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Charlie Sheen’s media blitz is a lesson in what not to do in public relations. In a matter of a week, Sheen compared himself to a warlock, a rock star, and God. He’s called himself “special” in a number of different ways and he presented himself to the American public as apparently what he is, a self-deluded narcissist.

This sounds harsh, but if you kept score across his several high profile morning show and news program interviews it’d be “Arrogance 10, Humility 0.” Sheen is way past confident in himself and his own abilities, all the way to “I’m a winner.”

As the star of CBS’s “Two And A Half Men” Sheen makes $1.8 million per episode and as such is the highest paid actor on television. He’s also reputedly a chronic drug and alcohol abuser, has been in and out of rehab several times, is twice divorced, is the father of five children, and is now engaged in a highly public feud with CBS about the impact of his personal behavior upon their top-rated program. For now, the show has been taken out of production and may end its nearly nine-year run involuntarily.

Sheen’s drug and alcohol problems, the fact he lives with two women he calls “the goddesses,” and his bellicose attitude havemoved him from entertainment news to the front page. If it is true that “any publicity is good, even bad publicity,” than Sheen is in for more high paydays later. If not, he’s in trouble.

Journalists frequently refer to Sheen’s “personal demons.” Since O. J. Simpson, it’s a phrase that’s become the go-to description of a person struggling with emotional stability or inner turmoil. It’s a way for journalists to deal with inherently moral considerations without sounding religious or moralistic, which of course would violate current standards of political correctness.

For some who use the term, calling a person’s attitudinal and behavioral issues “personal demons” also serves nicely to ascribe the ultimate responsibility for the issues to something other than the individual involved, i.e. “He can’t help himself.”

Not being responsible sounds attractive, as in “Wow, you mean I can do all this and not be held accountable?” Or, “I’m a jerk because of something beyond my control? Great.”

But it’s not so great. When you think about it, not being responsible means you’re the victim of fate or forces or something, and you have no say in it. If you have no say in it, if you are truly controlled by something else, you’re not just “not responsible,” you can’t change it. And if there’s nothing you or anyone else can do to change you, you’re doomed. Being doomed doesn’t sound attractive to me.

Charlie Sheen, like many people before him and probably many after him, is a product of his own choices. He’s not manipulated by personal demons in the sense of things beyond his influence. He’s driven by his own poor or argumentative attitudes, his own boorish or self-destructive behavior, his own sin—just like the rest of us. His problems seem bigger than those of others because his are on display.

I don’t want to see Charlie Sheen die young. But I think he’s on that track. I don’t think “Two and a Half Men” is worth much—it’s funny, but it’s primarily driven by one plot theme: two brothers trying to get and have sex with women, as much as possible. But otherwise I like some of Sheen’s movies. I’m not trying to throw judgmental rocks at him. But I don’t think it’s compassionate to blame his problems on something he can’t change. It’s more compassionate to call his wrong choices and immoral lifestyle what they are, sin. And then point him toward the God of hope who can forgive, change, and heal.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

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