Isn’t Angus T. Jones Mostly Right?

I’m a little befuddled by people’s hostility toward Angus T. Jones’s slamming of Two and a half Men. He says:

Please stop filling your head with filth. Please. People say it’s just entertainment. The fact that it’s entertainment. Do some research on the effects of television and your brain and I promise you you’ll have a decision to make when it comes to the television…It’s bad news. I don’t know if it means any more coming from me. But you might have heard it otherwise. But watch out…A lot of people don’t like to think how deceptive the enemy is. He’s been doing this a lot longer than any of us have been around…You cannot be a true, God-fearing person and be on a show like that.

And so what? Isn’t he right? The kinds of stuff you dump into your brain does have an effect on you. It’s not like watching movies where people shoot each other means that you’re going to run out and shoot people. It’s not a one-to-one correlation. But watching a ton of entertainment where women are reduced to sex toys or shrews or both does reinforce the idea that women are sex toys or shrews or both. And we do believe that there’s entertainment that’s not appropriate for children, right? People like ratings on movies and tv and video games for a reason. So we must believe that what we view has some impact. And he’s right that being on a show like that is pretty contrary to being a good Christian. So, what’s the problem? That he thinks the Devil is somehow involved? People, Two and a Half Men is a terrible show and you should not watch it! He isn’t wrong.

Is the problem that he’s been taking a paycheck from the show? He was eight when the show started–so not his choice to be on it. When the contract was signed making him the highest paid child star on television, he was seventeen. He wasn’t legally able to negotiate or sign that contract. But he’s responsible for “choosing” to be on the show? I call bullshit. Every contract he’s been under when it comes to that show has been made while he was a minor.

Plus, we don’t know what he does with his money. Maybe he does give it all to good causes. According to Wikipedia, he’s a do-gooder:

On June 7, 2008, Jones joined other stars including Dakota Fanning, Cuba Gooding Jr., Val Kilmer, and former Bringing Down the House co-star Kimberly J. Brown, in lending their support to the First Star Organization to help abused and neglected children.

In August 2008, Jones joined other stars such as Madeline Zima, Thom Barry, and Brandon Barash at the annual “Rock ‘N Roll Fantasy Camp.”

On October 4, 2008, Jones joined Miranda Cosgrove, Meaghan Jette Martin, Ray Liotta, Selena Gomez, and Shailene Woodley to attend the Variety’s Power of Youth benefit for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

In October 2009, Two and a Half Men co-star Jon Cryer presented Jones with the award for the Rising Star of 2009 at the Big Brothers Big Sisters Rising Star Gala.

Jones also supports the anti-bullying alliance co-founded by The Creative Coalition and WWE, B.A. Star whose mission is to ensure a positive and equitable social environment for everyone regardless of age, race, religion or sexual orientation through grassroots efforts beginning with education and awareness.

So, what’s the problem? That he said out loud what anyone with two eyes can see? That the show is terrible and that it’s a weird thing for kids to be watching, let alone participating in?

I’m with Alyssa Rosenberg on this, when she says

But I’d actually like to hear in more detail what Jones thinks about the show where he effectively grew up. How did Two and a Half Men affect Jones’ views of women? What did the show’s perspective teach him about what it means to be a good man, and a successful man, if the two ideas are different? When he interacts with fans of the show, do they seem to be taking away different messages than the ones he thought he grew up conveying? How does he feel about Jake, the character he’s playing, specifically? I’d imagine Jones’ critique of the show might skew more towards the show’s deviations from Biblically-ordained gender roles, where mine might focus on the show’s dismissive attitudes about women. And I’m more likely to blame the work of Man rather than the Adversary for creating those images and disseminating those attitudes. But I don’t think Jones is wrong to take culture, or his role in producing it, seriously.

I think it’s great that Jones has matured into the kind of young man who takes seriously what he’s doing and whether it’s good for him and for society at large. We could use more of that, I think. He may mellow some as he gets older, may rethink his stance. But I think it’s good for him as a person–and natural for someone of college age–that he’s wrestling with these things, even if it’s maybe not good for him as a working actor.

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13 thoughts on “Isn’t Angus T. Jones Mostly Right?

  1. There’s a ‘biting the hand that fed you’ mentality that has got a lot of people upset. I do give that some weight for an adult, but I don’t really think that should apply to him since he was obviously a minor.

    I don’t necessarily think the existence of rating systems makes your case. The accepted wisdom with ratings is that they’re necessary for kids because they don’t have a value system in place yet. Adults are supposed to be able to be able to make their decisions without being overly affected by what they’re watching. (Obviously not true, but it does take a lot more to affect an adult than it does a child.)

  2. I think it’s just interesting from several perspectives. From the perspective of a Christian with some years under her belt I am bothered by his zealotry; from the perspective of someone who watched the show for a season I agree wholeheartedly that it is misogynistic, fatist, materialistic and often, ironically, misandrist.

    You raise an interesting point in that I had totally spaced on him being a minor for most of this. Because there is a part of me who is cynical enough to see this as a ploy for a dying show to take one last stab at cultural relevance. That same cynical part of me sees a kid who was on this show earning cray cray money for a lotta years and only now, that the goose is all laid out of eggs, decided that this was a Bad Job.

  3. Yes, but let’s be clear. No one knows if he could really say no to being on the show. A lot of people are supposing that, if a kid went to his parents and said, “I don’t want to do this,” his parents would have backed him. And perhaps his parents would have. I don’t know.

    But if we had to guess how able a kid who may be the breadwinner for his family is to say “I want to quit” and we look at other stage parents, I think we have to guess that it’s not very easy.

