Charlie Sheen: Half a man - a response to Sheen's rants: How about compassion?

Given the irrational hostility that has suffused Charlie Sheen’s recent statements, it’s tempting to either nurture a dislike for the man, to ridicule him, or to dismiss him altogether — to wish he’d just go away. I’d like to suggest something else: sympathy.

Is there much doubt that Sheen is a diminished man, someone who’s losing control of what media spinners call “his narrative” — i.e., command over the arc of his career and image? His angry response to the idea that he may be in the grip of addiction(s) has been to say, “Bull—. I cured it… with my mind.” His rejection of Alcoholics Anonymous as “a bootleg cult with a five percent success rate”? Well, I think one of the precepts of AA, and a rather un-cult-like one at that, is that a person can’t be helped unless he’s reached the point of wanting to be helped.

Sheen knows one of the major reasons for the success of Two and a Half Men is that people like him. It therefore makes sense, even in Sheen’s overheated manner of expression, for him to express gratitude for what he calls “my beautiful and loyal fans,” and to want to continue with production on the series — of literally showing up for work even after Men had been shut down. Even in the midst of a media meltdown, he’s trying to present himself as an honorable guy, which suggests a conscience, however beclouded, at work within him.

No matter how much violence he threatens to unleash from his “fire-breathing fists,” that hostility has never extended to his audience (yet). His rhetoric is loaded with defensive anger — “And if you’re part of my family, I will love you violently. If you infiltrate and try to hurt my family, I will murder you violently” — yet when you untangle it, his phrasing is rooted in fear and confusion.

Sheen’s father, Martin, has had a long past with the Catholic Church and in particular a friendship with Dorothy Day, a self-proclaimed religious anarchist in the service of peace. We cannot know the pain that Charlie Sheen’s father and the rest of his family are going through right now with Charlie, who has chosen an anarchy of another sort: a radical alienation from the culture immediately around him.

My sense is that Charlie Sheen isn’t fully himself right now; to say he’s in denial is putting it in a way he’d object to, well, violently. But rather than reduce him to this week’s joke or demon, a decent alternative might be to try looking at him as someone who requires some compassion.

Agree? Disagree?

Twitter: @kentucker

Read more:

Charlie Sheen says he’ll show up for work as CBS plans life without ‘Men’
Sorry Charlie: Sheen won’t get paid for dumped ‘Two and a Half Men’ episodes
Charlie Sheen slams ‘Two and a Half Men’ creator in multiple rants
Dr. Drew warns of Charlie Sheen relapse, slams at-home rehab: ‘We have not heard the last of this’
Chuck Lorre: ‘If Charlie Sheen outlives me…’
Charlie Sheen talks about hitting up another ‘Major League’
Charlie Sheen going back to work
Charlie Sheen on ‘The Dan Patrick Show’: ‘I’ve never been high on the set’
Charlie Sheen offers to pay ‘Men’ crew
Charlie Sheen and Brooke Mueller Sheen granted divorce
Charlie Sheen: The amount you owe to the crew is…

Comments (322 total) Add your comment
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  • kelly

    Yes. He is in the throes of an addiction, wildly out of his control. I’m not condoning his actions; rather, we should see this as a sick, sick man. And we should feel deeply for his four small children.

    • Allie

      Personally…..I think the addiction part and the acting out part are somewhat unrelated. If you take it out of the context of Hollywood, I see two wildly unprofessional people trying to publicly embarrass one another. The creator of the show can be likened to a boss who has behaved very inappropriately with his “vanity card” and his employee shot back equally inappropriately. Then when you put it back in the context of Hollywood and you realize that all of these people are enormous egomaniacs…..and it just doesn’t seem that far out of the realm of possibility.

      • Shiny

        I don’t care about Sheen. I think now we know what abuses the cast and crew had to put up with for 8 years from a self centered jerk.

        It’s like saying we should have compassion for abusive drunken men who beat up their wife and kids. Clearly if you have a lot of money and power you can do whatever you like, but every once in a while the public gets of glimpse of how truly rotten these guys can be.

