A surprising turn of events has overtaken the set of CBS' Two and a Half Men. In a stark contrast to the last controversy the sitcom faced, there's actually a member of the cast who's too good a person for Chuck Lorre's show. Angus T. Jones, the 19-year-old who has played Jake Harper since the series' inception (the half-man of the program's title), has opened up about his recent transformation into a Born Again Christian. As such, Jones has taken to bashing Two and a Half Men for its sordid material, publicly asking Americans to stop watching.
Jones is hardly the first young television actor whose newfound religion has come into conflict with the content of his show — famously, Kirk Cameron often clashed with the creative forces while starring on the family comedy Growing Pains. Since his turn on the series, Cameron has remained an outspoken purveyor of his ideologies, most notably his vividly offensive perspective on homosexuality.
It's not particularly difficult to imagine Two and a Half Men coming across as offensive to anyone, let alone someone with pronounced conservative values. But those of us who've seen our share of Growing Pains episodes might approach Cameron's concerns with more curiosity. The Seavers never traversed into territories too foul or too adult, so what exactly was it with which Cameron might have taken issue on the series? What sort of television show might he prefer?
Perhaps the only safe bet for the likes of Jones and Cameron, actors who might wish to continue their careers but with material they deem suitable, is to gather other forces of conservative value to comprise a new series entirely... picture it: The Born Agains!
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Hollywood isn't exactly filled with outspoken Christians, but the actors who do belong to this community get a fair amount of press for it: there's Mel Gibson, of course, and Everybody Loves Raymond and The Middle star Patricia Heaton. You've got your leading pair right there: even-keeled reverend and family man Earl Mangrove and his homemaker wife Jennifer operate a bed and breakfast in the simple country town of Heatherwood. Their young son Dennis (Jones) is an all-smiles Eagle Scout who spends his time doing volunteer work, while Jennifer's younger brother Lowell (Cameron) lends a hand with the wholesome day-to-day facing the family, and Stephen Baldwin plays the mailman.
The pilot episode focuses on Earl and Lowell teaching woodworking at the community center, while Dennis helps Postmaster Baldwin search for his lost dog, Jasper (played by renowned Born Again Christian Uggie).
How's all that sound? Vaguely offensive? ... yeah, it is.
While we're wont to happen upon a label like "Born Again Christian" and assign any number of connotations we've marshaled over the years, the philosophy, like any other, takes form in a variety of ways. Heaton has voiced her religion-based political beliefs in the past, earning heat when she attacked a Georgetown University student over the issue of birth control. Heaton's ideological rigidity may have earned her controversy in the public eye, but the actress doesn't seem to have the same history of behind-the-scenes troubles regarding her own shows that Jones and Cameron have exhibited.
So we wonder: is Growing Pains any less wholesome than The Middle, a similarly structured program about a middle-class family comprised of a girl-crazy oldest son, a geeky middle-child daughter, and an impish youngest son? The distinction that needs highlighting isn't between Growing Pains and The Middle, orTwo and a Half Men and Everybody Loves Raymond, or any two shows at all, but between the belief systems of Cameron and Heaton. Perhaps what Cameron would consider inappropriate material, Heaton would deem an honest depiction of family life.
More importantly, it's important to identify these figures as individuals rather than as representations of a faith. There are self-affirmed Born Agains who, unlike Cameron and Heaton, will not attack those who embody beliefs contrary to their own. When aforementioned GU student Sandra Fluke's professed her position in favor of birth control, Heaton responded by mocking her and proclaiming her sexually promiscuous (for which Heaton later apologized, declaring her own actions disrespectful).
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Our society has allotted itself a few "acceptable" targets for generalized mockery: Born Agains, Mormons, Scientologists, Canadians. Few who do not belong to these groups will bat an eye at any harsh words directed toward them, while the same attitudes thrown the way of many other religious and ethnic groups would be deemed reprehensible. Just because Kirk Cameron might be a homophobe, and might align his own prejudices with his spirituality, that shouldn't assign everyone branded with a like-named faith the connotations of this bigotry. Just because Patricia Heaton was once willing to taunt a college student, guilty of nothing but voicing her positions on health care and birth control, that shouldn't mean we consider all members of Heaton's denomination to be bullies. We can (and in certain cases, should) disagree with their opinions and behavior, but we should not cast out anyone and everyone who seems to be on the same side. Don't discard a human being because of whatever label with which they might be stuck — learn what they truly feel and think about life, the world, and everything, and then, if you must satisfy your craving for misanthropy, configure good reasons to hate them (with the notable exception of Emma Stone, there's a good reason to hate just about anybody).
