Charlie Sheen’s HIV Diagnosis: When Bad Things Happen to Bad People.

charlie-sheen-aids-hiv

Though I’m ashamed to admit it, my first thought when I heard the news that Charlie Sheen was HIV-positive was that he deserved it.

I’ve long been a Sheen hater. That his arrest for threatening to kill wife Brooke Mueller on Christmas Day in 2009 and the drunken and drug-fuelled hotel room rampage he went on in 2010 that saw porn star and escort Capri Anderson cowering in the bathroom, afraid for her life, were all swept under the carpet in favour of continuing on in his $1.7m per episode role on Two & a Half Men made my (tiger) blood boil. We’ve since found out that in 2011, around the time of his “winning!” meltdown, he was diagnosed with HIV so much of his spiralling out of control could be contributed to that. But he also shot his then-fiancee Kelly Preston in 1990, so maybe he’s just a reprehensible human being.

But just because Sheen is one person I think the world would be better off without, doesn’t actually mean that he deserves HIV.

I restrained myself from voicing my initial reaction because I knew it was wrong. I would never say or even think the same of a rape victim, so what makes HIV different?

Like I often do when I’m struggling with my feelings about something, I took to the interwebs to help work through them. At New York Magazine, HIV-positive journalist Tim Murphy equated the way the media has responded to Sheen’s news as that of the 1985 AIDS scare and that we need to do better in our stigmatised reporting.

If I hadn’t been a slave to online feminist spaces over the past six years, who’s to say I wouldn’t join in with so many others in blaming rape victims for their attacks, for example? Since feminist spaces are often progressive in other areas, such as civil rights, environmentalism and animal rights, if I hadn’t found them would I be a climate-change denying, anti-refugee, factory farm food-buying racist? Surely if I can train my brain away from these dominant ideologies, I can think objectively about Sheen.

So maybe I’m more worried that his HIV status will draw sympathy from the general public who are often so eager to forget his horrible past which, in addition to terrorising the women in his life, includes well-documented drug use, property damage and alleged child pornography consumption. When Sheen was at the height of his infamy in 2011, some of my friends would brush these allegations to the side because “he’s entertaining”. Yeah, I find gendered violence entertaining, too! Now that his erratic behaviour can be put on the backburner to dealing with a HIV diagnosis I dare say a lot of people will continue to overlook it.

But Sheen is just one person out of the 39 million living with HIV: why should he be held up (or torn down) as an example when nothing else he’s done is worthy of emulation? Just because he‘s patronised sex workers and was allegedly an intravenous drug user (which Sheen denied in his interview on the Today show) in the past doesn’t mean everyone with HIV is.

And that’s why it’s so easy to blame Sheen for his own misfortune. Engaging in these behaviours is a known risk factor in contracting the disease. But so is being an uncircumcised man or living in some parts of Africa.

Criticism, similar to the focus of the media on the Paris terrorist attacks over those in Beirut and the rest of the Middle East, can also be drawn to the concentration on Sheen’s diagnosis over the still very prevalent spread of the disease in other parts of the world.

And I guess that stems from the fact that, like the Avenue Q song, “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist”. We can’t stop the bigoted thoughts that pop into our brains from time to time but we can try to unpack them before we air them on social media or our IRL social groups. Having studied the anthropology of HIV/AIDS briefly at uni, I realise my initial feelings were not about the disease per se, but about this one individual who has it.

Right now, my position on Sheen’s diagnosis has shifted slightly but it’s still not necessarily an admirable stance: what a waste.

Sheen had all the privilege and opportunity—being from a famous Hollywood family and given chance after chance whenever he fucked up—in the world but he chose to squander it in a spiral of drugs, violence and crime.

Sheen didn’t contract or deserve HIV because of this but I’m not sure, whether in my personal or our collective opinion, that we can separate the two.

Related: Guilty Until Proven Innocent: Charlie Sheen’s Witness.

Minus Two & a Half Men.

Why Are Famous Men Forgiven for Their Wrongdoings While Women Are Vilified for Much Less?

Elsewhere: [NYMag] What We Can Learn From Charlie Sheen’s Admission That He’s HIV-Positive.

[Wikipedia] List of Countries By HIV/AIDS Adult Prevalence Rate.

