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A Half Man Turns on His Own Sitcom’s ‘Filth’

First Charlie Sheen, now Angus T. Jones. Anyone up for One Man, starring Jon Cryer?

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Well, there goes another Half Man. It’s been more than a year since Charlie Sheen’s public meltdown, which you might recall began with a public feud with Two and a Half Men producer Chuck Lorre before Sheen sailed, Apocalypse Now–like, deep up a river of tiger blood. Now Lorre faces an unexpected rebellion from Angus T. Jones, who plays titular “half man” Jake. Jones, 19, assailed the show in a YouTube video in which he talks about his Christian faith and how it no longer squares with the “filth” he has helped make for nearly a decade on Men.

“If you watch Two and a Half Men,” he says, “please stop watching Two and a Half Men. I’m on Two and a Half Men and I don’t want to be on it. Please stop watching it. Please stop filling your head with filth.”

It’s easy to snark, as I have myself, that Jones has been and still is filling his pockets with “filthy” money, from a show he says is not just bad but pernicious to its viewers. That said, it’s not fair to write off the criticism as prudish religiousness run amok. People should care about the morals and messages of TV shows — God knows I do as a critic — and that extends to the people who make and star in them. We should be more concerned if they don’t care about what their shows are saying.

I can’t say whether I agree with Jones’ criticism, though, because he doesn’t really spell out what part of the filth he hates and why. It’s definitely a raunchy show by broadcast standards, but to me there’s good dirty comedy and bad dirty comedy; my problem with Men is how sour and mean-spirited it is, especially (though not limited) to its female characters. But I don’t know what Jones’ objections are — to a specific attitude, or general vulgar content? — so it’s hard to discuss them.

More generally, to do Jones the favor of taking his stance seriously, as much as I dislike the show I can’t accept his premise that we should be concerned because of “the effects of television [on] your brain.” The idea that stories have simple, direct and predictable effects on the public — that they make people immoral or selfish or bigoted, &c. — is a common one among not just religious culture warriors but also often secular ones, left and right.

A lot of people are invested in the idea that Pop Culture Work X has Effect Y, which both justifies attacks on programming and supports the corollary that if only we had more of one kind of programming and less of another, we could achieve [insert your desired social outcome here]. People would be more moral, society would be more kind, voters would choose the right candidates and so on. I believe that art (and I use the term very broadly) affects people deeply but not predictably; it’s a nonliteral form of expression and thus immeasurably complex in its effects. Which is why, even if I’m no fan of Men, I don’t want to simply endorse the idea of, See, even the guy who stars in the show says it’s bad for you! (As opposed to simply bad, which I would not argue.)

In any case, watching the video, I’m not sure Jones’ problems with the show are well thought-out, and he may be working through a lot of complicated issues in public. (I’d actually like to hear what he thinks of casting a young child in a show like this, as he was when he started on the sitcom.)

But thought-out or not, Jones’ testimony could have ramifications for the show, which has already replaced a bigger star in Sheen and survived. Maybe Lorre could save himself some trouble and rethink the whole title: How about One Man, starring Jon Cryer?

18 comments
MichaelHobbs
MichaelHobbs

gotta love the hypocrisy that spews forth from the mouth of christians.

Lucelucy
Lucelucy

Mandy Patenkin, beloved character of Homeland, as I discovered, quit Criminal Minds saying,  "I never thought they were going to kill and rape all these women every night, every day, week after week, year after year. It was very destructive to my soul and my personality, and after that, I didn't think I would get to work in television again."  Which he did, and to very good effect.  I don't watch either 2 1/2 or Criminal Minds, and long, long ago I stopped watching most of the police procedurals as well (except Castle and Bones) because I realized I was spending way too much time in autopsy rooms and looking askance at my nearest and dearest.

That being said, I just finished reading "King Leopold's Ghost."  In my webpage review, wondering why the people involved had behaved that way, I concluded, "It was done because maiming, forced labor, torture, rape and murder are activities of which people are capable, and when there is no one to stop them, when they are, indeed, rewarded for it, when they are far beyond the bounds of familiar society, they will too easily give in to their worst impulses. At home, these might be people who laid a vicious whip to a horse or beaten a servant for stealing an apple.  Out in Africa, they knew no bounds."

The people who committed foul deeds in Africa did not have TV's.  They exhibited the darkest side of human possibility that was already there.  I do think that there are ways in which television influences our behavior, our expectations of each other.  My biggest fear about shows like Revolution is the message that, in an emergency, first get a gun.  The refutation of that fear came with Hurricane Sandy.  There were probably fans of Revolution in New York and New Jersey, but instead of fearing each other, they rushed out to help.  