        I don’t have sympathy for Mel Gibson or Charlie or any other abusive addict. I’ll save my sympathy for the people they’ve been abusing on the down low for decades.

      • mjkbk

        I agree with Allie. BOTH Sheen and Chuck Lorre behaved inappropriately. We know what Sheen’s problems are (much as we wish we didn’t)……but what the heck possessed Lorre to do those vanity card stunts? Sounds like oversized egoes all around. In other words, business as usual in Hollywood.

      • Gwen

        @Shiny-Even Lorre admits that Sheen was nothing less than professional on the set. Even when his personal life is a complete shambles he shows up and works his butt off. He is NOT RDJ in the Ally McBeal years. He is a new kind of functional addict. Which will make it harder for him to get help. Plus there is an endless supply of porn stars for him to party with so it might take years before he is too creepy even for them.

      • LSK

        Please. That vanity card was funny and creative. Sheen’s rants against Chuck Lorre sound crazy. I’d be pissed too if hard partying Charlie Sheen outlived me as would a lot of other people.

      • chris

        I think you are totally wrong, the producers of Two and a Half pulled the plug because of Charlie and no one else. Why should everyone else have to put in 2-3 extra hours because 1 person is coming in to work drunk or high.

    • grant

      tucker, your “sense he isn’t fully himself right now”… nice job, freud. they pay you to be this smart? of course he’s not himself. he’s a father of 4 who’s binging & whoring himself in public and then attacking the people that pay him $20m+/yr. yes, he’s ill. does he deserve the collective sympathy of the nation? jeez. sure, it’s awful. but people have their own problems. this is none of our business. but of course, you get paid to make it our business.

    • Christopher

      I have sympathy for Sheen, to be sure. But I also have sympathy for the other actors on that show who won’t get a chance to continue that story. I also have sympathy for its crew, who will need to go looking for other work to keep themselves solid. And I sympathize with Lorre; this must suck, to be wildly successful and have it fall apart. Mostly, I have sympathy for the viewers who love the show. They deserve a united cast to end out the series. Instead, we can look forward to Sheen offering to do a reunion years later when interest is mostly faded (much in the way he’s expressing interest in the next Major League film). I’ll have more sympathy for Charlie Sheen when he’s off his high-high-horse and talking sense again.

    • Dan

      I feel bad for his children, but not for him.

      • cheryl

        Agree…Tucker is totally off his rocker. One of the worst contributors to EW and somehow manages to keep his job. Now he is asking for sympathy for loser Sheen? What about all of the people he has put out of work because of his arrogance. Those are the people I have sympathy for.

      • Justagirl

        Charlie Sheen is a grown man and needs to take responsibility for his actions and words. No I do not feel sorry for an overindulged actor with a fondness for booze, coke and prostitutes. I feel for his kids who will realize one day that their father is a complete and total loser.

      • Marie

        This article serves as an example about what is wrong with Hollywood (coddles/enables their celebs). Any sympathy Charlie receives should be in the form of tough love and rehab. Addicts do not need traditional sympathy because this only enables them and gives them something to manipulate. Ken, you do not understand an addict’s mindset.

      • Josh

        You know Cheryl, you are completely out of line. He’s adding something to the story that could be constructive. Maybe, just maybe, Ken’s more concerned with the life of a troubled man. People are so willing to build these stars up, only to cheer for the downfall later on. Charlie Sheen is a talented actor with real problems. And once he calms down, he will need compassionate people to help keep him alive. Nowhere in the article does Mr. Tucker ASK for compassion. He just asks if compassion is a possible alternative to the jeering and badmouthing.

      • Alec Yohann

        cheryl, are you nuts? complaining that he’s putting people out of work? they wouldn’t have that job if it wasn’t for him in the first place! besides, the show’s outstayed its welcome, it’s been on for 8 years! charlie sheen didn’t ask for our sympathy or opinions about his private life. why don’t we let him live his life and let the people who know him worry about that? this whole TMZ celeb-shaming culture is so stupid, you housewives have nothing better to do than read tabloid gossip and mock people. mind your own business and get a life.

