Charlie Sheen's arrest on Christmas has all the makings of the next big celebrity scandal. He's the star of a hugely popular TV show and accused of domestic violence at his home in glamorous Aspen, Colo., yet the usual media pile-on over Sheen's arrest hasn't materialized.
The year 2009 saw scandal after scandal: Tiger Woods, David Letterman, Gov. Mark Sanford. But why did their exploits merit such great hue and cry while Charlie Sheen draws yawns? You can't question Sheen's stardom credentials. He's television's highest-paid actor. Maybe there's no Woods-sized media circus because the actor isn't being accused of cheating on his wife.
Of course, she says he pulled a knife on her in the heat of an argument. Apparently that's a lesser sin than infidelity. Or maybe it was the timing of that sin. If you're a celebrity considering committing a heinous crime, Christmas is a good time to do it. The media can't quite muster their usual frenzy when they are sleeping off all that eggnog.
So why is Sheen's considerable controversy no big deal?
Two reasons: One, we've come to expect this from him. The guy has a well-documented laundry list of sleazy misdeeds dating back to the early 1990s. When your name shows up on Heidi Fleiss' client list, you know you've made something of yourself. But Sheen's lengthy rap sheet makes the media firestorms enveloping Woods and Co. all the more peculiar. Shouldn't we save our high dudgeon for chronic miscreants like Sheen instead of less prolific wrongdoers like Letterman or Edwards?
The second reason is that Sheen not only is a dirtbag, but he plays one on TV. The role he is most famous for, in Two and a Half Men, he's basically playing himself: a smarmy rake.
Woods and Edwards got roasted because they projected images of disciplined family men. Sheen doesn't bother with that. And if the blurring of his real and fictional personas hasn't lulled the public into giving him a pass, then the frequency of his bad behavior sure has. We're better than this, America. So lets all make a resolution in the new year — to exercise a more rational morality in our celebrity worship.