While Martin Sheen may publicly regret his son Charlie’s behavior as the misbehaving star of NBC’s most successful comedy, no goofball appearing on the show can compete with a four-way mirror. Martin Sheen’s appearance as Rose’s father reveals the secret of the show all along: endless mimicry.
Objections to the comedy’s immorality disappear once we realize that this was never a moral tale. It existed for one reason only: to throw our exasperating hypocrisy back on itself. The formula completes when the third generation of Harpers reaffirms the Bad Little Boy appeal of two generations of Sheens.
The brothers Charlie and Allen never exasperate the audience, however, because, while they look nothing like each other physically, they couldn’t be more alike under the skin. Divorced or married, child-burdened or childless, they remain Mama’s Boys. And Holland Taylor lives forever in her offspring.
Charlie’s and Allen’s mother is the Bad Little Girl just looking for a way to live outside her crowded closet. When her dream man appears finally, he turns out to be the spitting image of her son. Viola! Oedipus never had it so good as on Two and a Half Men. Mama runs in—and finds herself again!
If only Martin hadn’t set himself up as a critic/parent, he’d have joined the cast and multiplied the fun. If only the show’s producers hadn’t taken Charlie seriously, they would have realized the show isn’t about THEM. It’s about Oedipus, guys! It’s about Mama’s Boys. It’s as American as Apple pie.
But here’s the beauty of great comedy: It’s about the French and the Russians and the Chinese, too. It’s about the face we see in the mirror when we admit that politically incorrect truth: We always want that little sucker to resemble us. Then, he does—and we can’t stand him. Farts and all, Oedipus cannot die.
The French, of course, have a phrase for this experience: déjà vue.
It takes American exuberance—and innocence—however, to release this menace on the world. Oedipus didn’t live in ancient Greece. He doesn’t live in Hollywood or New York, either. He lives wherever artists find the guts and honesty to let him out of his crypt again.