In Defense of ‘Two and Half Men’s’ Angus T. Jones

Angus T. Jones
photo: IMDB.com

I remember well the last time I watched the hit TV show “Two and a Half Men.”

It was back in ancient history when Charlie Sheen still headlined the show, before tiger blood and #winning became household terms.

Sheen played a rich playboy, Jon Cryer (Duckie for those of us from the 80s), his brother, and Jones the brother’s son. They all lived together merrily in the playboy’s mansion. (Ashton Kutcher has since replaced Sheen after Sheen’s very public meltdown.)

The scene etched in my memory showed Jake, Jones’s character, in the kitchen in the morning just trying to eat some cereal. At the time, his character was prepubescent, a child of ten or eleven or maybe twelve. As he was eating his cereal, one of his uncle’s hot young conquests came into the kitchen clad only in a t-shirt and sexy panties. As she reached up, up, up in a cabinet for a coffee cup, her shapely derriere was exposed. The humor came from Jake trying to peek at the revealed heiny and pretending not to.

Sadly, perhaps, I have been jaded by years of movie criticdom. You can say the F-word all day in front of me and I won’t blink. Two consenting adults wrestling and heaving around? Yawn. Blast some brain matter all over a R-rated murder movie and I keep munching my popcorn. In fact, Judd Apatow, who knows no lines he won’t cross, is one of my favorite directors.

But the scene of a little boy and a shapely bottom grieved me.

Are we at the point now in our culture when we laugh at the inappropriate sexualization of a child? Is it funny to parade loose, scantily clad women in front of barely adolescent boys?

That’s what’s funny?

As a mother, I would protect my children from such sexualization, and from the message that women and sex are little more than shapely bodies to be used and ogled for men’s pleasure.

Maybe that’s just me.

When Angus T. Jones surfaced in a video saying the show is filth,  he’s not far off.

But let’s be clear in the storm of scorn and ridicule that is raining on his head.

When Jones signed on to the show, he was a child. He was ten years old when the show started in 2003. As a child, his parents had the final decision on whether to take the role, with advice from his agent and other people. He did not technically choose. Once he had a contract, which in Hollywood are the legal equivalent of Fort Knox, he also did not have a choice to leave the show.

That he has grown to a young man of 19, able to think for himself and consider the values of the show for himself is laudable not laughable. We would all want our own children to think for themselves as they became adults.

Jones has since apologized to his cast and crew, although he has not retracted his “filth” comment. He renewed his contract for another year. His return, although in a diminished role, not only means he receives $8 million. It also means others benefit. When you star on a successful sitcom, there are hundreds and hundreds of minor cast, crew, and assorted assistants who depend on the show for their livelihood. Throwing a show into turmoil is not a small thing.

Perhaps Jones can have some impact on the show, perhaps all his impact will be speaking out in the public arena. His newfound faith seems to be motivating him well. However, the best outcome would be if instead of deriding a young man who has begun to come into his own,  we had a grown-up conversation about what lines remain in our culture and if we’re comfortable with that.

I know I’m not comfortable with the show that made a comedy theme of hypersexualizing everything in Jake’s world.

To me it seems closer to child abuse, of both the character Jake and the actor who played him, than to humor.

About Rebecca Cusey

Rebecca is a lead critic and editor of entertainment at Patheos. Follow her on Twitter @Rebecca_Cusey

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  • Agkcrbs

    Does an employee who winks at company scandals have room to turn and criticise his bosses once they’re exposed? I can appreciae Cusey’s cultural connection, and she may just be trying to build ethos with her supposed audience who has also been desensitised into a diminished ability of critical media consumption, but when she faults an industry culture of which she’s a passive, willing spectator, her mild outrage for the sake of the children is not entirely, but largely, lost on me.

    Yet more notable, and even miraculous in my opinion, is that God could reach into a swamp like Hollywood and pull out such a bright young man. I remember overseeing that rotten show once or twice years ago and wondering about that boy’s parents, and what a slippery path he’d been plopped down onto from infancy. There was little to admire or hope for in him. God knew better, as usual; may he keep the boy, bless those Adventists, and guide his other errant sheep, even all of us, who are foreigners together in this world of death.

  • Joshua

    Good article. Ms. Cusey’s article is the first I’ve read that points out that he was a child when he was contracted for the show, which admittedly I didn’t even consider. I also enjoyed her own down-to-earth take on being desensitized to violence and sex while making her critique. (I admit that my own aversion to “Two and a Half Men”‘s rice-paper-thin shallowness is in conflict with the shamelessness of other movies I’ve watched.)

    Although Mr. Jones should’ve been much more careful about disparaging the television show that made him a star and pays him a hefty sum, he is still very young, has a lot to learn, and nonetheless his impressions could possibly encourage and inspire people, especially youths. At least he can say that not everyone who works on a racy Hollywood series is as unabashed as Charlie Sheen in their personal life.

  • Anonymous

    What is the point of defending the kid? He’s obviously in the right and was simply stating the obvious. I’ve never been able to watch the entire show, but the couple of shows I’ve sadly seen minutes of are execrable. Is there anyone who could seriously state “no, the show is not filth – it’s a wonderful and valuable addition to our culture.” Of course not.


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