Acts of insanity and violence saturate our TV screens, the radio, and the internet. This constant exposure to a wide range of abuse has raised our level of tolerance and, in so doing, brings us closer to a state of apathy and acceptance of aberrant, uncivilized behavior.
In the midst of wars and unbearably painful scenes of humanity on the run in so many countries, our lives are now barraged with the antics of Charlie Sheen. People can’t get enough, hear enough, see enough of this sick and dangerous man. Interviewers seem too intimidated to confront him. Photographers find him everywhere and plaster their findings wherever and whenever they are allowed to do so.
Yet, Reality TV has blurred the distinction for many of us between what is acceptable and what is simply scandalous. For those who have become addicted to following his every move and can’t stop themselves from watching him, talking about him and tweeting, it says as much about them as it does of Sheen himself.
No one has stated this phenomenon better than writer Anna Holmes (creator of the website Jezebel) in the NY Times op-ed, Friday, March 4th.
The title of her piece, “THE DISPOSABLE WOMAN,” tells it like it is! She recounts Sheen’s self abuses and makes clear that “his abuse of women is barely broached.” Citing Piers Morgan’s CNN interview with Sheen, Holmes notes that “inertia is not for lack of evidence.” Each of Sheen’s “incidents” was reported nationwide: his 1990 “accidental shooting” of his then fiancée, the suing by a college student struck after not accepting his sexual advances, a sex film actress claiming to have been thrown to the floor during a fight, a restraining order issued against him by a previous wife, Denise Richards, who claimed he threatened to kill her, and his 3rd wife who called 911, stating that he held a knife to her throat (to which he pleaded guilty and was put on probation). All of these were made public.
More recently, we recall the scandal in NYC when another actress who appears in sex films locked herself in a bathroom after Sheen went into a violent rage. Again, though a criminal complaint was registered, no arrest was made. And last, but certainly not least, his former wife and mother of his twin sons, alleged that “he had claimed to cut her head off, put it in a box and send it to her Mom.” Do we see him remanded for a psychiatric evaluation or behind bars? No. We find him constantly gaining the attention of hoards of people who see him getting away with offensive and sick behavior. His money can and often does buy him, not simply freedom, but more fame.
The tragedy is that no one is helping Mr. Sheen. We see his addictive behavior. We are subjected to his manic gibberish while he’s allowed to side-step his treatment failures. And we know that any other citizen – someone neither famous nor wealthy – would have long been sentenced by the courts or even silenced.
Holmes writes that “a woman’s active embrace of the FAME MONSTER or participation in the sex industry implies 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.” She further states that the “objectification and abuse … is not only an accepted occupational hazard for certain women, but something that men like Mr. Sheen have earned the right to indulge in. ….. These assumptions – about women, about powerful men, about bad behavior – have roots that go way back but find endorsement in today’s unscripted TV CULTURE. The overall conclusion is that, for many, Mr. Sheen’s real-life, round the clock, recorded outbursts and the sexist narratives devised by reality television producers, in which women are routinely portrayed as backstabbing floozies, and dreadful behavior by males is explained away as a side effect of unbridled passion or too much pilsner.”
Worse, still, “they make assault and abasement seem commonplace, acceptable behavior, tolerated by women and encouraged in men.”
As a psychotherapist/addictions counselor, I have treated one too many abused women – ordinary, self-respecting women who were neither actresses nor famous – and, who, even after receiving orders of protection, were raped or assaulted in unimaginably torturous ways while their “perpetrators” got a slap on the wrist, probation, or a minimal amount of time spent in jail. Many women in 21st century America – not only in third world countries – are victims of abuse every day. Those who are their abusers – whether mentally ill and/or addicted to one drug or many drugs never get the media attention that Sheen gets and therein lies the rub.
We have a society in which many rich and famous men such as Sheen go untreated for obvious psychiatric disorders and are allowed – if not encouraged – to continue to see women as disposable.
As far as I’m concerned, Sheen should never have been given the opportunity for air-time. Attention should be given to all men who are found guilty by giving each and every one a psychiatric evaluation, a treatment plan and when, necessary, a jail sentence. The women should be given the therapy needed to move beyond the trauma they have endured and we, as a society, should not allow the Sheens of the world to walk our streets, to have custody of any children, or to have the pleasure of any woman’s company until they have received sufficient mental health care and are abstinent from all drugs.
Once we afford them the luxury of a public forum and the publicity fit for presidents and kings, we’ve lost the right to call ourselves anything but enablers and abettors of criminal acts, especially against women!