According to an article posted on the NASW blog, actor Charlie Sheen is involved in a new project where he plays a social worker with anger management issues. The profession is already often misrepresented and poorly portrayed in the media. Having Charlie Sheen play a scriptwriter's portrayal of a "social worker" can only mean more bad publicity for our profession.
What sets social work apart from other jobs such as politicians, soldiers, doctors, and nurses is that the public has a general idea of what these professions do. When it comes to social work, our profession is often associated with child welfare. Hence, social workers are typically seen in antagonistic "baby snatcher" roles on TV and film. While Charlie Sheen won't be playing a child welfare social worker on his new show, I'm still skeptical he will provide a remotely respectable imitation of the profession.
Furthermore, many dramas and films use medical, political, and military consultants to review scripts (i.e. House, The West Wing, and Battle: Los Angeles). I have yet to hear of a social worker consultant that works for Hollywood to ensure our profession is portrayed correctly. Until this happens, expect to continue seeing very telescopic interpretations of how social work in roles written and edited by non-social workers.
I doubt I'll watch Charlie Sheen's new show, but I'm sure I'll probably have to defend social work at some point as a result. It's the least I can do to help combat the nonsense perpetuated by popular media.