From all reports, it sounds like Charlie Sheen, the star of the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men, is no charmer. Production of the show was suspended last week when Sheen began an offensive, anti-Semitic rant against the executive producer, Chuck Lorre. Sheen called Lorre a “clown” and “loser” and added, “It’s nothing this side of deplorable that a certain Chaim Levine, yeah that’s Chuck’s [Lorre] last name, mistook this rock star for his own selfish exit strategy bro.”
Sheen has denied that the comments were anti-Semitic, and says that he has kicked his substance abuse problems and will continue to work despite the show’s suspension, but the real question is why he was disciplined for this particular rant, given his history of domestic abuse and violence against women.
In an article for the New York Times, David Carr highlights the extent of Sheen’s propensity for intimate physical violence. It’s bizarre and disturbing, he says, that Time Warner and CBS would tolerate such explicit misogyny from a highly paid employee. In 2006, Sheen’s current wife, Denise Richards, filed a restaining order against him, saying that Sheen had thrown chairs at her, pushed her, and threatened to kill her. They divorced, but in 2009, he made similar threats against his new wife, Brooke Mueller, while holding a knife to her throat. Last fall, Sheen went on a violent rampage at the Plaza Hotel, allegedly yelled racial slurs at an escort he had hired for the evening, threw a lamp at her and grabbed her by the throat. Terrified, the woman locked herself in the bathroom. Sheen later offered her an unspecified amount of money in exchange for her silence.
And yet – what gets Sheen’s show suspended? Carr points to this as an example of the tacit approval of domestic violence in show business, writing, “Hollywood likes to pretend it has grown up and taken its seat in corporate America. But it hasn’t when it comes to violence toward women. Mr. Sheen may have gone off-script last week. But in his attitudes toward women both on and off screen, he’s right on message.”
This is a strong indictment of Hollywood as tolerating and even encouraging a misogynistic culture. But it’s hard not to read the latest controversy over Charlie Sheen any other way. It must, as Carr points out, be offensive to the many women who work for Time Warner and CBS to support an actor who so blatantly shows his disrespect for women. But until Sheen crossed a line and insulted his boss, it seemed like he was able to act with impunity.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.