You know that game where you pick petals and wait for a flower to tell you whether or not someone loves you? They love me. They love me not. That's how I feel when I read about Charlie Sheen's turn to the dark side: I care. I care not.
You know that game where you pick petals and wait for a flower to tell you whether or not someone loves you? They love me. They love me not. That's how I feel when I read about Charlie Sheen's turn to the dark side: I care. I care not. He's in the hospital. He's in rehab. He's in rehab but at home. His show, “Two and a Half Men,” is canceled for the rest of the season.
Lately, he's a one-man crazy train, steamrolling his way through our television lives with nonsensical interviews. When Sheen took his first steps on the road to ruin a month ago, the “Today” show was so concerned that they asked visitors to their website to participate in a poll. The question was: “Does Sheen's behavior ruin “Two and a Half Men” for you?” In other words: As television viewers, should we care about Charlie Sheen or any star who’s gone off the rails?
Sheen is a hot mess who appears to be slowly destroying himself one drink and porn star at a time. He has problems. He needs an intervention. Does he need our sympathy? Maybe. Should we use our feelings about his personal demons as a barometer for how we react to his work? Only if we are under the illusion that television actors owe us good behavior simply because they share an hour of our week.
The issues surrounding Sheen's troubles speak to the larger debate over celebrities and their responsibility as role models. This debate can be subtle or loud. It's subtle when websites and magazines splash pictures across their pages of celebrities with their children. The message is: This picture of A-list celebrity pushing their kid on a swing equals Good Parent. With Sheen, the debate is more obvious. But unlike other actors who may carefully create wholesome images for themselves, Sheen has never claimed to be a poster boy for good behavior. In fact, if you've heard any of his recent interviews, he's decided to fully embrace the role of freak.
While a television star's responsibility is to show up for work on time, as actors, they have no responsibility to viewers to demonstrate good behavior in their private life. Their only obligation is to please audiences with their acting skills. If an actor's personal life impacts your enjoyment of their work, you are allowing the idea of celebrity to unduly influence you. A star is not a good parent because they are photographed holding their child and Charlie Sheen or whoever falls from grace next, is not a bad actor because he has addictions. In the end, the question of whether a TV star's personal life impacts our enjoyment of their professional life is not the right one. Perhaps a better question, as least in Sheen's case, is why television is still giving him a forum.
Melissa Crawley credits her love of all things small screen to her parents, who never used the line, "Or no TV!" as a punishment. Her book, “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television's 'The West Wing,’” was published in 2006. She has a PhD in media studies. To comment on Stay Tuned, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.