Friday, July 15, 2011

Two & A Half Men: "The Soil is Moist"

The sitcom “Two and a Half Men” is about Alan Harper, a middle-aged divorced man living in the home of his brother, Charlie.   In season five, episode thirteen, “The Soil is Moist”, the main conflict revolves around Alan having a chance meeting with Cynthia, who is a friend of his ex-wife.  Throughout the course of the episode, Alan subscribes to the idea that by sleeping with Cynthia he can prove himself as a “real man” to his ex-wife, Judith.  This idea of being able to prove himself worthy of an attractive partner to his ex-wife is the driving force behind the story that unfolds during the episode.  Alan suffers from the idea of being an inferior male because he was divorced by his wife for not being the stereotypical “alpha male”.

Throughout the episode, Alan is consumed with the idea that by sleeping with Cynthia, he is proving his “manliness” to Judith.  This idea is brought up to him by Charlie, who is portrayed as a womanizer when it comes to relationships.  This action can be seen as a metaphor for hegemony when it comes to males into today’s culture.    “Hegemony is the power and dominance that one social group holds over others.” (Lull 61)  As someone who objectifies women, Charlie views the encounter that Alan had with Cynthia as an opportunity for Alan to show Judith how “manly” he is, saying “it’ll be she’s watching every move you make”.  Alan’s immediate acceptance of this theory represents how  “social consent can be a more effective means of control than coercion or force.”  (Lull 63)    All Charlie has to do is plant the seed of this idea in order for Alan to accept it.

 A turning point in the episode occurs while Alan is spending the night at Cynthia’s.  After engaging in intercourse, Cynthia accidently blurts out that Judith says that her new husband, Herb, is the best lover that she has ever had.  This greatly upsets Alan, since the only other lover Judith has ever had has been him.  Therefore, upon this revelation, Alan believes that he has failed in proving himself a man.  Throughout the remainder of the episode, Alan is consumed by the fact that he is seen as an inferior lover by his ex-wife.  In this context, “manliness” is directly related to how well someone performs in bed.

It should also be noted that Alan’s plan to affirm his masculinity is rooted in negative female stereotypes and female objectification.   Charlie tells Alan that Cynthia will tell Judith about how the night went because “that’s all women do…blah, blah, blah”.  This reinforces the negative stereotype that women love to gossip and they cannot keep their mouths shut.  Another interesting point is that at no point during the episode does Alan talk about having a relationship with Cynthia or even considers how this need to “prove himself” could affect the relationship the two have.  Thanks to Charlie, Alan only sees Cynthia as a tool in a plot to make his ex-wife jealous.  This reinforces the patriarchic ideals that are used to make women inferior to men.

Throughout the episode, Alan is bombarded with the notion that he is not an ideal male.  When he talks to his ex-wife about going out with Cynthia, she is fine with the idea only because she believes that Cynthia would never go out with Alan telling him that he’s “not her type” and then rattling off several characteristics of the stereotypical ideal man, such as successful, handsome and charming, implying that Alan is none of these.  Also, Charlie tells Alan that Cynthia would go out with him because she is recently divorced, aging and “willing to settle” for someone less.  These two occurrences fuel Alan’s insecurity and convince him to accept the idea that sleeping with Cynthia will make him this ideal man.  This represents how hegemony can influence the actions of others.

Another interesting concept that exists in this episode is the fact that Alan is desperately seeking female validation.  He is repeatedly told by others that he does not fit the criteria what an ideal man should be.  After realizing that Judith sees her new husband, Herb, as a better lover than he is, Alan embodies the character of the wretched Weeper wondering “What’s so wrong with me? ”(Ponzer 98)  It is a bit ironic that while Alan is obsessed in validating himself as a man, he is displaying the feminine characteristic of the need for validation from the opposite gender.  Pozner states that females, especially on reality TV, are often depicted as being morally flawed and always in need of male approval.  In Alan’s case, this feminine character trait exists as well.  However, instead of being overly concerned with meeting “Mr. Right”, he is obsessed with becoming “Mr. Right” himself.

The “Two and a Half Men” episode “The Soil is Moist” can be seen as a great example of how hegemony can cause people to make certain decisions.  Alan Harper is constantly reminded throughout the episode that he is not the ideal male and becomes obsessed with proving to himself that he is.  However, in this pursuit, he ends up treating Cynthia as a means to an end, rather than as a fellow human.  This ends up costing Alan his relationship with Cythnia.  Her last words to Alan in the episode are “there is something seriously wrong with you”.  This final quotes is all Alan needs to hear.  His quest for female validation has ended in failure, further proving Pozner’s point that the idea of “Mr. Right” is unattainable, since Alan ends up losing a chance at a relationship with someone over it.

Works Cited

Lull, James. "Hegemony." Gender, Race, and Class in Media: a Text-reader. By Gail Dines and Jean McMahon. Humez. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage, 2003. Print.

Pozner, Jennifer L. ""The Unreal World"" Ms. Magazine Fall 2004: 96-99. Web.