Charlie Sheen should be in jail, not fired

Well, Happy Christmas, Charlie Sheen is a dick. Is anyone particularly surprised by this? He’s been either a total douchebag or in the act of cleaning up his total douchbag act for most of my lifetime (and, I think, also his). Mary Elizabeth Williams has a good write up of all of this — with a list of Sheen’s many domestic charges — at Salon today. She also comes to a conclusion:

Sheen’s certainly not the first actor with a historic fondness for controlled substances and ladies of the town. So grudging props that he’s managed to parlay that very public bad-boy reputation into a lucrative on-screen career. Oh, that Charlie! He’s the philandering rake from that sitcom! And hey, the scandalous publicity just sent the ratings through the roof.

Here’s the thing, though: Are you fucking kidding me?

There’s naughty and there’s shoving women around, hitting them, verbally abusing them, and threatening to kill them. Repeatedly. Over years and years and years. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had an on-and-off relationship with sobriety. It doesn’t matter if the women in question are hookers or porn stars or sexy actresses or college students. It doesn’t even matter if they’re drunk. For what it’s worth, you don’t go pulling any of that on men either, though that doesn’t seem to be an issue for Sheen.

So while you can get fired from a hit TV show shortly after making a homophobic remark, and you can lose your beauty pageant crown after posing topless, you can also, apparently, make a career of abusing women and be the highest-paid actor on television.

Emotionally, I agree with Williams that no one anywhere should hire Charlie Sheen for anything any more. If I ran CBS, I wouldn’t. (But I also would’ve canceled “Two and a Half Men” a few years ago, when it became solely about mocking an awkward pre-teen). That Charlie Sheen still has a job doesn’t strike me as a failure of the showbusiness model. It’s if anything a failure of the viewing public, who did, as linked above, scurry over to increase his ratings with each new evil action. That Charlie Sheen is more interesting to people when he succumbs to expectation makes me doubt the wisdom and in fact the goodness of my TV-watching peers.

So — should CBS fire Charlie Sheen? Why? Won’t he just end up on NBC? The rake doctor in whatever’s replaced “E.R.”?

It’s not CBS to whom we should be saying, as Williams did, Are you fucking kidding me? It is, instead, the justice system. If Charlie Sheen is still available to keep working on a sitcom in 2010, then there’s been a systemic failure and miscarriage of justice. This kind of patterned assault should be punished handily and severely, and we shouldn’t have to rely on the goodness of a corporation to take care of it.

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