Madison Avenue's Moral Madness
Angus T. Jones told the truth. In a religious video posted on YouTube, the former child actor who’s the “half” man of the CBS sitcom “Two and a Half Men” shocked the celebrity press by saying “I don’t want to be on it. Please stop watching it. Please stop filling your head with filth.”
Calling this show “filth” is like calling your Christmas tree an evergreen. Yet about 14 million Americans still love filling their head with this filthy show, and they don’t want to be told what they’re doing.
It doesn't surprise, then, that the pundits have turned on Jones, like the 19-year-old was having serious mental problems. The best was long-time castmate and all-around sleazeball Charlie Sheen declaring young Angus was having an “emotional tsunami.” You read that correctly: Charlie Sheen calling someone else a nut job.
The Jones video was posted Monday, and within 48 hours, his camp issued a statement apologizing for the disrespect to the dirty hands that feed him. It was expected. It was either that, or kiss your career bye-bye. It’s still not clear if he’ll be consigned to making independent Christian movies with Kirk Cameron.
If only Jones had done the opposite. The worse, the more outlandish, disrespectful, insulting, obscene – the more lucrative.
Remember the old days, way back when advertisers insisted you had to be a positive role model to endorse their product on TV? That era is clearly dead. In another sign of our cultural collapse, it is now just the opposite.
Start with Sheen, whose well-publicized meltdown in a haze of drugs and alcohol and egotistical rants about “winning” and “tiger blood” has led to a bevy of commercial deals.
First came Sheen for the Fiat 500, driving the car speedily in a circle inside a mansion. He steps out of the car and declares, wink-wink, “I love being under house arrest,” with a hot model on his arm. The sales slogan: “Not all bad boys are created equal.” Then there was DirecTV joking that if you stick with cable TV, you might end up reenacting scenes from “Platoon” with Charlie Sheen at his house.
Perhaps the ugliest one pitched Bavaria beer. It has Charlie driving away from a rehab clinic seeing everyone drinking beer – pregnant women, the police – because apparently the beer is so good for everyone that even Charlie should imbibe. The “happy ending”? The beer is non-alcoholic.
Consider Wonderful Pistachios, whose ad campaign was characterized by Adweek as an “idiots and [A-words]” campaign. Scandal is all their hired celebrities have to offer.
MTV’s Snooki (the hard-partying, over-tanned star of “Jersey Shore”) cracked open a pistachio with a tanning bed. Former Bristol Palin boyfriend (and unwed father) Levi Johnston was hired – “hold on to your daughters,” cracked the PR firm in its pitch. There was also an ad with a crook – ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, before he began serving a 14-year prison term. In his ad, a mysterious character hands him a briefcase. He opens it, and loads of pistachios spill out. "Rod Blagojevich does it innocently," says the voiceover.
This phenomenon is accelerating. The biggest poster boy may be Calvin “Snoop Dogg” Broaddus. It’s never mattered that he’s an icon of pot-smoking, or that he made porn films with Hustler magazine, or that he spent three years defending himself after his bodyguard committed a drive-by shooting while he was behind the wheel. Actually, it does matter, all of it. It is what makes him even cooler.
The man has a list of endorsements as long as your arm. By far the weirdest may be his Chrysler ad last year on a golf course with former Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca. Not even this giant of industry seems rattled.
Right now, this Captain Cannabis is on TV trying to spread his cool vibe onto “Hot Pockets.” Using his tune “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” he raps “Your munchies get an attitude, pocket like it's hot.”
This trend never stops, with smutty pop stars like Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj selling Pepsi or Adidas. Wheat Thins even borrowed Baby Stewie and Brian the Dog from the smutty cartoon “Family Guy.” Somehow, Stewie can be on Fox eating horse sperm or making Brian eat his vomit, but they can still sell eating Wheat Thins during the ad breaks.
Angus Jones will never know this filthy lucre – unless, of course, his agent can talk him into renouncing the whole video as some bizarre psycho religious stunt. All might then be forgiven, and there might just be pistachio advertisers on his doorstep.