Saturday, March 26, 2011

Corporate Exploitation, Personal Addictions, and Media Codependency in Hollyweird: Charlie Sheen vs. CBS and Warner Brothers Television

Adonis Rising

Is it just me or is actor Charlie Sheen poised to pull off the biggest heist since the Brink's job?

by Patricia Calloway

On March 7, 2011 CBS and Warner Bros. Television announced the firing of actor Charlie Sheen from the hit show "Two and a Half Men" following weeks of public controversy and negative publicity which included alleged anti-semitic remarks made by the actor against the show's creator Chuck Lorre. Since then Sheen has been on the lips of just about everybody you know and a lot of people you don't, media people who just can't stop trying to pimp him and his situation.

But Sheen has taken all of this, the biased news stories, the constant crush of paparazzi, restraining orders, the removal of his children by the state, even imprisonment inside his own home due to the media jackals lurking just outside the security gates of the community he's trying to raise his children in and turned it onto its head and into the greatest show on earth; not if, but when he wins his $100 million breach of contract lawsuit against his corporate tormentors at CBS and Warner Bros. Television he will emerge as the slickest mofo since D.B. Cooper.

God, it's good to be alive right now.

Viva Charlie!

In a flurry of major media appearances and interviews Charlie Sheen has managed to do what many Hollywood celebrities either cannot or will not do; he has put his corporate owners on notice that he has taken control and ownership of Charlie Sheen, his name, his image and profitability both present and future using the very media that is chomping at the bit to use and destroy him. He is gaining his freedom the old-fashioned way, through struggle and hardship, having seized control of his career and life from the jaws of the hyenas who would just as soon help him to die as continue to use him as youth demographic bait for their old, tired assed network.

During the Week of Charlie Awesomeness, when he was doing interview after interview with all the major networks, CBS tossed the idea to the media of recasting "Two and a Half Men" with a different actor in a scenario that would help save the show; as far back as April 2010 the network was toying with this same idea (and quite publicly) after Sheen was arrested on Christmas Day 2009 in Aspen, Colorado for misdemeanor assault and felony menacing involving a domestic dispute with his wife, Brooke Mueller. He eventually plead guilty in August 2010 and in a plea deal he received 30 days in rehab, 30 days probation and 36 hours of anger management and was sentenced to time already served at Promises Treatment Center. He and his wife reconciled in February 2010 and both completed alcohol rehab that year. Sheen began to re-evaluate "Two and a Half Men" and announced he was taking time off from the program to pull himself, his marriage and his life together.

At the time, 26, 365 polled viewers were asked Can The Show Survive Without Charlie; 84% of them answered 'No'. When asked What Should The Network Do If He Leaves, 81% responded 'Cancel the Show';

When he returned to the show it was very clear to CBS that Sheen was the butter on their bread.

Season 7 of "Two and a Half Men" started September 21, 2009 and was originally slated to run for 22 episodes but that increased to 24 episodes in November. In February Sheen entered rehab for three weeks and the season was peeled back by two episodes.

Season 7 averaged 14.89 million viewers for the entire 22 episodes, but for the first six episodes airing after the Aspen arrest, from January 11, 2010 to March 8, 2010, "Two and a Half Men" enjoyed a ratings average of 17.01 million viewers. On March 23, 2010, ratings for the show dropped back to normal and the remaining four episodes of the season averaged 14.15 million.

Sheen was arrested October 26, 2010 for an incident at New York's Plaza Hotel where he caused $7,000 in damages and threatened a naked hooker because he couldn't find his cellphone and wallet; for the four weeks following this incident, from November 2, 2010 to November 23, 2010, the show averaged 13.91 million viewers, not a huge difference from the Season 7 average.

Sensing a pattern? Sheen's outlandish behavior was a bit of a boon for CBS. If I were a betting woman, I'd put $1.25 on the network turning a blind eye to his problems and behavior in favor of keeping the 15 million viewers he brought them each week. Sheen's self-destructive behavior was overlooked repeatedly; perhaps it was seen as the price of doing business. After all, "Two and a Half Men" is worth billions, yes, with a "b", billions of dollars in worldwide syndication and distribution rights and none of it would be possible without him.