      • chillydogs

        Compassion for Sheen? No. But there’s nothing wrong with feeling badly for all the other people affected by his horrible behavior. Wife beater, crackhead, loudmouth drunk does not rate sympathy for his arrogant actions. But the worst part, by far, is the media exploiting his deranged state of mind by airing his crazy rants on every channel. They are taking advantage of a sickening situation just to get ratings. It’s stomach turning to watch a person implode before your eyes.

      • not a fan

        i feel for his children. I feel for victims of Katrina, tsunamis, poverty. i do not feel for a self-indulgent, spoiled, overpaid narcissist. i feel nothing but contempt for “news” orginazations that are exploiting this situation for ratings. they should feel ashamed and embarrassed.

    • nathan

      How would you know?

    • Carla

      A good point. I avoid all this media around Charlie, because I can’t bear to watch his suffering, and though he denies it, he IS suffering. Also, as the adult child, and the wife of an alcoholic, it pains me to think of what his family must be going through, particularly his poor father.

  • Jennifer G.

    I couldn’t agree more. Mr. Sheen is lost and has rejected all authority in his life and needs an encounter with the Holy Spirit. He needs our compassion and prayers.

    • Womi

      Charlie Sheen has no right to our sympathy. He has been given all the advantages in life, offered all the help he needs, and yet he rejects it and persists in living a life of hedonism and decadence.

      People compare him to Lindsay Lohan, but really that is an unfair comparison. Lindsay’s troubles stems from her exposure to bad influences at a young age. Charlie is a middle-aged man who should know better by now.

      • Jerry

        I agree with Womi! Well said!

      • Angela

        Would you use the age factor if he was a personal friend or a family member? Addiction is bad at any age, and also, as far as I know, Sheen’s problems also started when he was young, though perhaps not as young as Lindsay Lohan.

    • ew-bot


  • Ned

    Charlie Sheen plus Lenny Dykstra plus Alex Jones suggests some sort of mental illness is at work here.

  • Monty

    The guy needs help. Its too bad he doesn’t want to be helped.

    • Liz

      The thing with addiction is, you must hit your personal “bottom” in order to want to be helped. That’s different for everyone. I have alcoholic’s in my family, many-and some have “hit bottom” and some haven’t. For Mr. Sheen, prayers for his family and him are the only thing anyone can offer at this time. Personally, I wish him only the best, I hate addiction and want everyone to overcome it.

      • Fleta

        I thought fndiing this would be so arduous but it’s a breeze!

  • Don Alex

    Oh please, enough with the holy spirit and prayer garbage. He’s an overrated, overpaid punk. Save your sympathy for people who deserve it, sister.

    • Charlie’s Angel

      Punks are the ones that need prayer the most.

      • DTO

        If Charlie were on this comment section right now, he’d tell you to go Bosley yourself. (Yes, I know that wasn’t very good.)

      • BLM

        No, prayer should be saved for the poor, the famished, the cancer-stricken, the homeless, the refugees, the victims. An over-paid spoiled brat like Charlie doesn’t need prayer, especially since he doesn’t even want it.

      • Allison

        I’m going to hold my sympathies for those who don’t make millions of dollars a show, and give my sympathies to all of those out of work, and all of those going through real turmail in their lives not brought on by their own greed.

      • Charlie

        from TMZ:

        FYI — Chuck’s birth name is Charles Levine … and his Hebrew name is Chaim.

        Charlie added, “So you’re telling me, anytime someone calls me Carlos Estevez, I can claim they are anti-Latino?”

        Nice one and couldn’t agree more. People are so very prickly when it comes to race, gays, whatever. We white folk/non jews don’t get to say anything without it thrown in our face like we are the antichrist. Freedom of speech and it wasn’t that long ago that the norm thinking was yes, being gay is wrong and jews are greedy, etc…. Instead of being so very concerned about antisematics why didn’t they fire me when I was abusing women/wife, drugs and prostitutes?

