Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Is Charlie Sheen Crazy? I Don’t Think So

Unless you’ve been living under a rock this past week, no doubt you’ve heard about Charlie Sheen’s recent interviews with various news stations. So, always wanting to get the full picture, I decided to watch the full interviews myself.

(The interviews I watched: 20/20’s “In His Own Words” [parts one, two, three, four, five, six], MSNBC’s Today Show interview [parts one and two], and the Piers Morgan interview [part one, two, three and four]. The Piers Morgan one is especially good, since it's the only one of these interviews that were both live and unedited.)

And you know what? If Sheen is crazy, insane, or otherwise psychiatrically unfit or unwell, I’m not seeing it.

It’s quite clear to me that he was joking around a lot in all those interviews. The fact that people are taking it as if he’s being serious, that they think he’s having a mental episode, is in my mind beyond bewildering, especially considering that when he’s actually seriousness in those interviews, it doesn’t sound crazy at all.

The man obviously does not believe he has tiger blood and Adonis DNA, or that he’s on a drug called Charlie Sheen, or that he actually has magic in his fingers, and I don’t think he was “banging 7g rocks” either. His new catchphrase “winning” doesn’t seem any different to, say, How I Met Your Mother character Barney Stinson’s obsession with the word “awesome” – in fact, many aspects of his interviews seem to share traits with the character. Do we take Stinson seriously when he’s obviously not? Of course not!

The tone, the way Sheen said those things, was so obviously a jocular manner that the way the media (and psychiatrists) has latched on to it is the only crazy thing about this.

Let’s face it, if his comments were scripted for Two and a Half Men, we wouldn’t bat an eyelid. If someone in a bar said as a pick-up line or says to his girlfriend “I’ve got tiger blood flowing through my veins”, we wouldn’t present the person making them as manic or crazy. If this was part of a stand-up routine, we’d be fine with it.

And If these were any other interviews, we’d take them as witty comments and leave them at that.

But no, Sheen just got rehabilitated for drugs, so it’s got to be some kind of withdrawal symptoms, or maybe they were driving him mad, or something. The way the media is psycho-analysing the man is sickening to watch, and even more sickening is the way the public is lapping it up.

Part of the problem are the medical experts weighing in. 20/20 got leading expert on mental health and head of the Hazelden Foundation, Omar Manejwala, to review the full recorded material without cuts, and he said that Sheen could either be suffering withdrawal or having a manic episode. Unless the crazy parts were cut out of the interviews (and why would they do that?) I can’t see it at all. Sure, I’m not a leading anything, but I honestly can’t see where the guy’s coming from.

I think part of the problem is that the media is asking psychiatrists What’s wrong with Sheen rather than Is there anything wrong with Sheen or What’s the likelyhood of these diagnoses being accurate, or How likely is this a mental episode rather than just something normal, and they therefore are pressured into analysing Sheen with the presumption that something is wrong, rather than analysing if there is, in fact, anything wrong. Additionally, there’s pressure to maintain the consensus (that Sheen is crazy) rather than have the potential to be ridiculed.

Is Charlie Sheen crazy? Does he need psychiatric help? I don’t know for sure. Do I think Charlie Sheen is crazy? Not in the slightest, or at least, no more crazy than the rest of us.

Searching the web, I’ve found I’m not alone in this opinion. Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly:

“I don’t think you sound that crazy at all,” said Morgan. And indeed, Sheen came across as an intelligent, complicated man — jumpy and a yammerer, to be sure, compulsively rephrasing nearly every sentence he uttered, but by no means out of control or incoherent.

As noted above, Piers Morgan himself felt that Sheen wasn’t crazy, and he’s one of the few people who know Sheen; the two go back almost a decade. He points out that about 80% of the stuff he said then was non-serious joking stuff too, and I get the feeling he doesn’t get the media reaction either.

Marissa Foglia, who writes a blog called “Confessions of a Clever Wordsmith”:

I do not see a man who has lost his mind.

What I do see is a man who is well-aware of every word he speaks, every point he makes. His injections of verbal passion and honesty are surely overwhelming for most people, but I get it. Yes, that scares me, but only a pinch.

I see a man who speaks with no filter…something the general public are not used to. Someone who, God forbid, is 1,000% real and honest about what he TRULY believes and stands for. And there’s nothing wrong with that. He should not be judged on his words, no matter how outlandish. He should not be judged on his beliefs, no matter how much you may disagree.

Robert Pattison and "The Cynical Christian" of PoliPundit apparently both think Sheen's awesome crazy, not insane crazy, for what that's worth.

So I don’t think Charlie Sheen is crazy, and there are other people out there who don’t think he’s crazy either. What are your thoughts?