Why Does Charlie (Irwin Estevez) Sheen Get So Many Passes?

Does race have anything to do with Charlie Sheen getting a free pass in both the criminal justice system and the court of public opinion?

By Jorge Rivas Mar 15, 2011

For the past two decades Charlie Sheen’s life has been a never-ending cycle of drama, the bad kind–allegations of him being a womanizer; court appearances related to domestic abuse, drugs, arrests; rehab stints, and countless other fiascos, like his cars being repeatedly driven off cliffs.

To say that Sheen, who’s real name is Carlos Irwin Estevez (his grandfather migrated to the U.S. from Spain), has gotten away with a lot is an understatement. The man has shot a woman before. And yet, he remains enormously popular. What gives? On Tuesday, I joined Michael Eric Dyson on his radio show to chat about Charlie Sheen, a.k.a. Carlos Estevez. You can hear the segment I’m in at the 33:00 minute mark. 

For a country so obsessed with personal responsibility, how is it possible that his fans have given him so many second-chances? What if Sheen was black? Would his fans be just as forgiving? Chime in with your own thoughts in the comments below.

Part of why Sheen’s fans stand by him may be because he’s established a pattern of consistently being a mess. In 1990, he accidentally shot his then fiancée in the arm. In 1994, he was sued by a woman who alleged he hit her after she turned down sex. In 1997, he was charged with misdemeanor battery for throwing his then girlfriend Brittany Ashland onto the floor during a fight. Denise Richards said that Sheen shoved and threatened to kill her. Brooke Mueller called police in 2009 when he held a knife to her throat. In 2010, a 22-year-old woman locked herself in a bathroom at the Plaza and called security when she became "extremely afraid" of Sheen.

Throughout all this, Sheen’s audience stuck with him. "Two and a Half Men"–the show he starred in, before CBS fired him–never really saw ratings go down since it first aired in 2003. In its eight-season run, the show averaged about 15 million viewers and ranked among the top 20 programs every season.

Sheen would probably still be working today if he hadn’t demanded an extra million dollars per episode and lashed out at his bosses–whom he called "clowns," "AA Nazis" and "blunt hypocrites"–for "getting up in my grill, telling me how to live my personal life," Sheen said on a call into the radio show Loose Cannons.

When CNN’s Piers Morgan asked him if he regretted any of his past actions, Sheen replied with "I think it’s a waste of time because I can’t change it."


All this seems to make no difference with his fans.

Last Monday, Sheen went on Twitter looking for a social media intern to work for him and he received more than 74,000 application in 48 hours. "I’m looking to hire a #winning INTERN with #TigerBlood," Sheen wrote on Twitter.

Sheen, who was making close to $2 million an episode, has a new project to keep his career going. He’s going on a mini tour of a show he’s calling "Charlie Sheen LIVE: ‘Violent Torpedo of Truth’". You guessed it, tickets for that sold out, in 17 minutes.

Celebrity-scandal comparisons laid to the side–Tiger Woods, Michael Vick, even Kanye West haven’t proven to be so impervious; nor have any of a long list of messy female celebrities–it’s hard not to think about what a non-celebrity, brown-skinned Carlos Estevez would face if he lived this way. Three strikes and he’d be out with a mandatory-minimum firearm possession sentencing.