Credit: Albert L. Ortega/PR Photos

Even in the bacchanalian world of Hollywood, few are more closely associated with the excesses of fame than Charlie Sheen — from his cameo in madam Heidi Fleiss’ little black book to chronic public drug battles to more than one ex alleging, at one time or another, that they’d been either threatened or physically harmed by his outbursts. Now, the Two and a Half Men star is likely to serve a plea-bargained 30-day jail sentence in connection with a Christmas Day fight in Aspen with wife Brooke Mueller, reports, with prosecutors dropping the felony menacing charge against him for allegedly pulling a knife on his spouse. (The two are now reportedly reconciled after both spent time in rehab earlier this year.) With presumed good behavior, Sheen will be out in about two weeks.

So why does the 44-year-old actor’s life-long career seem to be built of Teflon? Why such sustained public outrage over the antics of, say, championship-grade philanderer Tiger Woods, while Sheen becomes TV’s highest-paid actor on TV’s No. 1 sitcom despite repeated violent outbursts, not to mention myriad other scandals? The worst fallout Sheen has experienced so far has been getting dropped from Hanes ads costarring Michael Jordan — a loss that’s a lot easier to take when you’ve just signed a new contract to remain on your hit CBS sitcom for somewhere around a million bucks an episode. His jail time will even reportedly fall at a convenient time — before Two and a Half Men goes back into production in August. If things go as planned, this will mark the first actual jail time of his illustrious career in bad-boy-dom. And he’ll likely, once again, emerge virtually unscathed.

It seems to me that the answer to his extraordinary ability to survive any scandal lies in his choice of roles. From early on, he’s leaned into his natural tendencies, almost always playing cocky screw-ups with a dark side. His cameo as the sexy, leather-jacket-clad criminal Jennifer Grey meets in the police station in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off set the template for his entire career. His beloved-cad roles on television have taken no pains to hide their parallels with Sheen’s real-life persona: On Spin City, his skirt-chasing deputy mayor was named Charlie Crawford; on Two and a Half Men, his irresponsible, serial womanizer is named Charlie Harper. His antics just seem a natural extension of the guys he plays; audiences have come to expect nothing else from him, unlike Tiger Woods, who’d cultivated a saint-like image before his scandal broke. Though it may be time for us to acknowledge, as a viewing public, that his real-life actions — which go far beyond amusing one-night stands — carry very real consequences.

The question, PopWatchers: Should we forgive Charlie Sheen so easily? And why do you think we do?

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