Image via Süddeuttsche Zeitung.

 

On the (Rest of the) Net.

 

The perils of pants-less ladies.

Does Gossip Girl care about women in politics?

Bryce Corbett in defence of Nicole Kidman:

“… it seems to me that Nicole Kidman is engaged in what must be a most dissatisfying unrequited love affair with her homeland. She flies to Australia to pimp her country on Oprah. She makes a film with Baz Luhrmann which (whatever you may have thought of the final product) was a massive shot in the arm for the local film industry and a two-hour love-song to her country of birth. She fronts up to G’Day USA every year to flog the myriad wonders of Down Under. And following the Victorian bushfires, she donated half-a-million dollars of her own money to the Red Cross relief fund. What a cow.”

“Sexual Assault & the Super Bowl.”

Anna Chong, a designer from the London College of Fashion, has re-imagined Lady Gaga’s most popular get-ups into Barbie-sized outfits. But she’s not the first to do it

“Why is Captain America Ruling Our Screens & Not Wonder Woman?”

Seinfeld’s Elaine Benes as modern-day hipster fashion icon.

The New York Times profiles “nice-guy blogger” Jared Eng on his “cheery, quotidian, Britney-goes-to-Starbucks” blog, JustJared.com.

Also at The New York Times, The Catcher in the Rye’s Holden Caulfield is un-relatable.

Jacob Lambert on “The Paper-Reader’s Dilemma”:

“No longer are books being pitted against pixels; pointing out that paper isn’t reflective either seems very 2007.  The war is now between tablets, as if the book never existed at all.”

Yet more dispelling of the Nicole Kidman vitriol, this time in a vintage (2008) article on Girl with a Satchel.

In the same vein of “17 Arguments Against Gay Marriage & Why They’re Bollocks” and “10 Things You Need to Understand About Asylum Seekers”, comes John Birmingham’s defence of Sandra Reynolds, via MamaMia.

I’d been searching for this article for awhile to reference in a few Lady Gaga musings, and finally came across it again last week and re-read it in the bath. Bliss. A fine example of quality journalism.

Reblogged from Fuck Yeah, Gender Studies, Rachel Hills runs a post on the question of “Who Sexualises Children?”:

“God, it doesn’t even make sense—HOW can a child be sex vixen? When I look at a child, I see a child. Regardless of costume. Dressed like Mary Poppins or dressed like Britney Spears, a kid is a kid! If you see something sexual, the problem is with you.”

I haven’t been shy about my hatred of Charlie Sheen (I know hate is a strong word, but honestly, he is a despicable human being), especially when he gets a free pass because he happens to be the star of TV’s most successful show, while Lindsay Lohan’s career is in ruins. Jezebel reiterates this:

“In recent years no stars (with the possible exception of the oddly lovable Celebrity Rehab cast members) have had their problems with addiction more publicized than Charlie and Lindsay. However, the way these stars are treated by the media and the public is vastly different, mainly due to the double standard for female celebrities.

“The scorn for Lindsay is particularly strange because compared to Charlie, she’s only hurting herself. Let’s review some of Lindsay’s biggest tabloid scandals: Two DUI arrests, four stays in rehab, missing numerous court hearings, going to jail for failing a drug test, battling bulimia, battling her father, and breaking up with her girlfriend. As for Charlie, he’s been in and out of rehab for years, he “accidentally” shot fiancee Kelly Preston in the arm, he was named as a frequent visitor to brothels owned by Heidi Fleiss, he’s dated numerous porn stars, he ODed on cocaine, allegedly shoved Denise Richards and verbally abused her during their marriage, and was arrested for domestic violence against Brooke Mueller, but avoided jail time due to a plea deal. Lindsay has never been married and has no children. Charlie has been married three times and has five kids, four of whom are under the age of 10.”

Why Are Famous Men Forgiven for Their Wrongdoings, While Women Are Vilified for Much Less?

In Perez Hilton’s words, “2010 has really been the year of the cheater”. First we had Tiger Woods’ cheating scandal, which broke late last year but has continued to be a headline grabbing story, then Jesse James’ spiral of shame, and now David Boreanaz, who went public a few weeks ago with news that he cheated on his wife of almost nine years, Jaime Bergman.

