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!
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).
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]