Popular films and TV-shows have always conveyed hidden messages since the day TV was created. Sometimes these messages are not even intended, being just a product if the epoch, a free attachment to the art of cinema. It is only today, with the psychological theories developed well enough to see through the TV screen, people can understand what this or that film is driving at. The sitcom Two and a Half Men is a clear-cut example of such effects of TV.
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The sitcom deals with the problem of two adult men and a boy living their lives together and getting involved into multiple funny and amusing situations. The clue about the TV-series is that it makes a vision of a hilarious show, and yet when you look closer to it, you start understanding that there is more than meets the eye in the comic scenes for the family to laugh at on a quiet evening.
Coming to the point, I want to get your attention to some particular details of thesitcom.
The author of the plot has managed to depict the situation of a man isolating himself from relationship with women and the problems this situation triggers.
In fact, a barrier that a man is putting between himself and a woman is already a psychological twist. The relationships between a man and a woman are not supposed to be shadowed by fear, whomever it might consider.
Whenever there is something that prevents the relationships to develop further on, it is a signal for the problems of communication to have arisen. The message in this case is that these are only the men with no psychological traumas, whether these were a long-forgotten past or the recent accident, can build up the relations with women, and create regular families with children, household chores and all the things that go with this present pack.
Personally, I insist on the role of communication as the one that keep a man going, not letting him fall into despair or turn mad. It cannot be excessive, and the more a man talks to the others and socializes, the better he proves that he has no mental or psychological problems, that he is a specimen of a healthy society. However, there can be another viewpoints concerning this problem.
For example, Gardiner makes it quite clear that the communication itself might root form the psychological disorder in a particular man or woman. That is the point that the psychologist makes:
Freud also teaches that communication can be therapeutic. He invented the talking cure, by which patients can contribute to the cure of their own illnesses by talking about their lives. A number of more modern therapists have followed up on this insight by further exploring the role of communication in mental illness. They have argued, however, that communication can also be a cause of mental illness. (141-142)
The Freudian problems have been emphasized in the movie in the very best way. One of the most explicit ones that the audience can catch from the very beginning is the relationship between a son and his mother. That is the clue that can be used as a guide across the whole sitcom.
Indeed, if considering each character of the sitcom in particular, it will be clear that the problematic relations with women are just a result of their complexes arose when they were deprived of a certain piece of mother’s love and care. They have been living most of their lives like tough bachelors, and, together with their lack of mother’s care and warmth has brought them to their present state of battling with their own personality.
As it can be easily understood, the result of such battle can be quite sorrowful, and they will be heart-aching until the day they fully realise their problems.
Take Charlie as an example. He is what a psychologist would call a man who has a high level of primativeness, and the mere mortals would call a womanizer. The very lack of mother’s attention and caring is what has turned him to be a lady-killer. However, one should not underestimate the power of choice. Sometimes it is ll to us that may change the life and bring us to the happily-ever-after. As Gardiner says, depicting the different paths the two twin brothers have chosen:
… Very different personalities could not be the result of genetic factors or environmental factors (they were genetically identical and their environments were as close as any two people ever had) or any “complex interaction between genetic and environmental factors”. We must consider a third factor – choice… (Gardiner 56)
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But however reasonable Gardiner may sound, there is something that this description lacks if applied to the character of the sitcom, Charlie. A choice is something for a strong-willed man, while Charlie is rather weak and influential. And that also predetermines his attitude to women as to a pathetic something that does not deserve respect.
Next to Charlie is Alan, who lacks the same thing, which is mother’s attention, but he cannot realise it. That takes him to facing difficulties in his personal life, being ashy and sensitive… If he was a man that would be not that awful, but just imagine what misery such qualities can bring to a puppet!
The very “half of a man” that he makes, Alan is a psychological case of a man who has not grown up. Unfortunately, it is quite widespread phenomenon nowadays, so widespread that it has become a common case.
The modern psychologists say the following on this well-known problem:
“Dr. Dan Kiley invented the Peter Pan Syndrome to describe men who are narcissist, emotionally immature, irresponsible, aggressive and dependent. (Kavey 50-51).”
