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Video: Sheen faces media criticism

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    ROBACH: All right, Lee Cowan , thanks so much. TODAY contributor Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital , and Courtney Hazlett is the today.com pop culture correspondent. Good morning to both of you.

    COURTNEY HAZLETT reporting: Good morning.

    Dr. GAIL SALTZ (Psychiatrist): Good morning.

    ROBACH: And, Courtney , I know you've been working your sources. What have you found out about what may have really happened in that home?

    HAZLETT: It's Groundhog Day over at the Sheen residence. I mean, it's this habit of partying really, really hard, putting himself in a situation that is, A, illegal, and B, not reputable at all. And then it going badly. And Charlie Sheen , he still shows up for work most of the time on time. And so it's not a situation where somebody at " Two and a Half Men " can step in and say, 'Hey, listen, we have to have a serious conversation now' because he's their most successful actor. He's the highest paid actor on television. No one's going to put a stop to this.

    ROBACH: Right. And, Gail , what do you make of reports of this hiatal hernia? Because a lot of people are thinking...

    Dr. SALTZ: Yeah, really.

    ROBACH: ...maybe there's something else going on.

    Dr. SALTZ: Well, hiatal hernia could be there. Twenty-five percent of people have them. They're generally not a problem. But they can become irritated basically by reflux from the stomach, which is greatly exacerbated in situations where there's alcohol abuse or drug abuse. So -- and that can give you the sense of like you're having a heart attack. But with -- you know, with the pattern of behavior here, obviously what everybody's really concerned about is, you know, spiraling addiction, what I would call acquired hubris. The idea that when someone has been given tremendous power and people around them are telling them they can do no wrong and it seems that way because everything they do they still come back and work on the TV set ...

    ROBACH: Right. Mm-hmm.

    Dr. SALTZ: ...it gives them the sense of being superhuman and making bad decisions and not thinking there'll be any consequences.

    ROBACH: But it is a tragic flaw in Greek culture . We've read about it over and over again.

    Dr. SALTZ: That's right .

    ROBACH: Courtney , let me ask you this? Why do you think he hasn't suffered from all of this negative publicity and all of the things that looks like he's doing to his body when he's off camera?

    HAZLETT: What you have here is not a person who was put up on a pedestal and really well respected and thought they had a squeaky clean image and then all of a sudden they fell. This isn't Tiger Woods here. Charlie Sheen , this is Charlie Sheen . People realize by definition this is what you're going to get with Charlie Sheen . And he's on a show where he basically plays himself.

    ROBACH: Plays himself.

    HAZLETT: And so I think that's one of the reasons that he's Teflon Charlie , and until something really horrific happens there's not going to be a punishment.

Image: Mel Gibson, Chris Brown, Charlie Sheen
Getty Images, AP file
Mel Gibson, Chris Brown and Charlie Sheen have all made headlines for their offstage bad behavior. But that doesn't necessarily translate into lost audience for their films, music and TV shows.
By
TODAY contributor
updated 1/28/2011 10:57:54 AM ET 2011-01-28T15:57:54

Mel Gibson has a movie coming out in March called “The Beaver.” It’s about an executive who can’t communicate, so he uses a beaver hand puppet to express himself.

The premise alone is enough to make you wonder how this film got made. But because of the notoriety Gibson has gained both with his drunken anti-Semitic rants and the more recent allegations of abusive behavior leveled by his former girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva, attention instead will be focused on the fact that it represents Gibson’s “comeback” film.

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Gibson has come to represent not only a fallen star looking to resurrect his career, but also a coterie of individuals with similar rap sheets in the entertainment business. Charlie Sheen has been a negative publicity machine, generating headlines involving drug and alcohol abuse and charges of domestic abuse. Chris Brown had his infamous incident with girlfriend Rihanna, and recently caused a stir with rants he made on Twitter that involved homophobic slurs.

Should the public support these people? Or should fans avoid buying any entertainment products from individuals who have acted abominably outside their careers?

“Ultimately it depends on the audience member,” said Robert J. Thompson, a professor of communications and pop culture expert at Syracuse University. “From a rational standpoint, there have been a lot of people in the entertainment business who have had bad lifestyles but they were really good at what they did.

