Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen

Kevin Winter/Getty Images; John Sciulli/

Charlie Sheen gets in trouble—again—and nothing happens to him. Meanwhile, Mel Gibson gets fired from a cameo. Why the double standard?
—Emma, via the inbox

From where you sit, all Hollywood freaks must look alike. But there are degrees of freakdom out here, and Sheen's mutation is much less toxic when it comes to his career.

Now marvel as you, too, learn how to tell one loser from another in my friendly guide to Hollywood freaks:

MORE: Full Charlie Sheen coverage

Co-curated by Cover Awards founder Mark Pasetsky, who has edited many a celebrity gossip story.

First, let's parse who's done what. Sheen has been accused several times of getting violent with spouses, including ex-wife Denise Richards.

This past Christmas, he was arrested in connection with an assault against another wife, Brooke Mueller. Sheen was able to plea down the charges and ended up with a misdemeanor. That translated into probation, anger management and community service.

As for the new "trouble" you mention, here it is: Sheen was hospitalized this week after reportedly being found in a hotel room, behaving in what appeared to be an intoxicated manner. (Sheen's mouthpieces have blamed an adverse reaction to medication for Sheen's comportment).

The Two and a Half Men star also may or may not have been naked.

Gibson, meanwhile, has his own circus of a past, including that infamous drunk driving incident, racial slurs, and, most recently, an ongoing parade of leaked phone conversations that include a breathtaking number of threats and verbal abuses against his ex-girlfriend.

The ex, Oksana Grigorieva, also has alleged that Gibson has gotten physical with her, though law enforcement is still looking into the matter, and no charges have been filed.

Both guys are scumbags.

But here are a few differences worth noting.

One: Sheen's latest jape has more of a self-destructive feel to it. He was in a hotel room doing something, but he wasn't, apparently, threatening anyone else. Meanwhile, the domestic violence allegations against Gibson—obviously a matter much more serious than acting crazy in a hotel room—are still unresolved.

But the biggest difference between Sheen's situation and Gibson's has nothing to do with their rap sheets or prejudices.

"We have so much public evidence against Mel Gibson—the voice recordings from the phone calls, the photograph of Oksana—all very, very public stuff," Pasetsky explains to me. "In contrast, it appears that Sheen was able to keep a lot of the evidence against him under wraps by negotiating a plea deal."

In other words, the public hates Gibson more because it has had a more intimate relationship with the evidence against him.

We can listen to it over and over via the Internet. With Sheen, we can read about the stuff he's done, but we have no photos of Mueller's face, no phone calls recording crazy things Sheen may have said to her.

And in this era of sight and sound, that's a deciding factor, whether it's right or not.

(Originally published Oct. 26, 2010, at 7:07 p.m. PT)

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