On the other side of the sword there is the so-called Wendy syndrome, or the case of will-you-ever-stop-mothering-me relationships. That is where all men’s fears of being dominated and subdued to the woman’s constant control get revealed in full.
That is, actually, the roots of the problem discussed above, that is, the fear of making contact to women. Afraid of being patronized, the men simply do not want to cut on their free and easy life and leave it all to the fate. They will never get married and create a family which will be their shelter and fortress, because they are afraid that the walls of the fortress will block their view.
Though this description is rather gloomy and very pessimistic, it proves right for those people who have not overcome the certain stage of becoming an adult person. This is just the thing that has happened to the character of the sitcom, Alan, who is stuck between a child and a man, both bodily and spiritually. This fact also drives our attention to the lack of the mother’s influence on Alan.
Of course, one might say that being half a man, the other half a child has its advantages. It is far easier to find a common language with children, and the picture of the world is not so gloomy anymore. Living on the bright side is something that an average adult person cannot afford, and the idea of settling such life is very tempting.
Alan plays a part of a link between Charlie and Jake that helps the father to understand his son and his childish joys and fears a bit better. A medium between a father and a son, Alan breaks the boundaries between half a man and a superman, an angel, a soul itself. He speaks to Charlie as his own conscience – rather nasty and stubborn one, though.
The syndrome of Peter Pan that I have told about is not a whole huge drawback; it is simply a state of soul. And, like every state, it can be changed, for it is not the finish of a person’s development, but a certain stage on the way to it. The problems of the book character are still something that a man can manage, and Alan knows it for sure. He adds a tint of the unreal and supernatural, making the rest of the characters more vivid, but he also is a case to consider.
Finally, we have Charlie’s son, Jacob David “Jake” Harper who has his parents divorced and that makes him an underachieving and weak child. He is a moving character, but he is certainly the one to feel sorry for, because these are not the arguments between the parents that drive the child lone and uncertain, but the final split, the divorce.
It is much like being torn in two, because it is impossible to answer the question of who-do-you-love-most-mom-or-dad. Their fears are much deeper than those the adults have, and the sad experience can crash their life for good. As G. Knowles says,
Two things stand out as distinctly different for children. The first is that they are dependent, physically, financially, psychologically and socially, on the adults around them. If one parent has died, then logic dictates that the surviving parent may die also. Suddenly the world seems very unsafe to a child… (122).
She poses the divorce as a practical loss of a parent for a child. That is something that a child can hardly live through without being hurt, both morally and psychologically. In his research Hersen says, that “conflicts over these topics may cause children to feel shameful, to blame themselves for the divorce, or to fear becoming involved in the conflict” (835).
Applied to the everyday life, this sitcom has all rights to claim for a position of a guide through the mishaps that occur in the incomplete families. This might be a good example of what problems the adults face as they get divorced. It also shows clearly what problems children might have in future if something happens to their parents, or if the kid was brought up with only one parent, namely a father.
I would also like you to pay your attention to the way the relationships between a father and a son unwind. As a rule, raising a child is the mother’s business, while the father remains a bit aside, not messing in the course of events. But this time it is the father who gets the role of a nurse and starts acting the way he had never thought before he could.
To sum up, the things that the sitcom illustrates are at times much deeper than the audience might have though and provides the food for brain you would not get from any other source.
Perhaps, the popular culture, or at least its TV element deserves a better attention as something really meaningful and important…
Gardiner, Lambert W. The Psychology of Communication. New York, NY: Trisha Santa, 2008. Print
Hersen, Michel, Alan N. Gross. Handbook of Clinical Psychology: Children and Adolescents. New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons, 2008. Print.
Kavey, Allison B., Peter Friedman. Second Star to the Right: Peter Pan in the Popular Imagination. New York, NY: Rutgers University Press, 2009.
Knowles, Gianna. Supportive Inclusive Practice. New York, NY: Taylor and Francis, 2010. Print.