“If we made a rule that we would not consume products or things from people who did bad things, then there would be a lot of creative products we wouldn’t buy.”

Slideshow: Celebrity scandals of 2010 (on this page)

Sheen is an interesting example. It may be that it's easier for fans to say they'll boycott entertainment produced by a bad-boy movie star than a television star because moviegoers must physically put down money to see a film. And he's never exactly had a squeaky clean off-screen persona.

"I think there are two reasons some viewers don't seem to have a problem with the headlines about Charlie," said Maureen Ryan, lead television critic for AOL Television. "The first is that he's always had a bad-boy image, so this wasn't exactly a new thing for him or his public persona. Also, his character is a playboy character — the reaction might be different if he were playing the wholesome father of small children on an ABC Family show. Truth be told, though, I don't really know why there hasn't been more of a public reaction about Sheen's behavior. I certainly do think that if this had been a female star engaged in these antics, the outcry would have been far more severe and condemning."

Video: Sheen faces media criticism (on this page)

Larry Kehoe, a "Two and a Half Men" fan from Indiana, agrees. "(Sheen's) character on the show is more representative of his real-life persona than it is hypocritical of it," Kehoe said. "It's not like he's playing Father Flanagan on TV and then being Charlie Sheen in real life."

Kehoe also notes that a show's own likability can go far to make viewers forget about actors' off-screen antics, admitting "I tend to rationalize the more criminal aspects (of Sheen's behavior) away because I like the show."

Different celebrities and infractions, of course, receive different treatment by the public.

“There are so many variables,” noted Mary Elizabeth Williams of Salon.com. “It isn’t just one size fits all. So much depends on the grievousness of the transgression and how sincere the attempt is at atonement. And frankly, the body of work. We give different latitude to people who do different creative things.”

Slideshow: Charlie Sheen (on this page)

Williams cited the examples of Michael Richards and Roman Polanski as two figures who hold vastly different places in the entertainment community.

Richards became a household name playing Kramer on “Seinfeld.” But he tainted that name with a racist rant at a comedy club in a misguided attempt at creating edgy comedy. “Nobody really cares if Michael Richards makes a comeback or not,” Williams said, pointing out that Richards’ star seemed to have already faded anyway before the incident.

Polanski is another situation entirely, she said. “He is one of my favorite directors,” Williams said. “But after the extradition (attempt) and the fact that he couldn’t be a man and admit what he did was wrong, I said I don’t want to support this person with my dollars anymore. And I love his work.”

She said she didn’t see the Polanski film released early in 2010, “The Ghost Writer,” and doesn’t plan to. “He’s living a perfectly luxurious life in exile,” she explained, “but I don’t want to give my $10 to support a sex criminal.”

Thom Geier, senior editor at Entertainment Weekly, said the celebrity who generates scandalous headlines is nothing new, and neither is the idea that audiences judge Hollywood’s miscreants on a case-by-case basis.

“I think if you look back historically, there are examples both ways,” he said. “There was Fatty Arbuckle, a silent film star (who was eventually cleared after an incident in which a woman died at a party), or Eddie Fisher (married to Debbie Reynolds, he had an affair with Elizabeth Taylor in the 1950s), whose careers took real nose dives after real life acts that turned the public off.

“But there are also plenty who rebounded from personal peccadilloes and got back into the public graces. It’s hard to say that, short of something like O.J. Simpson did, what a celebrity would have to do that would completely turn people off.”

Slideshow: Mel Gibson (on this page)

Tom Cruise is a recent example, said Geier, of a celebrity who seems to have withstood a spate of bad taste left in the mouths of fans. “A lot of people were turned off by Tom Cruise and his Scientology stuff, and the couch jumping on ‘Oprah,’” Geier said. “But he did a cameo in ‘Tropic Thunder’ that was hilarious, and people seemed to love him again.

“If you put out a good product, people will want to see it. If you make a good record, or movie, people tend to ignore the bad things you did.”

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That is especially true, Thompson said, when you add time. In a culture dominated by the 24-hour news cycle, the public’s attention span is short, and generally speaking, so is the amount of time that people hold grudges against stars.

“With time, it begins to disappear,” he said. “There are probably some Mel Gibson movies people will watch 100 years from now. There might be trivia people, or film scholars, who will know about the scandals he was involved in during the 21st century. But those things tend to fade.

