I have been watching the reaction to Charlie Sheen’s recent escapade at the Plaza Hotel here in New York City, and I am only surprised by one thing: how come the press treats him differently than someone like Lindsay Lohan, who seems to be constantly vilified in the media?
Of course, this is a rhetorical question, ladies and gentlemen. The reason is obvious: gender plays a decidedly important role in this sort of star-behaving-badly routine. If Lindsay does something like this, we are told she is something lower than a crack whore. If Charlie does the same or a similar thing, he’s a Hollywood bad boy and he’s just being Charlie Sheen.
In my mind this is an injustice to both parties. It is obvious that they both need considerable help. Lindsay is an addict and that is forever. The judge in LA tried to make that clear to her, but we can only wonder if the message sank in. Still, there is no denying that Charlie is also an addict. Though there is a disparity in their ages and genders, in the end the message is clear: a drug addict needs assistance now and for the rest of his or her life.
One of the things that escapes people who seem not to care about plastering Lindsay’s picture on magazine covers and newspaper front pages is this: she is someone’s little girl. There is truth in the fact that no matter what problems her parents may have had—legal or otherwise—this is still their daughter. At 24 she is still rather young, with hopefully a whole life and career ahead of her. It is especially cruel to portray this young woman so negatively, to make her out as such a terrible character: you would think she was as despicable as a serial killer.
Charlie is also someone’s son. His father (Martin Sheen, an actor I’ve always admired) and mother see him as their little boy. But all too often it is the attitude of parents as well as the media that “boys will be boys.” We can see how that has helped other celebrity children of the same gender: Gary Coleman, Corey Haim, and Michael Jackson to name a few. There is nothing so sad and so savagely covered as child celebrity burnout, but someone like Charlie Sheen has been given a pass for the most part. In fact, his whole television show is kind of like a joke based on his real life exploits. He’s made lots of money on this image and this latest incident only capitalizes on that.
The problem here is that Charlie seems to be given a free ride every time he does something wrong. The press almost laughs about his last encounter, writes it off as Charlie being Charlie, and the story ends with everyone laughing. The Lindsay story is quite different. The tabloids are hard on her, and so are the TV magazines and jabbering pundits on talk shows. Everyone is out to exploit Lindsay and stop Lindsay and condemn Lindsay, but I don’t hear anything about saving her.
Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen are victims of many things but most especially of their own poor judgment; however, Mr. Sheen has been given a Get Out of Jail Free card while Ms. Lohan seems destined to spend more time behind bars than drinking in them. Whether or not anyone wants to admit it, everyone from the judge to the reporters to the people watching their TV sets has been too hard on her, mostly because she is a female. This is not only wrong; it is totally unacceptable.
Americans should wake up. We don’t want famous people, either male or female, to become so lost in drugs that they spiral out of control or eventually lose the battle and their lives. What has happened to Lindsay Lohan is deadly serious; what has happened to Charlie Sheen is also and is not at all funny. Are we ready to change our perceptions? Or is the laughter we’re hearing just an inside joke on us all?