I’ve been watching Charlie Sheen’s implosion with a mixture of bewilderment, amusement and horror, wondering how anyone could consider him a viable parent, and also wondering why anyone would choose to self-immolate in front of the entire world.
I felt the same three emotions when I looked at this Global Times op-ed on how Sheen is “not filial.” Here’s what jumped out:
Ignoring public pleas from his father, Sheen has continued a weeklong media blitz, exhibiting obvious signs of mania. With no firm hand to guide them, Western media has deliberately goaded him into making increasingly delusional statements, more concerned about “winning” higher ratings than Sheen’s own sense of pride, or the negative example his brash public admissions about his private sex life and unverifiable international conspiracies could be setting for society.
Oh dear. You see, the US media needs a “firm hand to guide them.” What does this mean? What “firm hand” is he referring to? I can only assume he’s saying the West needs some good old-fashioned Chinese-style censorship. They apply a firm hand, alright.
After cataloging Sheen’s sins and vicissitudes, the editorial concludes:
In Chinese society, these problems are dealt with delicately and privately. Sheen is like a typical Westerner throwing fuel on the fire with each interview and tweet. It is almost as if he feels no shame and is loving the attention.
Oy vey. As if this is typical of how “Westerners” behave. The news programs this week are all Charlie all the time precisely because his behavior is an aberration. In China there is obsession with celebrities as well, though the media there, guided by a firm hand, would never dream of giving them a platform as the US media has done for bad-boy Sheen. In response, I would say this writer is behaving “in a typical Chinese-newspaper way,” wagging his finger at the US and pointing to one idiot as proof that Westerners typically “throw fuel on the fire” with no shame or contrition.
It’s hilarious, and absurd.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.