“The personal lives of these people recede into the arena of bibliographical scholars, whereas the things they leave continue to play in purity.”

Michael Ventre is a frequent contributor to TODAYshow.com.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Photos: Celebrity scandals of 2010

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  1. Kardashian Kard

    The three Kardashian sisters, Kourtney, Kim and Khloe, were quick to remove their name from a debit card when the card in question was called out by the financial press as having excessive fees. (Mastercard) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. 'Desperate' times

    "Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria filed for divorce from NBA star Tony Parker in November after three years of marriage. Media reports said that Parker had exchanged hundreds of text messages with the wife of a former teammate, who is now also divorcing. (Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Battling personal issues

    Teen actress and singer Demi Lovato left the Jonas Brothers world tour in the fall of 2010 to enter a treatment center for reported emotional and physical issues. (Victor Chavez / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A Hollywood breakup

    Courteney Cox and David Arquette separated in October 2010 after more than 10 years of marriage and one daughter. They still maintain a friendship and business relationship. (Jason Merritt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Lindsay Lohan's woes

    2010 was a troubled year for actress Lindsay Lohan. She was cast as Linda Lovelace in the film "Inferno," but the role was later withdrawn while she was in court-mandated rehab. Lohan was criticized for wearing the obscene statement "F*** U" on her fingernails while in court but claimed it was not a message aimed at the judge. She served a 14-day jail term for violating probation, then after the rehab stint, failed a drug test. She later returned to rehab and is awaiting the next move in her court saga. (Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Paris Hilton

    Paris Hilton is seen with her attorney, David Chesnoff, in court in September 2010. The hotel heiress had a number of run-ins with the law in 2010. She was caught with marijuana at an airport in Corsica in July. In August, she was arrested for cocaine possession and tried to claim the purse the drugs were in did not belong to her, later admitting she lied. She was put on probation and was refused entrance to Japan because of the drug crime. (Julie Jacobson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Lady Gaga's meat dress

    Singer Lady Gaga always draws attention for her outrageous outfits, but none were more controversial than this dress, made out of real meat. Gaga wore the dress (and shoe wraps, and headpiece) to perform at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sept. 12, 2010. Animal-rights organization PETA was, naturally, furious. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Snooki

    Nicole Polizzi, better known as "Snooki" from the MTV show "Jersey Shore," went to court on a disturbing the peace charge for bothering others at a beach. She pled guilty and was sentenced to a fine and community service. The judge in the case called her "a Lindsay Lohan wannabe." (Mel Evans / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Any parties left to crash?

    Bravo's "The Real Housewives of Washington, D.C." launched in the summer of 2010. From left, the cast includes Catherine Ommanney, Stacie Scott Turner, Mary Schmidt Amons, Lynda Erkiletian and Michaele Salahi. But Salahi, who with her husband crashed a White House state dinner in the fall of 2009, is by far the most controversial. Even before the show premiered, the other women were griping about all the attention paid to Salahi. (Bravo) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston

    Although Levi Johnston said some nasty things about Sarah Palin, he and the former Alaska governor's daughter, Bristol, anounced their engagement to be married exclusively in UsWeekly in July 2010. The engagement was short-lived and was called off weeks later after Johnston reportedly told Palin that he may have fathered a baby with another girl. Palin and Johnston's son, Tripp, was born late in 2008. Bristol Palin then joined the cast of "Dancing With the Stars" while Johnston announced he would be running for mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, and would be filmed for a reality show. Palin got all the way to third place on "Dancing," causing many viewers to claim fans of her mother were stuffing the ballot box for political reasons. (Us Weekly) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Voting scandal

    After her called-off engagement, Bristol Palin appeared on "Dancing With the Stars," where she and partner Mark Ballas placed third. Fans of the show went so far as to complain to the FCC, saying that political supporters of Palin's mother unfairly stuffed the ballot box for Bristol. (ABC viia AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Stamos in court

    Two people were convicted of conspiracy and extortion in a July 2010 case involving actor John Stamos. The couple allegedly tried to blackmail Stamos by saying they had photos of him with cocaine and strippers and would sell the photos to the tabloids if he didn't pay up. Stamos says the photos never existed. (Danielle Lehto / The Mining Journal via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Horrible breakup