As such, let us remember: The Born Agains doesn't have to be Mel Gibson ranting his paranoia, Kirk Cameron spreading his intolerance, or Patricia Heaton being mean to 20-somethings. It could be a happy, likable completely open minded contemporary family. And let us remember further: we should not mock Mel, Kirk, and Patricia for their faiths, just as we shouldn't mock Tom Cruise for his Scientology or the Osmonds for being Mormons. No sir. We should mock them because they're nut-jobs.
[Photo Illustration by Hollywood.com; Photo Credits: WENN (2); Retna; iStockphoto]
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“A story that will make you believe in God.”
This is how Piscine Patel’s journey, both in the novel Life of Pi and in Ang Lee’s film adaptation, is introduced to an aspiring writer who comes to visit an adult Patel in Canada, years after his treacherous affair through the Pacific. In the movie, Pi’s story excites, enchants, and bewilders — it is wholly uplifting all the way through. If you enter the tale ready and willing to accept any piece of incredulity as proof of a higher authority, you’ll walk away from Pi’s thrill-ride ensconced in a bolstered faith. But there is something otherwise necessary to really instill the majesty and power of Pi’s story that the movie seems to overlook: the negative. At least to the degree it is served in Yann Martel’s classic novel.
In the book, we see a good deal of Pi’s life prior to his seafaring voyage, mostly confined to his perspectives on his father’s zoo. We meet several figures who had a hand in shaping Pi’s mind and philosophy — teachers and holy men (of the Hindu, Catholic, and Muslim faiths) who are understandably cut from or reduced within the film, presumably in the interests of time or precision.
A character to whom the movie does uniquely introduce us while on dry land is Richard Parker, the Bengal tiger who’d eventually become Pi’s comrade through his death-defying journey from India to Mexico. In the film, Richard Parker is adorned with Pi’s reverence as the most wonderful animal in the zoo, while a literary Pi affixed a good deal of his attention on sloths and rhinoceroses — another understandable institution by Lee: if we’re going to spend an entire adventure with this cat, we should probably get attached to him from the get-go. But a small inkling of the dreamy, Disney-like attitude that Lee’s Life of Pi would be taking throughout.
Once the Patel family sets sail, the story begins — the book jumps immediately to the disaster that sends Pi stranded on the open waters, while the movie gives us time to build tension on the ill-fated ship, eventually exploding into the most beautiful, vivid, and terrifying ship-sinking scene in the past 15 years of cinema. When Pi awakens on the bow of his lifeboat, skies clear and animals in tow, a state of tranquility sets in to soften the blow of the horrible tragedy that has just befallen our hero. In the movie, this tranquility becomes the standard: Pi is lonely, sad, frustrated, and scared, but we hardly ever see him (or his wild friends) suffer. In the book, suffering drips from every one of Martel’s increasingly mad words.
The real culprit here is the MPAA rating. Branded with a PG, the movie doesn’t have the free range to exhibit Pi’s physical anguish, nor the brutal killings of his orangutan and zebra friends at the hands of that vicious pest the hyena. The deaths of these animals are heavy and dense in the literature. They are not just low points, they are ghosts that haunt the boat from thereon out. Pi’s sickeningly descriptive illustration of the hyena’s consumption of the zebra and beheading of the orangutan help to institute just how dastardly his situation is. The same can be said for literary Pi’s indulgent explanations of his own physical turmoil: his thirst, his starvation, the torture being imparted upon his constitution and his frying, blistering skin. Pi reserves no detail, allowing us to experience fully every bit of agony that he and Richard are enduring. In the movie, be this a case of censorship, time sensitivity, or simply an artistic choice by Lee, such suffering is not felt. Instead, we’re treated to a wild, free-wheeling, magical journey — sometimes sad and sometimes scary, yes, but never emitting the true sentiment of hopelessness to which the book so vigorously attends.
In this vein, the movie opts to omit some of the film’s darkest, grittiest scenes: the intestinal issues facing Pi and Richard Parker; the decay of the dead animals onboard the ship; Pi’s dispirited killing of various sea turtles, and the consumption of their blood; and, most notably, a scene in which Pi goes completely blind (temporarily) and happens upon a fellow waterlogged survivor who attempts (an idea never fully acknowledged by Pi) to kill and eat him… before facing the violent wrath of Richard Parker.