    • Dan

      Completely agree with you. This guy has been given so many chances and opportunities throughout his career that equally skilled actors can only dream of. Time and time again he has proven himself to be a selfish out-of-control abuser. Just check out his long background of GF-wife issues, hooker-porn stars, alcoholism, drugs etc etc.
      Enough with the chances. Give one to another actor and bring him on the 2.5Men set. I bet he will be grateful. As for Charlie? Let him go spend his fortune however he wishes and disappear from the media limelight. I know I am officially sick of hearing about him.

      • Jerry

        Then why doesn’t Sheen call himself Charlie Estevez? His remarks were bigoted, and we all know it, whether we want to acknowledge it or not. Calling Mel Gibson!

  • Jacob

    Thoughtful response. I’m always willing to give addicts the benefit of the doubt, because addiction seems to beget irrational behavior, but it’s hard to sometimes believe that. Public perception is metered out in sound bites and headlines, and rarely do we see the whole story. I’d love for Charlie to get better, and I’d love to believe he is better, but I don’t think we can justify public name-calling simply because he’s having a hard time. If he wants his private life to be left alone, then well gosh darnit, keep it private! Don’t air your dirty laundry. If you have a beef with Lorre’s vanity card, tell it to his face, not TMZ.
    I agree, compassion is the best way to treat those in trouble, but I think for most, that’s going to take some time.

    • Allie

      Well… be fair, the vanity card was extremely public and extremely unnecessary.

      • but

        The Vanity Card was funny, and not in the least bit insulting.

      • K

        No kidding. Charlie is just mad because they made him take time off to get help. If he was being normal he would’ve laughed it off.

      • avidfan

        The thing is that Charlie seems to think his lifestyle isn’t affecting him and that he can handle it all socially if he still shows up for work. So his response to the vanity card is not in keeping with his attitude; if he really felt that way, he’d just say “Yeah, Chuck, I AM going to outlive you” rather than go on a rant about the card, which obviously was meant to be [painfully] funny. Because the truth is that Charlie did seem to be showing up for work every day regardless, so it’s normal for people who consider themselves healthy to wonder why some people can get away with this lifestyle when the rest of us can’t.

    • Womi

      Sorry, but addiction isn’t an excuse for bad behaviour. Charlie Sheen CHOSE to become addicted. He was given ample help to clean himself up, but made a deliberate decision to continue living a life of decadence, arrogantly believing himself to be superhuman.
      The real addicts who deserve our sympathy are those who sincerely want to quit, but can’t. Charlie is clearly not one of them.

      • Nicole

        Addiction may not be an excuse for bad behavior, but I can tell you addicts do NOT choose to be addicts. As a child who grew up in a home with two drug/alcohol addicted parents, I believe that this man truly is sick. It took many years, consequences, pain for everybody involved (including her three children), and attempts at sobriety before it finally stuck for my mother. While in the depths of her addiction, the sweet and compassionate nature that she posessed was completely masked by her disease. All anybody ever saw was the cruelty that addiction brings out in people, and the sadness it caused in all of her family who thought they were watching her die. No matter what Charlie’s addiction has twisted his current persona into, he is not a throw-away. Every person deserves redemption and a little bit of human compassion, and his family deserves our heartfelt prayers and sympathy.

  • Em

    Disagree. Just because he hasn’t yet spouted venom at his fans (publicly, anyway) doesn’t make it ok for him to throw these ridiculous public hissy fits. I would argue that his opinion of his fans is clearly rather low, given that he thinks they are so brainless as to accept this type of vitriol from him without batting an eye. Bye bye, Charlie. Good luck making those movies with superstars. I, for one, an skeptical they’ll have you.

    • Chet

      So far they have accepted it however. This has been going on quite a while and the ratings have not suffered even a little. They may not approve of what’s going on in his private life but it hasn’t made them less likely to watch the show.