    Actor Mel Gibson left his wife for Oksana Grigorieva, who gave birth to their daughter in 2009. Now the couple has split, and ugly recordings have emerged of what appears to be Gibson ranting and cursing his ex-girlfriend. He uses racial and sexist slurs, as well as violent threats. (Juan Medina / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Trouble for Jones

    Actor Jeffrey Jones, who played dean of students Ed Rooney in 1986's "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," was arrested in June 2010 for failing to register as a sex offender in Los Angeles. Jones' sex offender registration is required because he was convicted in 2003 of taking nude photos of a 14-year-old boy. He pled guilty and was sentence to community service and probation. (Chris Weeks / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. 'Tonight's' not the night for Conan

    Conan O'Brien hosted "The Tonight Show" on NBC for just seven months. The network had moved former "Tonight" host Jay Leno to an earlier time slot and when ratings were poor, decided to put Leno back behind the "Tonight" desk. O'Brien's final "Tonight Show" aired Jan. 22, 2010, and he later announced a deal with TBS. Fan support fell heavily on O'Brien's side. He reportedly earned $45 million in his exit deal, with $12 million designated for his staff, who moved from New York to Los Angeles specifically to work on the show. His new show, "Conan," began airing in the fall of 2010. (Paul Drinkwater / AP file) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Can Tiger change his stripes?

    Golfer Tiger Woods is seen on Feb. 19, 2010, making his much-covered public apology after his reported infidelities were revealed. Woods' scandal began on Thanksgiving night, 2009, when he was in a one-car accident at his Florida home and refused to speak about the reasons for his crash. He took a 20-week break from golf and returned to the sport in the 2010 Masters on April 8, 2010. He and wife Elin Nordegren divorced in August. (Joe Skipper / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Blindsided

    Sandra Bullock and husband Jesse James looked happy enough on March 7, 2010, when Bullock won the best actress Oscar for her role in "The Blind Side." But it was later revealed that James allegedly had cheated on Bullock with tattoo model Michelle "Bombshell" McGee (inset photo), even while Bullock and James were in the process of adopting a baby boy. Their divorce was finalized in June 2010, and Bullock continued the adoption of her son, Louis, without James. (AP, Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Playboy interview backfires

    Singer John Mayer, seen performing in New York on Dec. 11, 2009, found himself in the headlines in February 2010 after he gave an interview to Playboy in which he used a racial slur and compared his penis to white supremacist David Duke. Mayer tearfully apologized later. In September, Mayer shut down his Twitter account, which he had used to defend some of his actions and statements. The account had 3.7 million followers. (Jason Szenes / EPA file) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Kate's last dance

    Kate Gosselin was a contestant on "Dancing With the Stars" spring 2010 season. The mom of eight didn't prove to be a natural dancer, but she also didn't do herself any favors by snapping at professional dance partner Tony Dovolani in taped footage shown on the show. (Adam Larkey / ABC via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. An early exit

    Corey Haim, seen here in a scene from "Crank: High Voltage," was a 1980s teen heartthrob thanks to his roles in "Lucas" and "The Lost Boys." His career was blighted by drug abuse, but his death on March 10, 2010, at age 38, was ruled due to pneumonia and other causes, not drugs. (Lions Gate Entertainment via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Family woes

    Charlie Sheen arrives at the Pitkin County Courthouse in Aspen, Colo., on March 15, 2010. Sheen was arrested on Christmas Day 2009 after his wife, Brooke Mueller, called 911 and said he threatened her with a knife. Later in the year, in October, police were called to the Plaza Hotel in New York, where Sheen had damaged a room. An escort, Capri Anderson, was locked in the bathroom and some reports said Sheen had accused her of stealing his watch. Days later, Sheen filed for divorce from Mueller. (Rick Giase / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A childhood secret

    Actress Mo'Nique won the best supporting actress Oscar for her role as a sexually and physically abusive mother in "Precious." The actress' brother later admitted that when Mo'Nique was between the ages of 7 and 15, he sexually abused her. The two are no longer in contact, and Mo'Nique was reportedly unhappy about his decision to talk about the abuse on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" on April 19, 2010. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Sins of the son

