Should the media protect Charlie Sheen from himself?

    An area radio station has joined the long list of media outlets that have featured a rambling Charlie Sheen–the actor who created a media frenzy after his very public exit from the hit TV show “Two and a Half Men.”

    Sheen appeared on “Wired 96.5” Friday after the station hired a plane to trail a banner over Sheen’s house, offering him a job.

    Sheen’s media appearances are reminiscent of the 1976 movie “Network,” in which disgruntled news anchor Howard Beale, clearly not in his right mind, rants on live television. Network executives are thrilled as their ratings go through the roof with Beale screaming the now-famous line, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more!”

    Mental-health advocates said the Charlie Sheen media frenzy exploits the actor’s personal crisis for ratings, and they’ve called for it to stop. Carol Caruso, director of the Montgomery County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said the media is “making a spectacle of him.”

    “I mean his condition obviously warrants some treatment and evaluation to really assess what the cause of it is, but I think it’s just a shame,” she said.

    Barbie Zelizer, of the Annenberg School for Communication, disagreed. She said it’s not the media’s call.

    “If journalists begin to become arbiters of what constitutes an OK story versus a not-OK story, then they have to play that across the board,” said Zelizer. “I mean, are journalists supposed to be deciding when celebrity becomes too excessive because it’s connected to mental illness? I don’t think so.”

    Zelizer said there is a long list of celebrities with mental health issues who appear in the news almost daily. She added that it’s the responsibility of media consumers to make conscious choices about what they listen to, watch or read.

     

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.