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Charlie Sheen’s suicide-by-interview: Are you watching?

In television on 03/01/2011 at 10:12 am

Buzz kill reporting for duty.

You go ahead and watch Charlie Sheen with his crazy eyes and frantic smoking and, okay, irresistibly reTweetable declarations. Me? It’s possible that I’ll have caved in and watched the 20/20 “exclusive” interview Tuesday night on ABC, but that will be the only Charlie Sheen interview I’ll have watched since the star of TV’s Two and a Half Men began his very animated round of radio and now TV interviews in the past few weeks.

I can see not only by Twitter and Facebook but also by the blank look I got from the boyfriend on his return from a road trip Monday night that I am likely the only person not watching this suicide-by-interview campaign, which has made stops – via Sheen himself or his radio-interviewer/apostle Alex Jones – on The View, TMZ.com, Good Morning America, Today Show, CNN and … I might as well just write “everywhere”.

Am I claiming the moral high ground? That the media should not be exploiting a man who is in the grips of addiction and/or mental illness? Pah! I work on the entertainment desk at montrealgazette.com and I have posted every Charlie Sheen story, photo and video I could find. People wanna know. He’s a public figure. He’s holding court. Of course it’s newsworthy. (Update: On the other hand, the The Poynter Institute’s analysis of the matter is headlined: Media acting as enablers…)

So why am I not watching? Because – and I know this is sucky and sounds like an end run on the moral high ground, but is not – because it makes my stomach heave and my heart ache.

Yeah, I’m going there.

Although, touch wood, I have been spared, I was raised by addicts, I have worked alongside them, I have served them liquor (longtime bar maid in a former boho-poet life). For me personally, most of this is in the past (although there was just a funeral for a former colleague that I couldn’t bring myself to attend). But the memories do not fade, of looking in their red, strained faces, listening with panic and outrage to the gibberish, wondering what their desperation will next drive them to…

I’ve told my share of Charlie Sheen jokes, even some good ones. Of course they were crude. Who can resist? And even now, every newscast and website keeps me abreast of the best quotes (“I am on a drug. It’s called Charlie Sheen.”). But Charlie’s broken me.

I am not, however, the only one with a qualm.

Monday night, while most of you were watching Sheen on CNN, CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi wondered on Twitter (@jianghomeshi): “Been thinking on whether I’d want to interview Charlie Sheen today. Normally, yes. But media bookings feel like exploitation of an ill man.” Then, just before the 10 a.m. start of his show, Q Tuesday morning: “Should I interview Charlie Sheen today? – my thoughts in opening essay this morn on #Q.” His verdict, in the show opening, was that he would not.

What do you think? Have you been watching? Find this story on our opinion page, montrealgazette.com/opinion and leave a comment or drop me a private note by email (click on my name).

Denise Duguay also blogs about TV at montrealgazette.com/tv

@tweetinthebox

Media acting as enablers

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