And last year was the year of the sports scandal, you might say, with the Matthew Johns group sex story coming to light in May.

What do all these men, with, perhaps, the exception of James, have in common? Their shady pasts have virtually been forgotten in favour of their more positive talents. Boreanaz plays the lead in hit TV series Bones, Johns now hosts his own self-titled show, and Tiger is back on the Masters tour.

While the wrongdoings of the Australian underworld are being glorified on Underbelly no one bats an eyelid. To take it even further, O.J. Simpson, although acquitted of double murder, was held up as a hero amongst African Americans in Los Angeles following his trial, despite being thought of as guilty in the court of public opinion.

Perhaps this is just a sign of the times changing; that our society has become so desensitised to notions of war, violence, drugs and sexual depravity that they are not longer taboo. I would argue that this is true to some extent it is not reflected on the other end of the spectrum.

For example, a recently refurbished Heidi Montag admitted to undergoing 10 cosmetic surgical procedures in one day because she wasn’t happy with the way she looked. She obviously has deep-rooted body dysmorphic issues, however instead of helping and supporting her, the public has turned on her.

The same could be said of the Britney Spears’ and Lindsay Lohans’ of the world. A recent Jezebel article, “In Defence of Lindsay Lohan”, was in support of the former child star everyone loves to hate.

Sure, Lindsay has a father who “is a nightmare… and her mother is more of a friend than a parental figure. So perhaps she is lacking in guidance and role models. But who among us, in some way, is not? Her experience [of growing up in the spotlight]… is not one many people can relate to, anyway.”

The author surmises that the public’s fascination with Lindsay and their “build-you-up-to-take-you-down” mentality is much simpler: “She’s 23-years-old and being ripped to shreds in the press mostly because she goes out at night.”

Right. Someone like Colin Farrell has had a sex tape released, sexual misconduct allegations brought against him and has battled substance abuse problems, however he is still held up as a Golden Globe-winning actor. We all know Lindsay has the acting chops, it’s just a matter of her getting out of her own way. Double standard? In the words of Sarah Palin, you betcha!

The beautifully tragic Marilyn Monroe and Anna Nicole Smith were, and still are, vilified for being just that. Even in death, the girls can’t catch a break.

So that brings us back to the question, why do men get away with so much more than women can? Or, more to the point, why are men almost celebrated for their wrongdoings while women are banished into social oblivion?

I think, in a nation that celebrates sport as the highest level of achievement, especially, we want to give our sportsmen the benefit of the doubt. While I do think we focus too much on sport as the be all and end all of success in Australia, and the very nature of being “Australian”, it can be seen as admirable to offer someone a second chance. Johns, for example, could be seen as brave for coming forward and being the only one of his Cronulla Sharks teammates to own up to his mistake. But I do think it’s a bit soon to be running a television show off his back.

However, we also like to kick people when they’re down. Britney Spears, for example, was heralded as the princess of pop in her golden days, but when she started donning pink wigs, speaking to herself in a British accent in the gutter, and being carted off to the looney bin, we wanted nothing to do with her. Oh, I’m sorry, only to denigrate her on the cover of tabloid magazines.

Then last year she launched her comeback tour, and everyone was back on her side. That is, until, she lip synched (come on, it’s Britney! When has she ever not lip synched?) her way through Australia and out of our collective consciousness.

But how many second chances are we going to give these men, in particular? Charlie Sheen was embroiled in his latest domestic dispute over Christmas last year. But what of his past child pornography, prostitute and drug allegations? Not to mention the shooting of ex-girlfriend Kelly Preston in a domestic dispute. Do we just sweep them under the rug too so that Sheen can keep the $1.2 million per episode of Two & a Half Men coming?

When these mistakes are hurting people other than themselves, maybe it’s time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Do we really care if Lindsay, Britney or Mischa are off to rehab again? And shouldn’t we be caring that Jesse James allegedly ran dog fights out of his West Coast Choppers headquarters and is apparently a white supremacist? Or that Sheen is essentially being rewarded by the cash cow that is Hollywood for his reprehensible behaviour? Or that Tiger sleptand somehow found time to golfhis way across the country in a narcissistic bubble of admiration from his countrymenand women?

Related: All Eyes on Marilyn.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] In Defence of Lindsay Lohan.