Academic Writing

Monday, March 28, 2011

Charlie Sheen is “Losing” but what does that say about us?

This afternoon, Deadline Hollywood reported that Charlie Sheen’s “planned "Violent Torpedo Of Truth" tour, featuring a 21-venue live show, still has plenty of tickets available and are by no means sold out as previously claimed. The show itself is supposed to be a 70-minute rant by Sheen aided by the audience, multimedia and a few of Sheen's ‘goddesses.’” My initial reaction was one of pride, impressed with the American public for realizing that Sheen is an incredibly ill individual who should be hospitalized rater than celebrated for his recent behavior.  Good for us for recognizing his need for help and we will not pay him any more heed until he gets better.

However, as I thought about it a bit more we probably don’t actually deserve this pat on the back for our good will.  His decline in popularity probably means something else entirely.  First, I think that that the initial shock of his actions have worn off and since he hasn’t done anything particularly crazy the American public have moved on.  He hasn’t held anyone hostage recently, gone on an insane media rampage, or coined any new ridiculous terms lately (bi-winning, anyone?)  It’s actually a sad state of affairs that in our heightened media landscape someone has to be constantly one-upping himself in crazy antics to retain the attention of the media. 

The second thing I began to think about relates to the first, it’s an idea I started to formulate a few weeks ago, and have named it “Media A.D.D.”  It refers to the fact that the media – and by that I primarily mean cable news and network news, but even print news is not innocent – is completely unable to multitask its story-telling.  An example of this is last Wednesday, when I woke up to a CNN email alert that Elizabeth Taylor had died.  This news, while albeit a big event and the loss of a talented actress considered by most to be Hollywood royalty, completely and utterly overshadowed the rest of the day’s news.  Another big event that day was a bus bombing in Jerusalem.  This bombing, the first one of its type in a half a decade, and one which killed one woman and injured 30 others, not to mention the implications it has for peace in that region should be something people are concerned about.  Even those with no ties directly to Israel, should have an appreciation for what an act like this means, especially as the rest of the Middle East seams to be imploding at the moment.  

It’s become painfully obvious that media coverage these days has actually nothing to do with getting audiences the information they need to be an informed citizen.  Rather, it has become a sensationalistic medium, barraging viewers with images that will grab their attention.  Stories will often run for hours without offering new information, or even images, even.  We’re sucked into what they have to offer, like children or puppies, totally mesmerized by nothing more than shiny objects.  With the only thing distracting us is a new shiny object, no more substantial, but just something to look at.
Our collective “over-it-ness” with Charlie Sheen unfortunately has nothing to do with our disinterest in exploiting someone who should be receiving medical attention.  Rather, the sparkle from this particular “sheen” has simply worn off as we’re drawn to the next shiny object. 

1 comment:

Elissa said...

Insightful and real. I'm grateful for your putting media and current challenges into perspective Judith! You're right about Media A.D.D - nicely coined - and the temptation to dumb down news... Hopefully readers will bolster enough energy and brainpower to read your blog and contemplate it's lessons ;)