As is my wont, I usually start my morning watching the local KTLA news where entertainment reporter Sam Rubin takes command of our collective attention while we finish the last of our Cheerios, or light up the first cigar of the day -- or both. As Sam frequently does, he segued this morning between the usual Hollywood news to a more “social commentary,” this time reporting on the response of an entertainment exec that he called "an idiot" the previous day.
An idiot he was. This douchebag characterized Charlie Sheen as a “folk hero.”
Sam's diatribe against this person came on the heels of an article that I had just read about the lack of looting in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami. I'm sure you're waiting for the connection between the two.
Wait no longer.
In our society, we seem to rub our hands together gleefully when we see someone unravel, and then catapult that person to a level where we can profit from his or her misery. The monetization of Charlie Sheen is a symptom of a society that will bust a shopkeeper's window and scurry away with a flat screen on its back, not waiting for the ground to stop shaking before taking to the streets.
While I write this, there are nuclear engineers, irradiated and dying, staying by their posts as they give their lives in order to prevent a nuclear holocaust in Japan. While I write this, there are media freaks who are hawking Charlie Sheen hoodies, drawing up contracts to get his pained visage on their channels, and offering him the opportunity to rehab publicly, to the delight of potential advertisers, in America.
When the Big One comes, the looters will not be limited to Crenshaw and Jefferson. The looters are already here, and they walk Rodeo Drive and eat sushi on Ventura Boulevard.
The successful quest to save a nursing home has taught me a lot about people. Those that I stood with to save the Motion Picture Home's long-term care unit were, for the most part, media people. Actors, writers, stagehands, producers -- these people would no sooner capitalize on an individual's struggle for sobriety than they would close down a nursing home.
The great divide between the American and Japanese cultures can also be found in the microcosm that we reside in. The entertainment industry is inhabited by scavengers who pick over the bones of the famous, selling everything from tabloids to T-shirts without regard for the pain of the families that have to work against the machine to insulate their loved ones from themselves, and to get them help. The scavengers exist in stark contrast to those I've met who stood for something good and pure, and at the end of the day, were victorious. Score one for the good guys.
Vanity Fair described the situation that we fought against, and nowhere else will you find an industry that was so divided, yet came together in the 11th hour to save their elderly.
Sam Rubin's brave words on the culture of an industry that embraces and monetizes personal anguish were not lost on me, nor was the article on the Japanese people's solidarity and sacrifice. As long as we "out" the vultures that prey on our humanity, we have a chance of saving ourselves.
If Charlie Sheen is to be considered a "folk hero," it will come from healing and an inner strength that enables his rise to the status that he once enjoyed, and deserved. At that time, we can say Charlie has "turned Japanese," as hopefully we all will in spirit, and solidarity.