Angus T. Jones has publicly condemned the only reason anyone knows his name. (Good career move, kid.) He now believes the sitcom he’s been a part of for nearly a decade is, in a word, “filth”. Judging by some of the media coverage regarding this story he’s not the only one who feels this way.
Jim Emerson, the Scanners blogger who edits Roger Ebert’s website, believes Jones was simply stating the obvious:
“…it’s a raunchy, lowball sitcom (like so many network and cable shows, past and present). Isn’t the “filth” the point of the show, the reason it exists and why people watch it? I doubt it’s for the rich characterizations, moving stories or thought-provoking themes. Or the brilliant comedy writing. (Subjects pretty much limited to: poop, farts, urine, breasts, butts, penises, vaginas, sex, booze, drugs.)”
Ebert’s old TV sparring partner Richard Roeper at the Chicago Sun-Times readily concurs:
“As for Jones labeling ‘Two and a Half Men’ as ‘filth,’ well, yeah. That’s pretty much been the dominant characteristic of the show since it premiered in 2003. Charlie Sheen’s Charlie Harper was an alcoholic sex addict who slept with literally dozens of women.
A few random episode descriptions, via TV.com:
‘Charlie is stunned to learn his ex-girlfriend is now a man who is dating his mom.’
‘Alan isn’t thrilled when he learns of Lyndsey’s adult film.’
‘Charlie double dates with Jake and fixes Alan up with a hooker.’
‘Alan reveals a secret fetish.”
Say what you will about Two And A Half Men, the long running CBS sitcom that remains quite popular and profitable despite its age, lack of critical support and all the needless behind-the-scenes upheaval involving two screwed up cast members (one who has already left and one who is sure to join him), but it’s not filthy, not even close. Let me explain why.
Last night, I caught an episode of The Fifth Estate, Canada’s 60 Minutes. Well, most of it. (I missed a bit of the beginning.) Anyway, this week, they did a show on Luka Magnotta, the deeply troubled Scarborough man who was arrested for murder back in June. Possibly suffering from body dysmorphic disorder, he’s a former model, stripper, escort, reality TV contestant and gay porn actor who’s had numerous unnecessary plastic surgeries on his face because he reportedly hates his looks. That’s not the filthy part.
You see, the 30-year-old Magnotta allegedly made these snuff videos for the Internet hoping to make a name for himself. Early ones featured him killing innocent kittens, one by drowning it in a bath tub, two others by suffocation when he put them through a vaccum. Then, he kidnapped a Chinese exchange student, 32-year-old Lin Jun who had just moved to Toronto, and made a video that reportedly shows him repeatedly stabbing a naked, helpless Jun with an ice pick and then raping his dead body. Afterwards, he severed numerous parts of Lin’s body on-camera and then mailed specific parts to Canadian government officials and, for some unknown reason, a couple of elementary schools. (He’ll have his day in court this coming March (he’s denied all the charges) but it doesn’t look good for him.)
Thankfully, I have not seen any of these depraved-sounding videos nor do I want to. (Who would want to?) But based on what The Fifth Estate reported, we have a much clearer understanding of what “filth” is. Actually killing anyone or anything on camera for entertainment purposes online is filth. Recording a real-life rape or sexual misconduct for supposed public titilation is filth. Recording real-life torture or violence for the same reason is filth. Even the acts themselves are filth. Reporting on them, of course, is a public service meant to help expedite justice.
My old-school Cage Canadian Dictionary defines the word as “foul, disgusting dirt” (like actual, physical garbage people throw away every day) and “obscene words or thoughts; vileness, moral corruption”. Does anything depicted on Two And A Half Men ever truly live up to the meaning of that last definition? Does a silly fart joke really corrupt one’s morals? What about quips about sexual organs, consensual sexual activity, drug use, bodily functions like peeing and pooping? Are they really obscene?
No. How can they be when you know the story of Luka Magnotta.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, December 1, 2012