Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Charlie Sheen Becomes Charlie Parker

 Partying like a rock star has been shown to age a person beyond their years. 

It's probably a chicken/egg argument, but am I the only who makes the connection between Charlie Sheen's hedonistic lifestyle and the fact that he played a hedonistic bachelor in Two and a Half Men (aka "the worst comedy series ever to last so long")?

I'm taking the view that he couldn't play such an incorrigible role without it bleeding into his real life. What a miserable guy. I actually feel bad for what an unhappy man he appears to be. I think he thinks he covers it up with his aggressive interview tactics, but it's fairly transparent, isn't it?

Ok, and what about David Duchovny in that HBO show (which I never saw, but heard about) Californication? So he plays a guy with a sexual addiction (amongst other addictions). Several years later, his marriage is falling apart because . . . why? He's got a sexual addiction.

Apparently even birth-control glasses couldn't prevent continued infidelity.

Y'ello? Is there a trend here? Could it be impossible to portray a character with such troubling demons for a long period of time without those attributes seeping into that actor's reality? It doesn't seem out of the question to me, but perhaps I'm superstitious or something.

I often wonder how actors act in films that reek of evil without feeling like they're treading into hell. I guess it comes down to what you call evil. I think the current trend in our culture is that there is no evil. It's just a bunch of people being human. And, you know, that's not evil, man. That's just people, having a human experience, man, which is good, you know?

But, in my opinion, that's just a candy-coated lie. Evil is obviously selfishness. What's more evil than putting your own needs over the needs of others? Even the tribes of American Indians believed in evil, and selfishness was what evil was generally thought to be. This is true, at least, of the Navajo. If someone in your tribe or clan was becoming wealthier than everyone else, that person was obviously practicing witch-craft. They manipulate the wheel of fortune to bring fortune to themselves at the expense of the rest of the tribe.

There are two kinds of evil: selfishness (no illustration necessary); and primordial evil, like Cthulhu. There's no way back from Cthulhu, once you're caught: madness. Selfishness allows for repentance. Here that, Charlie?

Not a bad definition of evil. But, I'm not trying to espouse communism or socialism, because I don't believe that's the answer to the problems of the world (at least, not government forced charity). I'm just making the case that it's not totally old-fashioned to believe in evil. There are lots of forms of it. I'm sure many people would agree that exploiting or hurting children is evil.

So then, why can't I say that Hollywood makes evil movies and wonder how the actors reconcile themselves to participating in such graphic and uncomfortable portrayals of evil? Because I really do wonder. They must have absolutely no conscience. Which is sad, because that's the only way to navigate the often troubling waters of our lives, you know, with Jiminy Cricket right there, guiding us.

I'm personally not comfortable with portrayals of extreme evil on television or film. Shows like Criminal Minds really disturb me. And I'd have to say, in fact, that it's refreshing to me to find out that others are likewise uncomfortable with certain subject matters. For example, Mandy Patinkin, who played one of the profilers on Criminal Minds, left the show after two seasons because he loathed violence on television and was uncomfortable with certain scenes in the show (source).

Mandy sought a six-fingered man as Inigo. As Jason Gideon, he sought criminals who might eat human fingers for breakfast. Which do YOU want to see? The Spaniard on a quest of vengeance? Same with Mandy.

So some people do have consciences! It's really a revelation to me that there are people in show business who have morals. So, thanks Mandy. I honestly wish Hollywood was better at producing fiction that could give me hope, rather than just making me laugh or feel utterly depressed. I must be in the minority, however, otherwise I'm sure the ratings would have shown as much.

At some point, I fully expect to bow out of consuming television and film. I'm almost there. Charlie Sheen's tantrums and embarrassing displays don't help me feel encouraged about what's happening in the entertainment industry. In fact, I'd sort of be happy if the whole system imploded. But I'm sure the executives would only blame piracy, rather than taking a microscope to the trash they're producing and try to fix it.


Jodi said...

I'm afraid to say I love Criminal Minds. I love crime procedurals, as long as the characters are compelling as well. Part of me wishes that I was a profiler because I'm so fascinated with the brain and the differences in behavior and personal morals.

That being said, sometimes I think I watch to many daily Criminal Minds reruns. It's makes me a bit paranoid. I saw an interview with Paget Brewster who says she now has bullet proof windows on her house from doing the show so long.

jfun said...

Hey Nicole.

Good post, though I have to argue at least one point.

Actors who play evil characters are not themselves evil. A writer who writes about evil actions is not himself evil nor is Johnny Cash who sings stories about murder, himself evil. Acting is storytelling and yes, there are stories out there with evil in them. I would argue that every story that has ever existed contains a certain level of conflict and yes, evil. Dramatic conflict is 100% necessary in any form of storytelling whether you are a writer, an actor, a director, etc. Yet storytellers, in whatever form they take, are not all evil.

