Mr. Sheen’s Sticks and Stones

Charlie Sheen is fired by the production company that owns his very popular television show because of alleged acts of abuse in several areas. He goes on a rampage declaring he will get even. He arranges a multi-city visit for live lecture performances. The one in Chicago is sold out fourteen minutes after tickets go on sale. The television network that broadcasts his show now wants him back and tells the production company to leave good old Charlie alone and that they will take care of him. Why all of a sudden the about face? Because another major rival television network is negotiating with Charlie to give him a new show with him as the producer.

In the 1930’s and 40’s, in the height of the movie studio era, if a contract player was caught by the press cheating on his or her spouse or living in sin with another person, his contract was immediately terminated. If it was a star who made big bucks for the studio, his or her transgression was kept secret. In today’s world, there ares no secrets. No one cares about infidelity or alternative lifestyles. But, the moment a group threatens to boycott because someone made comments about those that comprise their membership, all the celebrity has to do is apologize and all is forgiven. Because it is business.

Back in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, crime was portrayed in movies and on television a lot different than today. I think the first time I saw a real bloody mess on celluloid was at the end of the 1967 movie “Bonnie and Clyde”. At the time, a fledgling film critic such as Roger Ebert made a name for himself by marveling at how realistic the death scene was. That movie which made a folk hero out of ruthless, murdering bank robbers was the beginning of the anti-hero, realism kick that we are still into today.

That same year “The St. Valentines Day Massacre” movie came out and the famous Chicago’s Clark Street garage scene with all the bullets flying out of the Tommy guns did not produce half as much blood. Until then, there was a gentleman’s agreement among the movie studios to not glorify death and crime. Back in the early 1930’s, you could sympathize with an Edward G. Robinson’s portrayal of Little Ceasar or the equally tough talking Jimmy Cagney, but you knew they deserved to die a miserable death in the end.

Someone got shot and you knew that there were bullet holes but you rarely saw them. Other than in comedic scenes, you didn’t see the victim soaked in his own blood writhing for minutes in pain. Instead, he or she may have cast out a fatal moan and dropped to the floor dead as a door nail. Vaudevillians like The Three Stooges or burlesque jesters such as Milton Berle and Ed Wynn would draw big laughs by taking several shots, drinking a glass of water and have the liquid squirt out of various holes in their body.

In today’s politically correct we have to show that everyone suffers- both the victim and the perpetrator. Maybe the bad guy has a rotten life that is not his or her fault. Even if they commit a heinous act, they can possibly have done one or two good things in life that changes the entire perspective.

Too often life imitates art. In the real world, we try to find something positive about a law breaker or we would discover that seventy percent of the country would be behind bars. When a gang banger is arrested by the police, his mother will invariably cry out to the news cameras that her boy is a good boy, just misunderstood or abused by the cops.

Then there is the Stockholm Syndrome in which people taken hostage by kidnappers, thugs, murderers, and terrorists begin to sympathize with their cause. When released they often talk about the need to understand and show compassion to the hooligans.

There is so little culpability. When it comes to politics and the movie business. If a politician does something wrong or immoral, all we want from him is just a lousy apology. He could have cheated on his wife and given his mistress the dreaded aids disease. If he fesses up, the public will forgive. But, if a congressman is charged with a petty crime by calling another congressman from the other party a scoundrel or a marriage cheater and refuses to say he is sorry, the press and public want him not only impeached but to also lose his pension.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but if you say something I don’t like, I’ll get even.

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