    After all, these are people who let him work long hours with a guy living in a 24-hour a day drug fueled orgy.

    I think we have to say that, even if they’re well-meaning, they may not have the best judgment.

  4. I’m mostly in agreement with Coble, except I have maybe watched two or three episodes of the show at someone else’s house. I will say, though, that he is not a minor now. He’s capable of walking away now—however difficult or painful that may be. If he’s going to be brave enough to make a statement like that it should be part of a resignation. It’s hollow otherwise.

  5. I’m curious about who’s got hostility over the lad’s comments; I’m a bit more befuddled, myself. Hierarchical orthodox religions are patriarchal and misogynistic by design, so a show that uses ‘humor’ as a vehicle for reinforcing patriarchal and misogynistic ideals would seem to be doing the ‘Lord’s work,’ as it were. (Now maybe we could argue that ‘the Adversary’ has injected all that woman-hate into religion as a way to discredit the Almighty, but that’d be a dislocation-inducing stretch.)

    What follows is naught but anecdotal evidence, I know, but it illustrates my point, such as it is. Most of the guys I know who watch the show faithfully (all at firehouses, of course) are practicing Catholics. I’m not saying they’re religiously devout, mind you, but they are, generally, raging misogynists (at least at the firehouses), homophobes, and perhaps just a wee bit racist in certain cases. So as long as the ‘filth’ is packaged in a way that reifies the social order to which they’ve subscribed, game on!

  6. Samantha, he can’t just resign. His parents signed him into a three year contract when he was 17 and he’s only 19 now. I think badmouthing the show so much that they fire him IS all he can do to walk away. Unless we’re now requiring people to tangle themselves in enormous lawsuits they will inevitably lose before we respect them floundering their way to some kind of understanding.

    Sam, I can’t knock too hard any denomination directly responsible for Frosted Mini Wheats.

  7. I agree with my misspelled namesake over at ThinkProgress on this–it would actually be very interesting to hear how growing up on that show affected him. If he grew up around Charlie Sheen and that whole mess, and has now come to the conclusion that he wants his life to be the opposite of that, I can hardly begrudge him that.

    But the cynic in me does wonder if he would say the same things if the show were still at the top of the ratings rather than on life support.

  8. I agree with B. The boy called it what it is, and he honestly didn’t need a religious affiliation to make that call. It, like so many other sitcoms, has long pandered to the lowest common denominator and resorted to whatever would get a reaction — usually nervous or shocked laughter — rather than genuine humor. Couple that with what the boy has witnessed that didn’t make it to air, and he certainly has made a point.

    My concern is the potential for a church, or people affiliated with a “church” (I don’t know how close this group hews to Seventh-Day Adventist doctrine, but I suspect it’s not by the proverbial book), to use this boy to get the money he’s made from said filth. It’s happened too often not to be a valid concern.

    The boy’s a good little actor. Hope he can move forward and do work that makes him proud.

  9. I feel like I need to reiterate that it’s a terrible show, that I’m not some disgruntled fan. While we disagree on what makes it terrible—he thinks Satan, I think terrible writing aimed to appeal to the lowest-common denominator—I agree with him, it’s a terrible show. He did not put himself in this position initially but, now that he’s had a crisis of conscience as an adult, it’s up to him to leave it.

    He is not working at McDonald’s making Big Macs after becoming vegetarian, where quitting would mean he won’t be able to pay the bills. He’s been making hundreds of thousands of dollars a week acting. Unless his parents have stolen from him—which is entirely possible—he should be able to get by. And every contract has clauses to let both parties walk away. It may hurt financially, but you can walk away. He can also refuse to perform the duties of his job and be fired that way. Making a testimony video and waiting/hoping to be fired, while continuing to work … I’m not sure how he’s not complicit from that point forward.

    Anyway. Here’s to hoping the show is canceled swiftly either way and the kid can go to college and move on with his life.

  10. But we don’t know that he’s continuing to work, do we? Plus, he was there through the Sheen crisis and knows how unsettling that must have been for the rest of the cast and crew to not know if they were going to have jobs. I imagine that has to weigh heavily on someone who is trying to make the right moral choice.

    And I guess that’s why i find the situation interesting. He’s come to realize something–that he makes something that is no good for people. He also knows that, if he stops making it, people he has come to care about over the past decade will be hurt. They’ll lose their jobs.

    I’m interested to see how he handles it. I just find it peculiar that so many people think it’s obvious that he’s not handled it correctly, even though it seems clear he’s not done handling it at all.

    It can’t be easy to come to realize that the thing A LOT of people you care about had you doing for the past decade is pretty much the opposite of what you would choose to do, that it’s not a situation you’d willingly put yourself in. To me, that seems like a huge existential crisis–something that probably takes a person years to figure out how to make sense of and deal with.

    The part that is strange to me is that it seems like the fact that he’s floundering at it and doing it in weird, somewhat fucked up ways really bugs people. As if there’s some obvious, gracious way to make sense of the fact that a great deal of the people you care about set you on this fucked up task for a decade while you were a child.

    Maybe I just over-identify with that. Ha ha ha.

  11. Heh, and you know how I make sense of it. :)

    I can’t really articulate why this is landing in the button-pushing space in my head, somewhere between the evangelical pastors who we find out later are gay and the 20-something college students who try to use the “just kids” defense to beg off charges that young adults who can’t afford college have to deal with.

    But this seems to be how he handles it: http://gawker.com/5963824/angus-t-jones-apologizes-for-anti+two-and-a-half-men–video

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