Hollywood also makes great "feel-good" movies and many actors who have what you might call a selfish or "evil" lifestyle, often play very heroic and loving characters. Judge their conscience based on those roles if you must!

Most of the actors who play evil characters do indeed have consciences just like you and me. One could argue that Sir Anthony Hopkins and James Earl Jones have played some of the most evil characters in film, yet I don't think it is correct to say that they don't have a conscience. I think it's actually cruel to make those kinds of assumptions about people.

Perhaps this will make you reconsider your definition of evil, especially when judging an entire group of people you've never met. Perhaps it won't.

I also wanted to add to your definition of evil. Selfishness is itself sometimes hard to define. It is not always selfish to put your needs ahead of others. For example, my friend's mom says she wants her to be a missionary in the Jehovah's Witness church. But my friend doesn't believe in that religion. Is she "evil" because she is not putting her mom's needs ahead of her own? No.

Evil is more than selfishness. It is hatred. It is the opposite of love. And I'm sure there are many other ways of looking at it.

I just wanted to share my thoughts. Hope you and your baby are happy and healthy! I love you.

Nicole Grotepas said...

Jodi, you SHOULD be a profiler. :) What I said about Criminal Minds doesn't apply to everyone, of course. Some people can stomach that stuff and live a normal life. And honestly, I liked the psychology of the show also. It was just difficult for me to deal with the depictions of the horrible that some of the episodes contained. Eventually, for me, it begins to feel like all that surrounds you is a cesspool of people committing heinous acts, when the reality is that stuff like that happens very rarely (I would hope). This is just me, again. There's obviously a large audience that enjoys the show. I liked the mystery and all the crazy ways the detectives figured out what was happening, but not enough to endure the other stuff.

That's an interesting fact about Page Brewster. It's crazy to think that the show DOES take a toll on the actors.

I have several friends who love that show. One of them even writes fan fiction for it. She kills me, and I totally respect her.

It was just an example of a show that was difficult for me to watch because of its sinister side. I could have used other examples but because of the Mandy Patinkin bit, it was a perfect fit for my post.

Anonymous said...

Nicole, thanks. You have raised many interesting points, so many indeed that it is tough to choose which ones to address. I'll begin with the idea of the human conscience.

Every human is furnished by God with a conscience. The trouble is that every human is also fallen and full of sinful inclinations. The popular and humanistic view of the conscience is that it is usually a reliable guide for how to do the right thing. This view is absolutely opposed to the Christian view. The Bible does not teach that the human conscience is infallible. On the contrary, the conscience must be awoken by God and attached to Him in order to provide humans with a truly moral framework. The Jiminy Cricket slogan of letting your conscience be your guide may make for a great song, but it's bad theology. Do pagans have consciences? Yes. Does that make them moral exemplars? Not in the least. Only God can actually inform an individual how he ought to live, and God speaks to every individual through the conscience. Whether we have aligned our conscience with God's word is a separate question.

Anonymous said...

This leads to the next topic, namely Charlie Sheen. There are two points about him that ought to be obvious, but in the politically correct universe we inhabit, honest men are constantly required to repeat obvious facts. 1) Charlie Sheen's life is in a shambles. 2) And yet it is very refreshing to see someone who has the courage of his own convictions. Unlike the embarrassing displays of self-abasement and dishonest public apologies which ordinarily follow the exposure of some celebrity scandal, Sheen has had the courage to defy the self-righteous idiots who make up our thought police, otherwise known as journalists. It is worth noting that Sheen's behavior and public statements demonstrate very clearly how dangerous and absurd it would be to say that following your conscience will lead to good moral results. After all Sheen claims to be simply living his life according to his own light, and that doing so makes him happy. This is what is called an honest pagan who, unlike Tiger Woods, does not feel any pressure to pretend to conform publicly to standards of morality he abominates privately. Such integrity must be saluted, even if it is the integrity of sin.

In spite of the teachings of political correctness and moral relativism, the word of God still stands, and there is zero ambiguity in the Bible about God's view of sexual immorality. This means that attempting to justify a sex scene in a film, TV show, or stage play by arguing that you are "only acting" is totally absurd. According to this logic, a man caught by his wife in the act of adultery ought to be able to allay her fears by telling her that "We are only play acting. We're rehearsing a scene for a play we were going to put on at her house next week." Not a bit of it. What's strange is that people seem to think that the more public a depiction of sex is, the less questionable it becomes morally, as if bringing something filthy into the light made it more and more clean. This is ludicrous! The truth is that no man (or woman) in his right mind would ever permit a spouse to "pretend to be in love" with another person in a movie.

Anonymous said...

Contrary to the assumptions of many confused people in our morally chaotic world, sexual sin is very real, and very evil. Your point about Sheen and Duchovny is sound, but you ought to go much further in your analysis. To put it bluntly, who in his right mind would ever allow his wife to be an actress and to "perform" love scenes with other men? This is not a subtle moral issue, it is very fundamental. We read in the book of Ephesians, chapter 5, verses 3-4:

"But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving."

