womanizing ways!  In many ways, the television audience is responsible for championing his bad behaviour.  We know Charlie for being bad, we watch Charlie for being bad, and we love Charlie for being a bad boy to the core.  Soon enough, the name Charlie Sheen became synonymous with bad behaviour altogether.

Charlie Sheen has gotten away with his bad behaviour for so long that he has deluded himself into believing he is invincible.  It's the reason why he managed to haggle a $1.2 million per episode pay cheque for his role on Two and a Half Men - the highest of any current television actor.  He also believes the public will support him through his ethical struggles, and his fans will stay by him regardless of his latest misdeeds.  He is so used to the celebrity notoriety that the unfortunate implications of a scandal don't bother him anymore.  It's why Charlie Sheen would make such a nasty public spectacle with Chuck Lorres, because he perceives himself as above the law.

In his delusions, Sheen believes that the public will take his side, even though a recent conducted survey indicates that over 75% of people have an unfavourable perception of him compared to the less than 10% with a favourable opinion.  Clearly, he has a misguided notion of his popularity, his fame, and his celebrity status, which makes Charlie Sheen' continual downward spiral all the more humiliating.  It's like watching a trainwreck in motion.

Let's look at the situation from another perspective.  Let's say Charlie Sheen is a regular employee at a typical company, and he acts out with the same disruptive behaviour towards his employer.  Would a termination be deemed justifiable?  Hell yes!  In fact, it seems so strictly unprofessional of him to not only get fired, but continually badmouth CBS productions in his subsequent media interview stint.  Sheen is burning bridges left and right, while proving that he is an extremely temperamental employee to work with.  Besides his unreasonable salary demands, he will also throw a tantrum of epic proportions if he doesn't get what he wants.  Who would want to hire him on a long-term basis, especially for a family-oriented sitcom, after witnessing the collateral damage that he is capable of committing?  

Sheen may believe that he is speaking the truth by telling the world how he really feels about Chuck Lorres, but in reality he is going on a kamikaze mission and destroying his unrepairrable reputation (or whatever remains of it) in the process.  Hardly anybody in the television industry would be willing to hire Sheen again after this debacle.  As the old adage goes, don't bite the hand that feeds you!


Charlie Sheen Notoriety
As part of the television audience, we have a responsibility over choosing our celebrities.  We have the choice to champion a notorious troublemaker like Charlie Sheen, or we can support a likable drama-free figure who is less abrasive, less disruptive, and far less offensive.  If celebrities are seen as our role models, I believe that we can do better than Charlie Sheen.  He's long past his expiration date in the media spotlight anyway.  Not only does this man need to take responsibility and start making better choices in his life, but the entire entertainment industry must also make better choices about the stars they promote.  

In fact, we can do so much better than all the other celebrities who have been involved in sex, drugs, violence, and other scandals of the like.  There are so many talented actors, musicians, and dangers in Hollywood that can perform Sheen's job at half his pay cheque and with none of his celebrity notoriety.  We're as good and bad as the people we read about in the celebrity tabloids.  Let's rise above the scandals and choose better role models in our celebrity culture.

As for Charlie Sheen, what more can be said about him?  He's gone but not yet forgotten.  Who knows when (if ever) he'll return to a television program ever again?  In any case, good riddance to bad rubbish.

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