A very public freak show grips the world

The Hollywood star Charlie Sheen has been sacked after publicly insulting his employers in a series of bizarre rants. It's gripping to watch. But should we be laughing?

Two months ago Charlie Sheen was America's highest paid TV actor. His sitcom, Two And a Half Men, was a huge hit, earning its star more than £1m per episode.

But now, Sheen's career has gone spectacularly off the rails. This Monday, after a string of bizarre public appearances, Sheen was sacked and his lucrative show was finally cancelled.

Sheen had been mired in controversy long before his latest outbursts. He was notorious in Hollywood as drug abuser and womaniser. Last year he was found drunk and naked in the Plaza Hotel in New York, while travelling with his children. 'I've been partying,' he explained.

Then, over Christmas, he was accused of threatening his third wife, Brooke Mueller, with a flick-knife. According to her court testimony he said: 'You better be in fear. If you tell anybody, I'll kill you… I have ex-police I can hire who know how to get the job done and they won't leave any trace.'

Sheen's career survived these allegations, but last month, in an interview with a US radio host, Sheen launched into a stunning attack on his employers. His boss, Chuck Levine, was branded 'a stupid, stupid little man.' His show was a 'tin can,' which he had converted into 'pure gold.' 'I have poetry in my fingertips,' said Sheen. 'Most of the time I'm an F-18 bro – I'll destroy you in the air.'

Production on Two And a Half Men was halted shortly afterwards. But the interviews kept on coming. 'I have a grandiose life,' Sheen told America. 'I'm tired of pretending like I'm not special... I'm a total freakin' rock star from Mars.'

Given his drug problems, many listeners wondered if he was intoxicated. But Sheen said his only drug was his own personality: 'I am on a drug. It's called Charlie Sheen. It's not available because if you try it, you will die. Your face will melt off and your children will weep over your exploded body.'

Laughing matters
Sheen's mad outbursts have become instant hits, sources of much hilarity on the internet and over the airwaves. Across the world, people are riveted by the sight of this egomaniac tearing his life apart.

But more thoughtful commentators are starting to ask: is this really that funny? Sheen clearly has serious mental health and addiction problems. He's lost custody of his children, destroyed his career and looks perilously close to a nervous breakdown. Surely he deserves our sympathy more than our laughter.

You Decide

  1. Are Charlie Sheen's outbursts funny? Why / why not?
  2. When does mental illness excuse bad behaviour? Is Charlie Sheen responsible for his own problems?

Activities

  1. Mental health issues are much more common than we think. Choose a mental health problem and explain it to your class - maybe you know someone who's been affected?
  2. Do some research on the so-called 'freak-shows' that were popular 100 years ago. Is there any connection with the Charlie Sheen case? Present your argument to the class.

Some People Say...

“Madness is never funny.”

What do you think?

Q & A

Charlie Sheen isn't the first celebrity train-wreck.
He's not. Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan have both had high profile problems with mental health and addiction. But Sheen seems to think there's nothing wrong with his lifestyle.
Does he really deserve our pity?
Hard to say. No one should threaten his wife as Sheen is supposed to have. And his abuse of alcohol and cocaine doesn't help. But at the same time, he clearly has mental health problems.
Aren't 'mental health problems' really just a convenient excuse for bad behaviour?
We often forgive mentally ill people for acting wrongly. But it's hard to know where to draw the line. Hitler was probably mad, but we still think he was evil. Murderers are often deranged, but we still blame them for their crimes.

Subjects

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