The difficulty in pulling off a scene effectively delivering Pi’s newfound visual impairment, from his perspective no less, might well have been the reason for this scene’s omission — especially since the book intentionally left the identity of the cannibalistic survivor (a Frenchman, suggesting that he might have been the cook from the same ship that doomed Pi) unconfirmed. This is perhaps one of the strongest and most memorable scenes in the novel, during which Pi deludes himself into believing that Richard Parker is the one speaking to him, and likewise, into believing that his new friend had nothing but the purest of intentions for joining Pi on his lifeboat. It is, in truth, a dark and somber scene — the dangling of hope and humanity in front of Pi and the reader just to snatch it away in all forms. It represents some of the lowest depths to which the book drops; the movie, however, doesn’t dare dive so deep.
There is indeed something wonderful about Ang Lee’s Life of Pi. It not only lives up to some of the most wonderful, uplifting imagery of Martel’s writing, but far exceeds it — a visual spectacle unprecedented in cinema, Lee’s camerawork does have the flare of poetry. But unfortunately, the director only applies his skills to the “bright,” the wondrous. For reasons presumably to do with attracting a young audience, the PG community, Lee strays from the dark and the morbid, with which Martel’s novel is riddled. And without the low points, the torture and the suffering, the delusions, we cannot truly understand the peaks and valleys Pi’s unbelievable journey. And without these, this isn’t quite a story that has earned the claim of making its audience believe in God.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
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“Death and taxes” — the cynic’s answer to the question of worldly certainty. Sure, there are things we’d like to believe we can count on. We never assumed we’d have to say goodbye to Law & Order. Nobody could have foreseen that our solar system would lose a planet — a moon or two, sure, but never an entire planet. And what sage soothsayer could have predicted the latest loss to hit American society: the bankruptcy of Hostess Twinkies?
The Huffington Post has announced that the dessert corporation is in the process of seeking liquidation, rendering the world’s future sans the one thing we thought would be around forever… quite literally.
One of the proudest achievements of the cream-filled sponge substitute was its ability to persevere through any sort of environmental trauma. The roaches of snack foods, Twinkies were thought to long outlast the human race, providing a sustained source of nourishment (in the loosest sense of the word) long after our society would be forced to face a treacherous apocalyptic nightmare.
Popular culture has branded Twinkies with this attribute time and time over. The 1999 episode of Family Guy, parodying the timely fears of an imminent global destruction at the hands of whatever Y2K was (a robot attack? It’s hard to remember, I pretty much ignored anything that didn’t have to do with Pokémon back then), placed its starring family amid a desolate United States, seeking salvation on the open road. Eventually, the Griffins happened upon a Massachusetts Twinkie factory, which provided their ultimate salvation.
A more recent example to depict with reverence human salvation at the hand of the Twinkies is the 2010 horror-comedy Zombieland. Long after an outbreak leaves America ravaged by flesh-eating monsters, an unnamed renegade gunslinger (Woody Harrelson) roams the highways, perpetually seeking out his favorite mass-produced pastry, reveling ecstatically when he happens upon a whole store full of ‘em towards the end of the movie.
But now that Twinkies will be no more, our society seems especially doomed. The projected end of the world as we know it (stop humming) is scheduled for next month — exactly five weeks away, at this point — meaning we don't even have time to adequately prepare for this devastating news. Most of us have approached this oncoming armageddon with a cavalier attitude, shrugging off any fates that might befall us. "How bad can it be?" we'd smirk. "We'll have Twinkies!" But our fears are hiked. Superstorms, Snooki babies, Scary Movie 5s... doom is inescapable. And now, one more thing we thought we could count on has betrayed us.
So in what worthy phenomenon can we invest our faiths now? What, in the face of a nuclear winter, deadly pandemic, or alien invasion, do we know for sure won't leave us hanging? Here are a few possibilities:Tyler Perry movies
Stephen King books
Donald Trump public embarrassments
Amanda Bynes traffic violations
James Franco outsider art projects that nobody's asking for
People accidentally spoiling Homeland for you
Ryan Gosling memes
Justin Timberlake's refusal to get back into music
Episodes of Modern Family wherein Cam and Mitchell are fighting the whole time over something like who's the better driver, or whatever
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Shows attempting to be "the new Lost"So, we've got a few things to hang our hat on. But is it enough? Does this Twinkie news shake you to the core to the point of robbing you of any sort of faith? Can we, as a society, go on without the cream-filled treat that has partnered with us through thick and thin? We have five weeks to find out.
