Article by Lauren Rosewarne /
ABC The Drum /
March 04, 2011 /
Last year there was a blackout in my apartment building. Channel 9 was wiped. Completely. For six glorious months. Sure, I missed that airport show where moron tourists get sprung for smuggling in casseroles, but on the upside, I never had to tell gentleman callers that they couldn’t watch Two And A Half Men: I could just hand them the remote control and shrug coyly.
Life without Eddie, without sex-starved dairy farmers, and of course, life without the endless loop of hideous reruns. Splendid. The channel returned during another storm as peculiarly as it left, but those six months are remembered fondly.
And then the strangest thing happened.
This week I’ve found myself voraciously digesting newscast after newscast, frantically flicking for evermore clips. More! I want more! Something was very wrong: I was actively seeking out footage of Charlie Sheen.
Had I slipped over to the darkside?
After writing about my reluctance to talk about the St Kilda school girl scandal, I’ve been thinking a lot about why – despite the fact that I feel filthy every time I think about it – I keep following the story.
Sheen and his Hollywood harem and the St Kilda school girl scandals illuminate many issues for me: two biggies are 1) that the news media has become more like reality TV than we had ever hoped, and 2) that as a culture we’re quite partial to a spot of bullying when the opportunity arises.
Think about the St Kilda scandal for a moment. An underage girl in a hotel room paid for “anonymously” by parties assumed to be profiting from her hijinks.
An underage girl. On her own. In a hotel room. I’m thinking more Rapunzel and less Eloise. And I’m thinking of those fantastic Divinyls’ lyrics: “When my backs to the wall / I might do anything”.
And the media, of course, are egging her on. They’re following her on Twitter. They’re reading her blog. They’re running her dubiously directed mobile phone footage; supply and demand laws dictate that she’ll just have to produce more of it.
And then we’ll all watch her leave a few courtrooms and shake our heads in dismay.
And this week we’re watching Charlie Sheen. Sheen, starring in the only show he’s been in that’s worth watching. Charlie, speaking to anyone who will listen. Ranting. Raving. Speaking in riddles about goddesses and being from Mars.
So captivating because it just can’t end well.
He looks like a mad man, he’s speaking nonsense, his children have been repossessed and we’re watching and waiting and knowing that a good outcome will involve a spontaneous Britney-style hair cut; a bad one and the show’ll be less The Osbournes and much more Law and Order: “Special” Victims Unit.
Ours is a culture that vocally condemns bullying. So vocally and with such vigour and rhetoric that we’ve lost touch with the meaning of the word.
That both the St Kilda school girl and Sheen are peddling their wares to the media doesn’t mean that the media has to respond. Just because these two are asking for bad attention doesn’t mean we should give it. It certainly doesn’t mean we should enable their oblivion.
Don’t get me wrong, both stories are fascinating. But am I the only one who feels just a little antsy that we’re all standing around pumping our fists and laughing and generally egging on two people who are – like the dopey kid in the playground – not realising that the laughs are at them?
© Lauren Rosewarne