Eat Me

Tom Hymes
Two recent news items have solidified the notion that the gap between the mainstream and adult worlds has narrowed to almost nothing, though perhaps not in the way some would have preferred. First is the painfully explicit Charlie Sheen/Denise Richards divorce saga, particularly her accusation made in court documents released April 21 that Sheen has an obsession with what she categorizes as "gay pornography sites that I found even more disturbing because I felt that the boys looked underage."

The second item had to do with the Tribeca Film Festivalbound documentary, "American Cannibal: The Road to Reality," which charts the weird tale of the unfinished reality show, "The Ultimate, Ultimate Challenge," and features Kevin Blatt in a role he may or may not be prepared to assume.

There is so much to speak to here — far more than 600 words can possibly contain — but the overarching issues are hard to ignore, and they reflect upon this industry whether it wants the attention or not. Indeed, the only absolute fact we are forced to take away from these real stories is that the control of "image" — whether of a person or an industry — is for all intents and purposes uncontrollable, unmanageable and up for grabs.

In both of these circumstances — one very personal, the other uber-public by design — the battle for control of identity is a principal element of the escalating conflict. These are cautionary tales told in real-time, and what is fascinating is the apparent willingness of these parties to jump on a roller coaster of celebrity that could easily end in disaster.

To be fair, beyond her now-obvious original bad decision, Richards is stuck in a situation she would obviously rather have avoided. Apparently she could not, and was forced to declare her reasons in court papers seeking a divorce. The gay porn charge is but one of her reasons, and one that might have been dealt with had the others not been so serious. But if her account of Sheen's behavior is accurate, it was not his original actions that caused the irreparable rupture but his violent reaction to the idea that she would tell people what he was doing. He seemed fine as long as it was between the two of them; once he rightly or wrongly assumed that she was going to go "public," his behavior took turn toward the violent, all but guaranteeing the outcome he wanted to avoid. If accurate, this is a pathetic story involving young children caught in the middle of self-destructive behavior, as well as unsubstantiated charges of possible child pornography and the vague commingling of legitimate adult content with illegal. In the larger narrative of this story, no one will care to distinguish between the two. The industry is guilty as charged.

The "American Cannibal" story is a labyrinth of self-promotion all the way around. The assertion by Blatt that he was taken advantage of by the filmmakers, combined with his demand to approve the film in advance, is almost mythic in its public affectation. For their part, the filmmakers couldn't help but focus much of the movie on Blatt's porn links, even though they had little if anything to do with the original subject. They knew a compelling story when they saw it. In the end, from start to unwritten finish, this narrative is about stakeholders trying to get the "image" drop on one another. The adult angle is a titillating, ticket-selling subplot at best, which may be its proper role in these types of squalid affairs.