A while back we had a debate on this blog about art vs. the artist, and if it's hard to enjoy the creative works of an individual after they've shown a less than savory side. Does their art loose all value when they say, rape a 12 year-old girl after plying her with drugs and alcohol?
This past week most of Hollywood has been fascinated by the sad case of Charlie Sheen. After a few public drug benders (look, hit Google if you have no idea what I'm talking about... it's WAY too much for me to summarize) he entered into a treatment program (in his own home) and after CBS announced plans to cut four episodes from this season, he lashed out at his boss Chuck Lorre. This was seemingly the final straw for CBS, which canceled all episodes for this season.
This provoked Charlie Sheen's current "High on Charlie Sheen" publicity tour, where he is plugging his innocence and alleged sobriety with more aggressiveness than a Bieber pressing his new movie. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised to see him co-hosting Ryan Seacrest's show and placing decoy calls for "Ryan's Roses."
This tour has seen such bizarre moments as Sheen taunting that Warner Bros. would pay for how they treated him, saying "“Come Wednesday morning, they're going to rename it Charlie Bros. and not Warner Bros. Duh, winning!” Then he said, “They owe me a big [apology] – publicly – while they lick my feet."
I originally only read the quotes from those interviews and it wasn't until many hours after the fact that I found myself with ten minutes to kill. I tracked down the actual clip and... well, I thought I was watching some viral marketing for an absurd film about Hollywood bad boys.
I don't watch Two and a Half Men. I've seen a few episodes here and there and found it to be exceptionally unremarkable. Yet I know SOMEONE must be watching it because it's one of CBS's highest-rated shows not starring someone who collects blood and semen samples as part of their day job. Sheen's character on the show plays very much off of his playboy image. He's a sanitized bad boy womanizer... the PG version of Charlie Sheen.
And now Sheen has shown his true colors, and worse, he put his face on the story. It's one thing to hear about him locking a porn star in a closet in an abusive moment. It's quite another to actually see him spouting the nonsense in the clip above with the intense gaze and delivery all while insisting he's the wronged party. Sure, your first impulse might be to laugh at the isolated soundbites, but if you watch the whole interview, the "joke" fades and you're left with a sad, disturbing portrait.
And since Sheen is all but playing himself on his sitcom... will fans who saw that interview find it hard to see the humor in his character? I'm legitimately asking here, because as I've not been a huge fan of his, I can't really quantify how serious this would affect my perception of him. But it is uncomfortable, sort of like if O.J.'s last role before being arrested for murder was playing a knife-wielding slasher.
Sheen's had a few defenders come to his side on the posts on Deadline.com, but most of them seem to be the ultra-right wing loonies who come over through the Drudge Report's links. You can spot them by the fact that they immediately make this a political issue. Look, Martin Sheen is a bit to the left of me too, but it's a little disturbing to see people say they hate him so much that they take joy in his son's personal problems as punishment. I haven't seen any fans of Charlie comment on how their perceptions of them have changed. Real fans, I mean.
No one is ever finished on Hollywood. Robert Downey Jr. had a meltdown almost this bad in the 90s, and today he's one of the biggest stars in town. But then - we didn't have him raving like a madman on tape.
So do Charlie's problems make Two and a Half Men even less funny in retrospect? Can we separate Charlie the actor from Charlie the character? For me, I find it hard to watch Mel Gibson in anything - not just because of the tapes, but because of all the stories that have circulated about him over the years. And while most of the time an actor's politics doesn't bother me, I've never looked at Craig T. Nelson the same since he went on Glenn Beck and made BECK look like the sanner one in a debate about paying taxes.
Perhaps if there was any lucidity to Sheen's motivations for his press tour, it's that he was hoping to gain the support of the millions who've watched his series every week for years. But in doing so, he might have actually alienated them. Sheen's immediate career will take a hit, but how does this impact his legacy? Do you think it will taint the memory of his better works?
And from an artistic standpoint, should it even matter?