We Need to Stop Paying Attention to Charlie Sheen

It’s clear that there’s something wrong with Charlie Sheen. I’m not sure whether he’s just suffering from the effects of addiction or if he also has a mental illness like bi-polar disorder. But the truth of the matter is that we, as an audience, and the media, are not helping him overcome whatever problems he is currently facing. In fact, we’re making it worse.

I know what you’re going to say. ‘It’s not our job to make Charlie Sheen better’. In some respects you’re right. It’s not our responsibility to ensure that he gets the help he so clearly needs. And right now his incredibly crazy and manic antics is news. But ‘news’is really only defined by the attention that we pay it, and we need to stop paying attention to Charlie Sheen.

I don’t know what it is about watching a human being essentially crumble before our very eyes that delights us so much. Do we watch his rambling during interviews because we’re concerned about him? Or are we laughing at him behind his back? Do we enjoy watching ‘celebrities’laid bare before us and having proof that they really are no different from the rest of us?

The truth of the matter is that the media and the networks are giving him a platform for his continued and prolonged embarrassment. They’re actively recruiting him to appear on television and radio shows because he’s the hot topic of the moment. And if they’re not recruiting him, then they’re certainly not saying ‘no’when he calls. What kind of effect does this constant, never-ending exposure have on Charlie? I don’t know for sure, but I’m certain it’s not helping him face his problems. Constant attention will likely only reinforce his belief that he’s right, that he doesn’t have a problem, that he shouldn’t hide himself away and receive treatment from qualified professionals. Why should he, when we’re all hanging on every word? Yes, perhaps the exposure is technically tarnishing his public image, but is that really the truth? Even re-run ratings of his show are doing well. His Twitter account already has over a million followers.

Then there’s places like The Viper Room that tweeted an offer to throw him a party at their bar, which is probably one of the craziest things I’ve ever heard. Why would you offer to throw a party – which could very likely be the scene of alcohol and even drugs – for an addict? Why don’t you just hand a gun to a four year old child and see how well that turns out? It’s a disaster in the making and it’s a horrible taunt to throw at someone who needs to focus all of his energy into healing himself, not spending another night plying himself with booze and cocaine.

I admire the fact that CBS and Warner Bros. enforced a hiatus on his show. I feel bad for the now out-of-work crew, but that blame lies on Sheen and his behavior. The fact that the network and the studio refused to allow him to continue work in this state is probably the only smart decision that has been made concerning Sheen thus far.

As an audience, we’re not helping by lapping up every bit of Sheen news out there, turning his quotes into the butt of jokes and watching his interviews. Aside from writing one article about the enforced hiatus of Two and a Half Men I haven’t written a single word about Charlie Sheen. I think it’s terrible that many of us are enjoying watching him go crazy. I’ll admit, in the past, I absorbed news about celebrities in downward spirals. When Britney Spears went through her manic phase a few years ago I was reading all the tabloids and blog posts and peeking at all of the photographs. Now, I just feel ashamed.

Nothing about this situation – or any similar situation – is funny or amusing.

I don’t know what a lack of attention might prompt Charlie to do. I don’t know if he’ll come to any realizations about the need for treatment or if he’ll just continue to degrade in private. But at least we can all stop participating in the public spectacle that is essentially equal to the spectacles in the ancient Roman forums. We should feel no pleasure from watching someone destroy their life.

Here’s the bottom line: I don’t know Charlie Sheen. None of us really do. But I don’t want him to die. Not because he’s a celebrity, but because he’s a person who clearly has a problem. We shouldn’t laugh at someone in a downward spiral. We shouldn’t obsess over them, even in our celebrity-obsessive culture. Even if we don’t have a responsibility to help them, we should at least refrain from making the problem worse. This man has children and those poor kids are going through enough without having to witness millions of people degrading their father.

We need to stop paying attention to Charlie and hope that someone out there can help him. By the way, I am well aware of the irony of publishing this article, telling us to stop paying attention to Sheen when I am, in fact, just contributing to the problem. But if even one person chooses to stop paying attention after reading this, then I’ll consider it a win.

That’s my final word on the matter. You may disagree with me, and that’s fine, but this is how I feel.


  1. Anonymous March 3, 2011
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