We see here that God condemns even joking around about sexual immorality. This would obviously include "play acting" at the motions of love and romance, which are absolutely reserved for marriage. The popular defense of depicting immoral behavior in the context of acting is that the actors are simply doing their jobs, simply getting in an honest day's work. But depicting sex on screen, even if it is between two characters who are regarded within the story as married, is a direct violation of God's command that his people be holy. And as for what is actually depicted in Hollywood and on TV about human sexuality, it is absolutely deviant, glorifying promiscuity and homosexuality.

Anonymous said...

I'll cut to the chase with a few examples. Diane Lane's decision to accept payment for her filthy portrayal of an adulteress in the movie "Unfaithful" is not just good clean fun, nor is it honest work. Instead it is an instance of pornography. Please don't tell me that the depictions of her behavior are redeemed in the end because of what happens to her and her lover. The only question is this: were the love scenes edifying for viewers, or were the viewers being corrupted?

Someone else commented that storytelling is impossible unless it allows for the representation of some evil. I absolutely agree. But what I deny is that there is EVER an appropriate time to present viewers with sexual images. My reason is very simple. No matter how firmly such behavior is condemned within the story of the movie, nothing can ever remove the images from the minds of the viewers. This is very different from printed literature, a medium in which it is possible to convey the characters' sexuality with subtlety without leading the reader into dangerous places. It is also possible to indicate sex in a subtle way in movies, and there are some older Hollywood directors who were great at it. Not anymore. The line between mainstream movies and porn is pretty much evaporated.

Nicole Grotepas said...


Thanks for the comment.

I agree that dramatic conflict requires opposing forces, and that often those forces are good vs. evil. How they're handled though, is up for debate, because, as you know, it ends up a matter of opinion. And I'm of the opinion that in a story, movie, song, etc., better results are not accomplished by graphic portrayals of destruction.

I don't think I ever said in my post that actors are evil. I question how they deal with their conscience, and I was raising another question about whether or not they, in acting out destructive and (in my opinion) evil behaviors, are not touched by them in their actual lives. My contention is that a person can't continually play that role without being sullied by it and feeling some carryover into their reality.

Acting is different from storytelling. I would argue you on that point. Acting requires submersion into a created reality that songwriting and writing never do--an actor becomes the role. A songwriter describes a role or story. A writer also only describes a story. BUT, I would also argue that no writer goes deep into evil and destructive subjects without being touched by the subject matter. You can argue me on that, but as a writer myself, I have experienced as much.

However, I admit that what a person feels during that process is dependent on their level of sensitivity. I can hardly expect, say, an adult who has grown accustomed to a certain lifestyle to be affected by the same things as a child who has never been exposed to graphic violence or sex onscreen. The innocent child will be more harmed than the desensitized adult. That's the nature of the brain and spirit.

To assume that I thought actors who played evil characters were the incarnations of evil is silly (though, I would argue that because we're all selfish to varying degrees, we're all evil to varying degrees…BUT we are also good to varying degrees). For one, we apparently disagree on what evil is. I don't subscribe to the view that evil is pure hatred. This conjures a horned, red devil wreaking havoc and mischief, while evil, in my opinion, is something more sinister than mere hatred.

Selfishness is not really that hard to define. The word describes itself. Pure focus on the self.

Hatred comes from selfishness. What I mean is, hatred doesn't just exist in a vacuum. It comes from somewhere else. And I argue that it springs from extreme selfishness. Hatred is an emotion that's threatened by selflessness. We've all heard, I'm sure, the notion that we love the people we serve. That's because hatred is a result of selfishness. You can't hate your enemy when he's standing there across the battle-lines, talking to you about his sick son and how he wishes he could do something to help him. Well, you can, if you're extremely selfish. Entire books have been written about this idea.

So, I would say evil is not the opposite of love. Selfishness is. Love is sacrifice.

But I understand this concept must be hard for many people because it requires accepting the fact that every single day, we are selfish. And we are. And so every single day a person must recognize their utter self-centered nature and attempt to overcome it in some way or make restitution in some way. Which is why, I would argue, people feel happiest when they're serving others, because they're doing something beyond serving the self.

Just my thoughts, for now. I will adjust them in the future according to my experiences and my interpretations of those experiences.

Nicole Grotepas said...

Thanks for the comment, Greg. I enjoyed your dissection and analysis of the arguments. I agree with your take on the responsibility (essentially) of the storyteller being in contract (basically) with his or her audience to not take them into dangerous places. Too many "storyteller's" don't give a hoot about how they treat specific subjects and what damage they do to the minds and spirits of others. Authors used to care more. They saw their role as something of a calling, like a prophet, and they proceeded with care.