Laughing at Lunatics


This is another serious blog topic today at After Hours, about the Charlie Sheen train wreck.  It’s what everyone’s talking about — tiger blood, “bi-winning,” his bitchin’ life, the drug that is Charlie Sheen.  He’s the butt of every joke — there’s the Live the Sheen Dream site, and the quiz in which you match quotes with Glenn Beck, Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, or Charlie Sheen. He set the Guinness World Record for being the fastest to get a million followers on Twitter (just a bit over 24 hours).

But here’s the thing: mental illness isn’t funny.  If anyone else were to go spouting off about having tiger blood and being a warlock, and saying things like, “There’s a new sheriff in town, and he has an army of assassins,” they would be institutionalized — for their own good.  They would be hospitalized, evaluated, and treated for mental illness.  He would be the person that we would go to the other side of the sidewalk to avoid, walking past quickly with our eyes on the ground.  He would be the person in a store to whom we would give a false but polite smile while we edge away to alert the security.

Instead, we’re giving him a microphone and a camera and putting him in front of a global audience.

We don’t understand mental illness because we don’t talk about it.  It’s taboo and scary and weird, and we’d rather pretend it doesn’t exist.  Well, it does, and all you have to do is turn on Charlie’s latest interview to see what it looks like.  After years of intense drug use, it’s not surprising that he’d lose control of reality.  And yeah, what he’s saying is sort of funny and ridiculous, but it’s gone too far and isn’t funny anymore.  We are the people that Craig Ferguson talks about in the video above, paying our pennies to point and laugh at the lunatics.

I wish more people were concerned, and stopped telling jokes.  The ramblings of a mad man are not entertainment any more than it’s funny to laugh at a person missing a limb, or with scars, or a stutter.  Mental illness is an illness, not a weakness or a punchline.  If this ongoing circus teaches us anything, it’s not that Charlie Sheen is a bitchin’ winner — it’s that we still stigmatize and misunderstand mental illness.

11 thoughts on “Laughing at Lunatics

  1. Ilene Flannery Wells

    Thank you for this post. We need more people like you to speak up. Please learn more about the damaging, discriminating law called the Mediciaid Institutes for Mental Diseases Exclusion. This archaic law is the main reason there are hundreds of thousands of severely mentally ill who are homeless, incarcerated or have died young, like my brother.

    My brother’s story was published in the August Edition 2010 of Psychiatric
    Services, a journal of the American Pschiatry Association.

    Sincerely, Ilene Flannery Wells

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  2. AARPat

    I haven’t kept up with this–have deliberately tuned it out as a matter of fact. Why? How can you tell if anything that stems from Hollywood is real or an elaborately planned publicity stunt? Unless you’re in the inside, you can’t really. I think of Hugh Grant who after the hooker episode said obliquely, “Well, that didn’t turn out like we planned.” “We” who? He and the hooker? He and a publicist? Since his girlfriend took him back so quickly, one suspects the latter. But who really knows? Only Hugh and his nearest and dearest, that’s for sure.

    Charlie’s TV show isn’t getting the ratings it once did. Does this have something to do with his ranting now? You would think Martin and/or Emilio would reel him in if this weren’t a publicity stunt.

    I don’t know. Like I said, only those nearest and dearest do.

    This is not to denegrate what you said about mental illness. You are absolutely right about that. I just don’t know if it applies in this case. But then, like I said, I don’t keep up with Hollywood “news” anymore.

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  3. Jane AAR Post author

    Pat- You’re right that, obviously, we can’t know for sure. It’s impossible to truly diagnose from afar, though I’ve read mental health professionals speculate that he’s suffering from a bipolar incident (this speculation is what produced his now-famous “Bipolar? I’m not bipolar, I’m bi-WINNING” quote). Though it is also worth noting that much of this has come of his being fired from Two and a Half Men (after very publicly blasting his producer), his father has publicly expressed concern, his publicist has quit, and the police have taken his children out of his custody after he allegedly threatened to kill his ex-wives (I believe he’s threatened both, though I’m not certain — it may have only been Denise Richards, or Brooke Mueller).

    But like you said, it’s impossible to know for certain what’s going on.

    Ilene- thank you for letting me know about that, and sharing your story. It’s certainly something I’ll look into.

