April 3, 2011

Charlie Sheen, Meet Howard Beale

Photo courtesy flickr.com
To be honest, I'm a little tired of the whole Charlie Sheen...well, whatever it is.

Part of it is, quite frankly, the man is not an original. Personally, I feel he's ripping off and plagiarizing pal Andy Martello's act...and quite frankly, that's disrespectful. Never mind the fact that, in light of his recent Detroit show bombing, hipster-lites want to see him as some kind of paragon of "sticking it to the man".

What's really sad - and which has become more clearer after rewatching the movie this weekend - is how much Sheen is blatantly ripping off Network, which basically tells the slightly satirical story of how a television personality publicly breaks down, and how the corporate powers-that-be take advantage of it.

It's easy to proclaim that Network was prescient...but in many ways, what is striking is not the eerie foreshadowing of our current media culture. What is striking is that, although the movie takes place (and was written in) the 1970s, nothing about the movie seems that off-the-wall or unusual. Despite being a satire, there's no obvious nod-and-wink to the camera - or in the script - that tells us not to take this seriously.

What also helps is that Network provides us with a context for this "mad prophet" - Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch) is a broken man in many respects: he's a recent widower, he's been fired, and he's fighting for his own self-respect. His famous encouragement for people to proclaim that they're "mad as hell and (are) not going to take this anymore!" seems less about striking back as his superiors and more about asserting his own needs.

What bothers me about Sheen's behavior isn't the speculation on his mental state - as an advocate for mental health issues, anything I say would have the whiff of hypocracy - but that it really seems slightly selfish. In troubling economic times, watching a television star whose normal salary is unobtainable by most people proclaim himself "winning" to the detriment of others seems rather cruel. The fact that the backlash is beginning doesn't take away from the fact that Charlie Sheen is increasingly popular based on self-promotion more than anything else.

(Trust me - it's a trend I've seen in St. Louis and increasingly in Chicago: it's talking about how wonderful you are rather than the wonderful things you do, and I'm becoming increasingly frustrated and disheartened to see it happening. When, for example, a person who claims to be a connector sends an e-mail stating that they would rather not get referrals to connect because they're too busy...or someone dismisses the advice of someone who has experience in a given field....OK, I admit, this has been on my mind for awhile. I had no Christmas or birthday celebrations - in fact, the past six months have been really trying. Please excuse my new temperament as a curmudgeon.).

But Charlie Sheen is, quite frankly, taking advantage of a situation by turning himself into a guru, when really, he's just like the rest of us. And he's not even doing it in an original way.  And what am I intending to do about, you may ask? And what would I recommend others doing?

I'm getting mad as hell, and won't take this anymore. And others should do the same.

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