Confession: I am hooked on any and all news and stories related to Charlie Sheen. I can’t help it. As a moth is drawn to the light and then subsequently zapped to death, so am I strangely drawn to celebrity shenanigans, and Charlie Sheen’s meltdown is to me, well, the World’s Largest Lamp, which Google tells me is an actual thing. Anyways, I’ve genuinely reading tweets and updates about tiger blood and winning and warlocks and other vaguely fantastical references that could only originate from a man who is clearly so wired on cocaine and ego as to combine the imagery inspired by a 13-year-old boy’s gaming collection with an overtly zealous political candidate’s rhetoric (“My violent torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not an Option”…what?). That said, when Trisha asked me to cover Mr. Sheen for WIYL, I was a little confused. Charlie Sheen’s downward spiral is a feminist issue? Should I not be following this man’s downward spiral? Is it wrong for me to enjoy his interviews and rants? Feeling guilty and dirty about my apparent feminist sins, I did some deep, deep soul-searching (okay, I watched a few episodes of Gilmore Girls), and realized that The Sheening, Bruce Springsheen, and any other Sheen-related pun you find appropriate, is not a feminist issue. It’s a feminist victory.
That said, the pleasure I derived from Keeping Up With the Kardasheenan was actually a healthy dose of schadenfreude. Charlie Sheen is a character. He’s unintentionally hilarious. He’s also a total asshole. Sheen has allegedly threatened to kill five women, has shot at and strangled his girlfriends, and once beat a woman for not having sex with him. It’s darkly enjoyable to see a man who has abused so many women in the past now be openly mocked by the public, and to witness his breakdown and consequent firing from Two and a Half Men. What goes around, comes around, Justsheen Timberlake.
Similarly, the public reaction to Sheen’s actions- the domestic abuse, the coke binges, the bevy of porn stars for hire- has given feminists reason to celebrate. Firstly, Sheen’s history of violence against women shows this true, misogynistic colors, but his actions alone do not a feminist issue make; it is society’s reaction to these happenings that should provoke our response. In this case, while Sheen faced no legal trouble, his violent acts have been publicly decried; tiger blood references may be ubiquitous, but no one is celebrating or giving Sheen a free pass for abusing these women. Also noticeably lacking in the media coverage of Sheengate is slut-shaming. Bloggers and commentators have often remarked how male celebrities continue to find work and slip fairly quietly under the radar when they find themselves in the midst of drug abuse and generally reckless behavior, while female celebrities are collectively scolded and reprimanded; the classic example given here is Robert Downey Jr. v. Lindsay Lohan. The Last of the Mosheencans isn’t exactly how I pictured arriving gender equality, but I’ll take what I can get. Charlie Sheen’s latest escapade, the one that put him in this media mess, involved too much cocaine, and a house full of porn stars that were paid for their services. Surprisingly, there has been limited slut-shaming involved in this affair; the general reaction has been one of “I can’t believe Charlie Sheen hired a bunch of hookers, that perv, what was he thinking?” and less of “I can’t believe those porn stars had sex with Charlie Sheen for money! The nerve of those wenches!” While there has been some fascination and speculation about these women, particularly about Kacey Jordan, who claimed she was promised a Bentley in the throes of passion (which isn’t “slutty” at all, just gullible), the focus has not been on their consensual choice of occupation, but on the legally questionable pastimes of one Charlie Sheen.
Granted, these signs of progress of depiction and treatment of women, and violence against women, in the media are small victories. It’s encouraging to see that people are laughing at Charlie Sheen, not with him, as he holds a knife to his girlfriend’s neck and holds a prostitute hostage in a bathroom. To quote Mr. Sheen, we may very well be on our way to, duh, winning.