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Amy Spies

Amy Spies

Posted: March 2, 2011 08:28 PM

Charlie Sheen is definitely mad as hell and not taking it anymore. His angry calls into radio stations have evolved into wacky but entertaining (at least, until the allegations of spousal abuse and parental issues resurfaced) television interviews. TV is his friend. He has played a charming bad boy on two successful sitcoms; now he's living that on a multi-channel, ever-repeated reality show. Sheen is watchable and even charismatic, as always.

As was Howard Beale, the memorable anti-hero from the movie "Network", who went over the edge 'on air' after being fired from a powerful, cold TV network. That brilliant parody was written by Paddy Chayefsky in 1976, when three networks ruled our eyeballs. Now, these corporate conglomerates, among them the one that produces Charlie Sheen's hit sitcom, "Two and a Half Men", share space with hundreds of other channels. Sheen's sitcom is a rare network steady 'winner,' a term Sheen uses frequently about himself in his interviews. Well, he has been a winner career-wise: a talented, successful actor who worked as well as played hard, and performed for his employers. Like the "Network" newscaster Howard Beale, Sheen felt unsupported and unappreciated by his network employer and lashed out. Beale had been coldly fired; Sheen, well, spoke of how he'd been dissed. Both asserted that they'd done their part and did not deserve this treatment.

They are not alone. Obviously, Howard Beale and Charlie Sheen's battles with big bosses are high-class, first-world feuds and Sheen carries emotional, behavioral baggage to his power struggle rave, but angry people in their audiences are also mad as hell without comparable megaphones, star power, huge bank accounts, and audiences; they, too, don't want to (and some literally can't) financially take it anymore. Unemployment statistics overflow with individuals, far less highly compensated and cared for, who having serving their companies for decades, find themselves suddenly fired or having their jobs disappeared, replaced by young, malleable robots or automated voices or parking pay machines. The movie "Network" was fresh 35 years ago, when we were more naïve in cohabiting with cold corporations. Now, post-recession, we're battle-scarred, losing homes to mortgages going upside-down, seeing savings turn negative due to fiscal greed and fraud, feeling our self-esteem, senses of self and safety go poof along with pensions and health-care plans.

I will not speak to whether Charlie Sheen is or is not a train-wreck as commentators suggest. I do not know him. However, I can speak to our country and times bursting with so many train-wrecks of individual hopes and dreams, people who have worked hard and are suddenly left literally out in the cold in this x-treme environmental, economic world we're currently struggling in for survival. We used to strive upwardly mobile for jobs till retirement, at which point we were taken care of for the rest of our lives. Now, we live and can work longer, but there is not the same or sometimes any security in employment. The safety net, the family rug, can and does get pulled out. It's harder to find the next job as time goes on, as we individually and as a nation age and shrink along with the job market.

If only Networks 2011 would give our nation's less famous, newly unemployed, emotionally shaken individuals airtime to voice injustices rained on them.