So what if he's tore up from the floor up? Move the furniture around. Somebody get his leg.

There's your moral turpitude right there.

In a February 28, 2010 interview Sheen demanded a 50% increase in pay from the show which would net him $3 million per episode. He reasoned that compared to what the show is making and is worth, CBS could afford it. A week later they fired him; what a coincidence.

Sheen was accused of being anti-semitic by the media because he called the show's creator, Chuck Lorre by his Hebrew name, Chaim Levine; that didn't stick to him as Sheen is Jewish through his mother, artist Janet Templeton. Sheen told TMZ: "I was addressing the man, not the bulls**t TV persona. So you're telling me that anytime someone calls me Carlos Estevez (his birth name) they are being anti-Latino?"

"Two and a Half Men" has been CBS' number one show for the past seven years because of Charlie Sheen's work, persona and popularity. CBS' attempt to rob, yes, rob Charlie Sheen of the billions that are his is nothing short of despicable. You don't have to love him, but you do have to love fairness, equitable treatment, honest pay for honest work and equitable compensation for one's contributions on the job. I'm not talking about Sheen the crazy TV star because that's what they want you to look at while they quietly steal his money; I'm talking about Sheen the worker and so is he.

And therefore Charlie Sheen is waging a revolution of sorts, an emancipation effort that serves as both a warning to corporate execs who foolishly underestimated him and as an escape template for others to reproduce. He must be acutely aware that the only way he can insure his freedom is by taking power for himself and not giving it back to CBS and Warner Brothers Television.

How Emiliano Zapata is that?

The Acorn and the Tree

His father, actor Martin Sheen, has a long history in liberal Democratic politics and social activism. He has supported a number of causes including the Bobby Kennedy campaign and the1965 farm worker movement with Cesar Chavez in California, anti-nuclear protests in Nevada and has opposed the war in Iraq. He lends his support to groups such as Help Darfur Now, Earth First! and By Any Means Necessary (BAMN).

Charlie Sheen is actively involved in breast cancer awareness and is a major donor and supporter of the HIV/AIDS assistance organization Aid for AIDS in Los Angeles. He is also a prominent advocate of the 9/11 Truth Movement which believes the attacks were an inside job; the media made him out to be a conspiracy kook after his interview on "The Alex Jones Show" gained mainstream media attention in 2009.

Since September 2009 when Sheen first contacted President Obama and urged him to investigate the attacks, the media has cranked up its scrutiny of him; his life is already a fishbowl but the added pressure of just about every media outlet trying to catch you dirty would make a man feel uncomfortable and a little paranoid. It might make a man with addiction issues feel worse than that.

In light of this the Christmas 2009 incident in Aspen seems inevitable. Sheen and his wife got into an argument; she threatened to divorce him and he snapped. Even though they reconciled the following February it wasn't enough; Sheen filed for divorce from his wife eight months later. His greatest fear had come upon him.

B***h Betta Have My Money

On March 10, 2010 Chuck Lorre, CBS and Warner Brothers Television were sued by Charlie Sheen for $100 million dollars. In a 30-page complaint Sheen charges Chuck Lorre fired him illegally; not only was he in breach of Sheen's contract but he was in violation of federal law prohibiting the firing of sick persons. Sheen's radio comments about Lorre are protected speech so he can't be fired for exercising that right; Sheen charges that the comments are the real reason behind his firing.

The "hilarious, but legally sound" lawsuit is said to tell all and then some about the operations behind the show and the actions of its bigwigs. Experts expect a quick settlement with Sheen from Lorre, CBS and Warner Brothers to avoid further embarrassment; Sheen can't seem to stop making fun of them in "their" media.

Because Chuck Lorre didn't like what Sheen said about him on the air and because CBS doesn't want to share a bigger slice of the billions they stand to make off Sheen with him he was fired on a trumped-up morals clause; now isnt' that the pot calling the kettle black?

You can't fire a man for indecent behavior you have tolerated, underwritten and encouraged for almost as long as he's worked for you simply because he's making you rich. You can't pretend you haven't entered into a contract with a man when he demands fair and equitable treatment under that contract from you. You can't defame a man because he knows what he's worth and is trying to protect his value.

