The Ethics Agony of Angus T. Jones

How could such a lucky kid complain?

Angus Jones, the “Half” of CBS’s resilient sitcom “Two and a Half Men, ” is receiving heavy doses of criticism and mockery in entertainment circles (and Blog World, of  course) for being so ungrateful and graceless as to post a YouTube video condemning the very TV show that has made him rich and famous over the last nine years, taking him from childhood to majority. The video was posted by the Alabama-based church Forerunner Chronicles, which apparently Baptized Jones recently. “You cannot be a true God-fearing person and be on a television show like [‘Two and a Half Men’]. I know I can’t. I’m not okay with what I’m learning, what the Bible says, and being on that television show.” He goes on to say,

“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.”

Is this disloyal and ungrateful conduct toward a show, a cast and employers that have given Jones wealth, celebrity and fame? Undoubtedly. If he had come by this station in life through his own efforts and fully informed choices, I would agree with the Hollywood chorus accusing the 19-year-old of “biting the hand that feeds him.” Jones, however, was indentured to “Two and a Half Men” at the age of ten, which is to say that he had little say in it or his life path so far. His parents, like the parents of most child actors, decided that his innate performing talent was worth a lot of money to them and him, and that this was reason enough to launch him into a field with a century-long track record of turning children into dysfunctional celebrity addicts, often setting them on the road to addiction, isolation, depression, failure, and death.

Jones has been one of the three stars of the Chuck Lorre ratings champ since 2003, but was only able to sign his last contract by himself. To say that he “chose” to spend his childhood on the show is to distort the word. While it is true that he might have quit the cast once he was of legal age, that is a big step for any teenager to take. Not only has the show been his world for most of his conscious life; it is also his source of income and identity. With an entire production staff reminding him that he holds their livelihoods and the security of their own children in his hands, there is every reason for Jones to feel trapped.

If not a “filthy show,” “Two and a Half Men” has always been a smutty show, one that I would not care to have associated with my childhood for all eternity. I am also confident that no amount of cash waived in my parents faces would have prompted them to commit me to year after year taking part in set-ups to jokes about flaccid penises, masturbation, prostitutes and STD’s, not to mention having to be around a perverted creep like Charlie Sheen all day. Jones was likely to come out of his ordeal a mini-Sheen, a future Macaulay Culkin (that is, desperately and futilely seeking past measures of fame and show business success), or, in the best case scenario, aware that his life over the past decade was neither healthy nor a template for the future and determined to change course. His video suggests that he may have attained the latter state of mind, and for that we should all be grateful.

The forces of industry, peer pressure and parental hooks apparently came down fast to squelch this light, however. Angus, or perhaps it is more accurate to say his publicist, quickly released a full-Pazuzu of a retraction, a statement that reads as if it was composed by North Korean interrogators for recitation by brain-washed America prisoners-of war:

“I have been the subject of much discussion, speculation and commentary over the past 24 hours. While I cannot address everything that has been said or right every misstatement or misunderstanding, there is one thing I want to make clear. Without qualification, I am grateful to and have the highest regard and respect for all of the wonderful people on Two and Half Men with whom I have worked over the past ten years and who have become an extension of my family.Chuck Lorre, Peter Roth and many others at Warner Bros. and CBS are responsible for what has been one of the most significant experiences in my life to date. I thank them for the opportunity they have given and continue to give me and the help and guidance I have and expect to continue to receive from them.

“I also want all of the crew and cast on our show to know how much I personally care for them and appreciate their support, guidance and love over the years. I grew up around them and know that the time they spent with me was in many instances more than with their own families. I learned life lessons from so many of them and will never forget how much positive impact they have had on my life. I apologize if my remarks reflect me showing indifference to and disrespect of my colleagues and a lack of appreciation of the extraordinary opportunity of which I have been blessed. I never intended that.”

“To recap,” mocked Washington Post TV critic Lisa de Moraes,

“1. Show is filth.

2. No disrespect intended.”

I’d recap the episode a little differently. The child-star system has snagged another victim, he knows it, and is trying to find his way out. It is immensely difficult; ask Danny Bonaduce, Gary Coleman, Anissa Jones, Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes, Corey Haim, and most of all, ask Paul Petersen, whose selfless organization,  A Minor Consideration, fights for the welfare, wages and lives of exploited child performers like Jones.

Don’t mock Angus Jones. Root for him. The odds against him getting out of this experience with his emotions and spirit intact are not encouraging.


Sources: Washington Post, Examiner

13 thoughts on “The Ethics Agony of Angus T. Jones

  1. Pingback: The Ethics Agony of Angus T. Jones | Ethics |

  2. I hate that he has been forced to recant like that. Peterson has said enough about Twilight, I find actors who realize something is wrong and say so, very admirable. He’s lost so much or a childhood, and for that show? He has every right to be allowed to say that it’s beyond the pale..

  3. I hadn’t looked at it from your point of view concerning that he was brought into this show as a child and really had no choice so from that stand you have changed my mind about being ungrateful for the success this show has brought him. I will say though that if he feels this way about the show he should quit. And as an adult performer now he has a reasonability to either do the show and not bad mouth it or just quit.

  4. Can’t I mock him and root for him at the same time? The show is filth in as much as it’s just horrible. The normal adjective would be crap. Distancing himself from it is a good goal. Distancing himself from it because of what someone wrote down in a very old book? Highly mockable, though, I guess after spending most of his formidable years with Charlie Sheen, not completely unreasonable as rebellions go.

    • Sure you can. I just think, based on what I’ve seen of the kid, that he’s in a fix not of his own making; that he’s finally old enough to understand what he’s been making his millions doing, feels like its soul-killing, but doesn’t feel like he has the strength or leverage to extract himself from the situation (I don’t know how binding his contract is.) Hoping the show is cancelled (“Stop watching!”) is a reasonable option in his case, maybe the only one he feels up to. He seems like a nice kid who’s managed not to turn into a monster yet, and thus not especially fun to ridicule because of his dilemma or clumsy way of dealing with it.

      • Agreed on all counts. I don’t always enjoy specific instances where I mock and attack religion (especially when they’re related to people and goals that I do like), but, with my previous behavior, I’d see failing to mock someone as a dereliction of duty. Letting a bad argument go because I like the greater goal.

        • Sure. I just think we should understand his unfortunate situation. He’s locked into a role and a show when he’s too young to know what’s going on, and now that he does know, he realizes he is already identified with something he isn’t proud of and that may go against his own values, and yet he has no idea how to fix the problem. His first instinct wasn’t a good one, but I can’t blame him too much for having it.

  5. What could a studio do legally if an actor under 18 decided he or she no longer wanted to carry on doing a part and refused to act?
    Also, how can a contract signed by the actor’s parents be enforcable after the actor’s 18th birthday?

  6. Naturally, I agree with your analysis, Jack. I find it inspiring that a former child actor, who’s been profanely exploited for as long as he has, can find his way to a clear understanding of his situation in spite of it. Miracles do happen! I can only hope that other present and former child actors who’ve been exploited like him (or worse) will take note and re-evaluate their own circumstances. The Hollywood system is like a dam that holds its young victims in a reservoir of depravity. But one small breech can collapse a dam. Will Jones be that one?

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