[Photo Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images]
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Thursday night's Vice Presidential Debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan was full of spirited dialogue, quick jabs, and (not-so-) suppressed laughter. It was also full of vocabulary words. In the spirit of too many "I do not think that means what you think it means" moments to count, we've compiled a glossary to clarify some of Thursday night's most loosely-defined buzzwords.
America /a'merika/ : The country in which we all live, whose best interests we supposedly have in mind. The best place in the whole wide world (unqualifed).
Benghazi /ben'gäze/ : The second-largest city in Libya and the site of an attack that killed four Americans, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, in September. According to Paul Ryan, it's a place where we need more Marines. It may or may not have been the site of a "massive intelligence failure" on the United State's part.
Bibi /b(i)-bi/ : Nickname for Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister. Used by Biden to prove that he is part of the cool kids' club and in the know.
Facts /fakts/ : Usually, the things that are indisputably the case. In politics, a piece of information with a fluidity of veracity that can be bandied about at will to support one's ever-changing opinion.
Faith /feyth/ : A strong belief in the doctrines of a religion. Usually, Catholic. Oh — I'm sorry, strike that. Only 24% of Americans are Catholic. What're all these other faiths, then?
Fissile /fis-uhl/ : Adjective describing an atom or element that is able to undergo nuclear fission. It describes an element that has nuclear capabilities, but is not itself a weapon… yet.
Friend /frend/ : A person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection. For Vice President Biden, this term is used loosely and with a healthy does of sarcasm. As used by Biden, synonymous with "this douche to my left."
Heh-Heh /self-explanatory/ : The noise Ryan makes when he finds something glib, often proceeded by a smirk.
Malarkey /ma-'lärke/ : Meaningless talk, nonsense. Used in place of "total and complete bulls**t."
Martha /mär-thä/ : The voice of reason, general reiner-in of malarkey, and the clear winner of Thursday night's debate. Also, a term the candidates use to interrupt one another.
Sanction /sangk-shuhn/ : In case Ryan was wondering, economic sanctions — which can be limited to certain sectors such as armaments — are domestic penalties applied by one country (or group of countries) on another for a variety of reasons. Economic sanctions include, but are not limited to, tariffs, trade barriers, import duties, and import or export quotas. The definition remains the same, no matter how much Russia may (or may not) water the sanctions down.
Stuff /stuhf/ : See Malarkey, above.
Timeline /'tym lyn/ : A projected timeframe for how long it will take to accomplish a goal. When discussed in the abstract, timelines are very useful things. They prove elusive, however, when sought for increased scrutiny.
Troops /troops/ : A group of soldiers. In this context, specifically, ones who are risking their lives in wars overseas. Troops, it seems, are fickle creatures: always pulling out and going back in. (Wait, that sounds wrong…)
Watered Down /'waw-terd-doun/ : Diluted, weakened, simplified. See also: Compromise.
Weapon /wep-uhn/ : A thing designed or used for inflicting bodily harm or physical damage. Something Iran may or may not possess in four years.
Follow Abbey Stone on Twitter @abbeystone
[Photo Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images]
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The actress has revealed the family library is stocked with religious books and the couple never misses an opportunity to take the kids to places of worship all over the world.
Jolie tells Parade magazine, "Brad and I are raising our children to respect everyone. We have a bookshelf in the house that has the Bible, the Torah, the Koran, everything.
"We will take our children to church, temple, Buddhist ceremonies, Mosques, teaching them about all faiths. Whatever religion they choose, the choice will be theirs."
And the movie star insists religion is very important - because to some of the most desperate refugees she has met on her travels, it's the only thing they have left.
She adds, "I respect all religions. What I don't respect is when people use religion to attack others. I've met people across the world, in the middle of nowhere, who are just trying to survive and all they have is religion. In some way it helps them, and I wouldn't take it away from them."
A religious special portraying the attempts of 12 major faiths to work together to solve various crises confronting humanity, including homelessness, AIDS, violence and global ecology. Focuses on an interfaith meeting sponsored by The Temple of Understanding, an interfaith group founded to encourage understanding and interaction among the world's major faiths.