Sheen has also demanded that cast and crew members of "Two and a Half Men" get paid for the remaining episodes. His contract included a "pay or play" clause that pays him for all episodes plus residuals whether he works or not. Remember in November 2010 when the season was extended to 24 episodes but was put back to 22 episodes when Sheen went to rehab? Well, he signed a contract for 24 episodes and is owed for the remainder and so is the cast and crew. They are not working yet are under contract; who will step over CBS to hire them? As displaced workers they are eligible for unemployment compensation from the state of California, and thank goodness, but Sheen has put CBS on notice that he expects his people to be paid.

What this thing is about is worker's rights, employment law and contract law, period. It is not about an "out-of-control" star, it's not about a drug addict who hangs out with hookers. This is about a corporation's attempt to deny its employees justice and their rights under the law, like in the state of Wisconsin; it's about unrestrained corporate greed, greed by any means necessary up to and including the deaths of workers, like at British Petroleum; it's about the immoral lack of respect and disregard for worker's dignity, like at DeBeers. And it is about a corporation's refusal to negotiate billions of dollars in present and future earnings from a man's work with that man, like the NFL owners.

Don't ever think it's about anything else.

You're Not the Boss of Me

This past Friday it was announced that Sheen's one-man show, "My Violent Torpedo of Truth" has been expanded to 22 shows. He originally scheduled five dates, the first for April 2 at the Fox Theatre here in Detroit. He will make an estimated $7 million dollars a month on shows sold out within 18 minutes of their announcement on his Twitter page where followers were able to purchase tickets to the event.

Since joining Twitter Sheen has entered the Guiness Book of World Records as the fastest person to achieve one million followers in the shortest amount of time. Before he ever tweeted Sheen had 10,000 followers; in the next 24 hours he had attracted one million. As of March 20, 2010 Charlie Sheen has 3 million followers and a train load of sponsors lining up to get on his page.

Behold this piece of Charlie awesomeness: his deal with LiveNation gives him 85% of profits plus merchandising and afterparty appearances. This is possible because tickets were purchased via Twitter; Sheen doesn't need LiveNation's ticket booth so his overhead is low. Low overhead, high profit. One dollar from every ticket sold for his show will be donated to the American Red Cross for the Japanese Earthquake Relief Fund.

He shows us how to deal with circling buzzards like LiveNation by stripping them of their power to fleece; they're not the boss of him or his tickets.

Sheen scares the hell out of Them. The more he talks the more They freak out; They have put great stock in maintaining the illusion of celebrity because it gives them an endless supply of fresh bodies to exploit for their own ends. He doesn't give a s**t what we think about him, he just does his thing and in doing so he strips away the mystique of fame and celebrity. He lets us see that it's all smoke and mirrors and sleight of hand.

He holds up Hollywood's hypocrisy and falsity like the severed head of the Medusa and allows us to gaze upon its horror and ugly simplicity. No, he will not obey and behave, no he will not hide his contempt for the thing that is killing him. No, he will not apologize for his lifestyle choices; he's an addict who doesn't care if you know that he likes hookers and mountains of coke and fast cars and gunplay and terrorizing his wives.

He's like your cousin Reggie only Charlie Sheen will work and he's rich. Deal with it.

Angel with a Dirty Face

Sheen brings us in through the front of the tent then closes the curtain behind us as we watch in shock and awe the truth about the world he lives and works in. We're cool with that because it's real and we know he's being honest with us and that he respects us. This drives Them to fits because They do the opposite; Sheen consistently breaks the spells They keep trying to cast over us and offers up his life as a testimony to Their lies.

Charlie Sheen is on the verge of revolution and I'm glad to see it. His lawsuit will singlehandedly bitch slap not one but two corporations by exposing their greed and immorality, their deceit and their cruel disregard toward workers. Through him we'll see for ourselves their whoredoms and pathetic weaknesses and in comparison to Them he will look like a saint.

Viva el verdad! Viva la justicia! Viva Santo Carlos Estevez!

Patricia Calloway paints, writes, blogs and cheers for workers the world over in Detroit, Michigan.