Maybe they, too, had thought about the message of Revolution and said to themselves, well, I'm not going to make the mess of things those folks did.  Here, have a blanket.

SJH0627
SJH0627

all that money he "earned" from T&HM really interferred with his unscripted oral communication skills, huh?

DanBruce
DanBruce

If TV shows can make people want to buy things, why is it unreasonable to think that they can make people want to act "immoral or selfish or bigoted, &c"?

DAS37
DAS37

It's been Kirk Cameroned!

PlumbLine
PlumbLine

Hebrews 11:24-25............24 By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin

TVHog
TVHog

"People should care about the morals and messages of TV shows — God knows I do as a critic".

Wow, Jim, what a turnaround.  It was only a few months ago that you blew me off for caring about the morals and messages of a TV show called The B___ in Apartment 23...

D_Coder
D_Coder

I know *I* always listen carefully to opinions from 19-year-olds!

d.kendrick2008
d.kendrick2008

I'm glad he said that because I was concerned how acting in that show would affect him. He was VERY young when he started acting in that program to to be surrounded with such adult themes even if it was just acting.

charlieromeobravo
charlieromeobravo

I think we're seeing him work out some stuff in a very public way. Wasn't he just quoted raving about getting the chance to work with Miley Cyrus last month?  Evidently he learned nothing from the events of last year.

Nevertheless
Nevertheless

Gee, what a choice. Fill your head with TV filth or fill it with ridiculous mumbo-jumbo superstitions? I've got an idea. Turn off TV, close the "holy" books, and open real ones.

Oh, and also give back all of the money, twit.

anon76
anon76

"Sheen sailed, Apocalypse Now–like, deep up a river of tiger blood"

"I loved you on Wall Street!"

(at 0:56)

Sorry, but that was compulsory with such a lead in.

vrcplou
vrcplou

So does this mean he'll be giving back all the "filthy" money earned from the show?

singer1940
singer1940

Good for you Angus.  It is about time that actors react to the junk that is being portrayed as normal on TV.  He is right.  The show is filth just as so many other shows are.  Hollywood it is time to take responsibility for the immorality on TV and movies.  Enough is enough.  Thank you Angus for standing up for your beliefs and for finding another direction to your life.

Beverly Gulseth

poniewozik
poniewozik

We seem to have lost all our comments when we switched platforms a while back, but I'm guessing you're referring to this post?: http://entertainment.time.com/2012/04/19/the-morning-after-lifes-a-b/

I don't recall what we each said, but in the post I'd wrote that I liked the show's portrayal of Krysten Ritter's "depraved" character. Which I still do! Maybe I disagreed with you about your opinion of the show, but that doesn't mean I think no one should ever critique a show for the messages it sends. I may not AGREE with all those critiques, but that's another matter.

I DO believe, though, that a show (or book, or movie) can depict an immoral character without itself being immoral, and that it does not need to shout "THIS BEHAVIOR IS WRONG!" or give that character a comeuppance like a fairy tale. Tony Soprano was depraved, but I don't think The Sopranos was an immoral show--quite the opposite in some ways, though it was very cynical about people's capacity to change.

That's what I believe anyway, though again I don't recall what I wrote in the comments then. It is also possible that I have just not been entirely consistent in every offhanded opinion I've ever blathered about on the Internet. This has been known to happen!

TV_Hog
TV_Hog

Thanks for the response, Jim. You are correct that I had responded to that particular post. I was surprised that you praised the show, especially since you had previously criticized Charlie Sheen for his immoral behavior (possibly a bad comparison on my part). You responded simply by saying "Sheen was a real person". Cute, but it didn't address the issue at all.

I completely agree that "a show can depict an immoral character without itself being immoral". My favorite TV show is Breaking Bad. But... The Sopranos and BB both made it clear that the immoral behavior depicted was not socially acceptable or - especially - amusing entertainment.

That's not so with this new show, where it's considered OK to sleep with your roommate's boyfriend because you're just proving he's a jerk, or that it's OK to cheat potential roommates out of their deposit money because it's done in a funny way. Amusement can lead to acceptance and acceptance can lead to mimicry. Scary thought.

TV has proven that it can influence our behavior, be it for the good (e.g.- acceptance of gays) or the bad. I admire your work, Jim, and I count on you to steer us to the good and away from the bad...