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  4. Leigh AAR

    What can you do? Brittany Spears, Robert Downey Jr, etc. so many others have done the same thing.

    It is sad that there is an headline going around that the media has updated his obituary, just in case.

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  5. Tee

    Sheen may not be exhibiting “mental” illness at all. He seems to know just what to do to grab media attention to his favor, along with millions of people across the globe. As reported in today’s Det Free Press, check the following:

    He broke a Guinness world record by attracting more than a million Twitter followers in 25 hours and 17 minutes. If there’s a record for overexposure, Sheen definitely is giving the Kardashians a run for their money:

    •  reports that Sheen has signed a deal with, a company that pays celebrities to endorse products through social media.

    • Sirius radio is responding to the public’s seemingly insatiable need for all things Sheen by creating a 24-hour, limited-run channel devoted to keeping up with the actor’s antics.

    • VH1 announced Friday that it will air a one-hour special focusing on Sheen’s recent behavior and interviews. “VH1 News Presents: Charlie Sheen: Winning … or Losing It? with Dr. Drew” will air at 8 p.m. Monday.

    • Taiwanese viral sensation NMA, which has produced more than one video on Sheen’s antics, is teaming up with Spike TV to produce “Charlie Sheen’s Winningest Moments.” The half-hour, animated special, hosted by two female characters dubbed “the goddesses” (Sheen’s nicknames for the women living with him), is scheduled to air at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday on Spike.

    Mental illness is certainly nothing to laugh at and I’ll be the first to admit that. But it sounds as though he knows exactly what he’s doing and making money from it at the same time. However, I’m just saying what we’re seeing here may be a manufactured set-up and what we’re viewing is not what it’s perceived to be. Just another thought; since IMO, Hollywood is unrealistic and and its inhabitants thrive on attention.

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  6. AAR Sandy

    Tee, I understand where the cynicism is coming from, but killing time the other day I read a plea for a protection order that Denise Richards filed with the court in 2006. It’s 17 pages long and accurately describes his behavior that we’re all witnessing today. I think he’s a bully and a looser, but I also think he’s mentally ill with a number of disorders — possibly some from drug use. Denise Richards is clearly afraid of him and she’s doing everything she can to protect her children.

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  7. Jane AAR Post author

    I agree, Sandy… sure, he’s making money, but the people actually affected (like his children???) aren’t laughing.

    From Perez, a breakdown of Sheen’s history of violence:
    1990 – Sheen shot then-fiancee Kelly Preston with a .22 gun…accidentally of course…
    1994 – Sued by a UCLA student for allegedly striking her in the head after “she refused to have sex.”
    1996 – Arrested after adult film star girlfriend Brittany Ashland claimed Sheen “knocked her out and threatened to kill her.”
    2006 – Denise Richards filed for divorce from Sheen and claimed he threw chairs at her and threatened to kill her, multiple times
    2009 – Allegedly strangled Brooke Mueller, held a knife to her throat, and threatened to kill her, on Christmas Day
    2010 – Adult film star Capri Anderson claimed Charlie “put his hands around her neck and threatened to kill her”
    2011 – Allegedly threatened to kill his ex Brooke Mueller…again

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  8. Tee

    AAR Sandy: Tee, I understand where the cynicism is coming from…

    I know that you do understand my pessimism, Sandy. All of this is getting so old from so many of the people that make up Hollywood (witness Spears, Lohan, etc). These deranged behaviors do probably have to do with excess from drugs and alcohol, but these entertainers keep getting one pass after another, both in the courts and from their fans. If this were happening to someone on our block, we’d be up in arms that he be restrained and sent to rehab before permitting him to come back home.

    I don’t doubt the drugs did a number on Sheen, but seeing people high-fiving him and saying “encouraging” things like “you go, man” does get my blood to boiling. If he’s sick—and probably is, just because of the drug excess and the fact that he feels he needs the stuff—then no excuses should be made for him and he should be somewhere where he will receive help.

    We’ve become immune, I believe, to seeing show biz people continue to fall, but never brought to consequences. What would happen if one of our kids were caught DUI? Maybe if it’s the first time, there might be a pass. But a second time? I doubt it. Swift action is taken here in Michigan anyway. But kids watching this fiasco on TV—what do they think? It’s a great show. What’s the problem? He just wants to have a little fun. Our kids get too hardened to it and probably think we’re the party poopers.

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