    Michael Douglas and his ex-wife, Diandra, are seen leaving court in New York on April 20, 2010, after their son, Cameron, 31, was sentenced to 5 years for possession of methamphetamines with the intent to distribute. Michael Douglas took some of the blame for his son's actions, saying he was more focused on his acting career than on his family when Cameron was young. Michael Douglas was later diagnosed with advanced throat cancer. () Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Bieber Fever boils over

    Teenage singing sensation Justin Bieber has seemingly taken the music world by storm, but not without incident. These fans were showing their support for the singer before a planned outdoor concert in Sydney, Australia, on April 26, 2010. But the show was canceled after 5,000 people camped out waiting for the performance and several fans were crushed by crowds and had to be hospitalized. (Graham Denholm / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Behind closed doors

    Former porn star Jenna Jameson and former Ultimate Fighting Champion Tito Ortiz made headlines in April 2010 when Ortiz was arrested for domestic violence against Jameson, the mother of his year-old twin sons. After the incident, both parties recanted the abuse allegations. . (Getty Images, AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. King of divorce?

    Talk-show host Larry King and his seventh wife, Shawn Southwick, filed for divorce in April 2010, but reunited and called it off in May. This would have been the 76-year-old King's eighth divorce, as he married and divorced one woman twice. (Ethan Miller / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Yes, I cheated

    "Bones" star David Boreanaz announced May 4 that he had been unfaithful to his wife, Jaime Bergman. Alleged Tiger Woods mistress Rachel Uchitel says she had an affair with Boreanaz, that he was the one who pursued her, and that she has a video he made in which he professes his love for her. (Matt Sayles / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Plastic is fantastic

    Heidi Montag is just 23, but "The Hills" star told People magazine that she had 10 plastic surgery procedures done in one day and called herself "obsessed" with cosmetic surgery. She has said she wants to enlarge her breasts even further, from an F-cup to an H-cup. Montag and husband Spencer Pratt have also been in the news for other reasons, including a May 2010 report of Pratt calling Montag's mother "just a vagina," and charges that Pratt is keeping Montag almost as a prisoner in an unkempt home. In July 2010, she reportedly filed for divorce after 15 months of marriage, only to call it off in September. () Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Trouble for L.T.

    Former New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor, who has appeared on "Dancing With the Stars," appears in Ramapo Town Court in Suffern, N.Y., on May 6, 2010. Taylor was arraigned on rape and prostitution charges in an assault on a 16-year-old runaway who police said was brought to his suburban New York hotel room against her will. His lawyer has said "Lawrence Taylor did not rape anybody." (Seth Harrison / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Keeping the beat behind bars

    Rapper Lil Wayne served eight months in jail after pleading guilty to a gun charge. He got in trouble with jail officials on May 13, 2010, after they found a charger and headphones for a digital music player hidden in a potato-chip bag in his cell, but was still released four months early. (Louis Lanzano / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Troubled couple

    Actor Randy Quaid and his wife Evi Quaid have been in and out of court in 2010. First came charges that they defrauded a California inn out of more than $10,000. In September, the pair were charged with illegally living in a California home they once owned. They were released on bail and later sought protection in Canada. They have made numerous paranoid-sounding statements, including that "star-whackers" are after them and that Heath Ledger and David Carradine were also murdered by this same supposed conspiracy. (Steve Malone / Santa Barbara News-Press via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. The rules apply to everyone except me

    Actor Josh Duhamel was kicked off a flight in December 2010 for refusing to turn off his BlackBerry before takeoff. The actor reportedly laughed at the flight attendant who asked, and eventually an entire planeload of travelers was delayed as the aircraft had to turn around on the runway to return to the terminal so Duhamel could be removed. He later apologized, saying "lesson learned." (Ray Tamarra / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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    Above: Slideshow (32) Celebrity scandals of 2010
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    Slideshow (25) Mel Gibson
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    Slideshow (18) Roman Polanski’s life, career
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    Slideshow (42) Charlie Sheen

Discuss: Punish celebs for off-screen behavior?

Charlie Sheen keeps getting in trouble, but "Two and a Half Men" remains enormously popular, and Mel Gibson is starring in a new movie. Do you stop watching or listening to a celebrity's work if he or she does something off-screen that you disapproved of? Or should the work be judged on its own?

Discussion comments

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