      • Johnification

        I’d say CBS’s response is the beginnings of them not accepting it. Think about it: Les Moonves has decided the situation is now serious enough to bench his #1 comedy, his #1 business asset. It has officially passed the point of being just about money. Truth is, Chuck Lorre has three hit shows on that network, one of which stars Charlie Sheen. (The super-close number 2 being headlined by a widely acknowledged prince of a man to work with, Jim Parsons.) Much like any business, people want to work with, well, who they want to work with, even if they’re getting results.

  • Hill

    Well said Ken. In no way is the situation is amusing–there’s just complete sadness about what’s happening with Charlie Sheen

    • Dan

      No, what’s sad is that there are countless people whose lives are out of control due to their addictions or other problems, and who are NOT living in mansions and making a million dollars a week, but are homeless and don’t have access to good help. That’s what’s sad. Charlie Sheen is just pathetic.

      • lesliemd

        What’s really sad is this talk about him needing compassion for his addiction, but no one says one single word about his abuse of women – wives girlfriends and hookers, he beats them all. And everyone from family, law enforcement and employers do nothing or say nothing about this horrendous habit..

        Why aren’t ypu calling for compassion about Sheen’s abuse of women? He exhibits no remorse at all for this behavior and slides off with hardly any mention of it. What a bunch of hypocrites.

  • me

    He has had an obvious psychotic break and should be committed on a 72 hour psychiatric hold as a 5150. His father should then proceed to have a trustee established for him.

    • LSK

      I’ve had half a dozen psychotic breaks, unfortunately. I don’t think Charlie Sheen has had one. I think he is immature and arrogant and thinks he is above everyone in every way. He needs a good psychologist and a good hard look in the mirror at himself when/if he is ready.

  • Chena

    I think people were sympathetic after his first meltdown. Now? Not so much. He’s incredibly self-absorbed and his antics have screwed a lot of people. If anyone gets sympathy, it’s the cast and crew of Two and a Half Men. And Martin Sheen who now has to clean up his son’s messes. Again.

    • Em


    • BLT

      & his children, I feel sorry for them, too.

    • will

      there in lies the problem, to much “cleaning up his messes”. he should have been held accountable years ago. PR,coddling,enabling leads addicts to continue. rock bottom, no job is the only way he will seeks help. i have 34 yrs sober,

  • Bibi

    The guy deserves no sympathy. He’s been given more chances than any other person would be given. I hope this news goes away soon. Very distasteful.

  • Peggy M

    I have compassion for the people who consider the show worth watching.

    • PrincessBride


    • DTO

      Yes, may God cure them of their obvious mental disorder. Two and a Half Men is awful.

    • but

      I don’t like the show. I don’t like Glee. I don’t like American Idol. However, I understand and respect that other people do. That’s compassion.

  • Sally

    Ken, while I understand you point, how many times can we extend compassion? when he was a “Gigantic Ass?” When he was going through a messy divorce? When he beat his wife?

    At some point the well of compassion dries up and the contempt moves in. He’s had sober moments over the past two, three, eight years to see what his behavior does to people.

    I have no compassion for someone who is he]] bent on flipping everyone off.

    • amble

      Absolutely agree with you Sally.

    • avidfan

      Absolutely. Extending compassion indefinitely seems like a form of enabling to me. We’ll see how he conducts himself over the next weeks/months and if that conscience lurking within him shows itself in greater form.

    • Ebony

      You got to push it-this esnsetial info that is!

  • Will

    Charlie is in sorry shape, despite what he thinks. Sad to see Charlie going off the deep end. He hasn’t hit bottom yet, and that’s the only way he’ll change.

  • keith

    Everyone deserves Sympathy !

    • AD

      Really, everyone? Child molesters, murderers, thieves who pray on the elderly and unfortunate, rapists, really? Try not to make all-inclusive statements. It diminishes your credibility.

      • VT

        Yes, AD, even those people. Is it really such a radical concept in this hysterically religious country that all human beings deserve some measure of compassion?

        What exactly are the positive effects of high-horse sanctimony and sadistic vindictiveness? Imagining that murderers are sub-human doesn’t elevate you.

        I bet AD calls him/herself a Christian, too.

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