Sunday, April 3, 2011

21st Century Circus Freak

Today as I was drinking my morning coffee (for the recipe please click on the link to the left...and you're welcome :-)  and reading the Sunday paper (on-line) I came across the story of Charlie Sheen's disastrous debut at the Fox Theater in Detroit last night.  For those who are not familiar, actor and prolific domestic disaster Charlie Sheen has launched a national tour of his one-man live stage show called "My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat Is Not an Option".  Apparently this live All Things Charlie Sheen extravaganza kicked off with an audience of roughly 4,500 people booing the warm-up comedian, then intermittently booing Sheen and then booing some sort of short film directed by Charlie Sheen staring Johnny Depp.  And when it was all over Sheen heckled the audience back, taunting that he already had their money so they could go and "suck it".



















So here's my problem with this whole Charlie Sheen Torpedo of Truth Tour...am I the only ones that sees the parallels between this traveling circus Sheen has mounted and the traveling freak shows of the late 19th and early 20th century?  I feel like Sheen and/or his handlers have basically turned him into the Elephant Man, a modern-day traveling circus freak.

Okay, you may be asking, how does a man with tiger blood and Adonis DNA parallel a man with neurofibromatosis type I and Proteus Syndrome who lived over a century apart?  Well because in the end they both are individuals who have serious illnesses that somehow the public thought it was fun to laugh and gawk at.


We teach our children not to laugh or point or stare or in any other way be insensitive to those who we recognize as having "disabilities".  I use the word "disability" in quotations because there are obviously varying theories as to what truly constitutes a "disability" versus a "different ability", but the bottom line is that while we as a society arguably seem to agree that is it wrong to get a laugh at the expense of a person who has a quality that is outside of their control, such as someone with mental retardation or a missing limb or a facially deformity, we don't seem to think that it is taboo to find our entertainment by pointing and laughing at those suffering from mental illness.

As a society we seem to do fairly well at not poking fun at other people's misfortunes, so given that fact I find it really baffling that we seem to think its okay to poke fun at someone who is obviously suffering with some sort of psychosis.  And why are we okay with it...because he has money and is good looking? 

I promise I am not trying to get up on a soap box here...I have no moral authority over anyone else.  I just can't help but feel as though our love of Charlie Sheen and his full speed ahead train wreck is showing our society to be no better than the society of a century ago.  If we are going to agree to not get a cheap laugh at the expense of another person's misfortune, let's at least try to be consistent about it.




1 comment:

Marianne said...

I've been thinking the same thing. It makes me deeply uncomfortable and wonder whether we've made as much progress as I thought we had in terms of understanding mental illness...