Why do women -- like me -- love Woody Allen? Rather, why do otherwise smart, informed, feminist women -- like me -- love Woody Allen? Think about it. Most of the ladies I know (who are mostly -- yep -- smart and informed and feminist) are first in line behind me to see his latest movie offerings. And the small, neurotic, bespectacled king of nerdy Jewish boy-men seems to have had a palpable influence on some of today's best lady artists, writers, and moviemakers, like Mindy Kaling, Nora Ephron, and Tina Fey.
But … Woody Allen is gross. I know this; we all know this. As writer Jennifer Keishin Armstrong noted on SexyFeminist.com not too long ago, "When he’s not reveling in the glories of much, much younger women, he’s fetishizing the whole lot of us, worshipping us to the point of unknowability. He basically invented the now well-known archetype of the manic pixie dream girl."
She's right. Woody Allen may be a genius, but Woody Allen is also a perv -- some say a predator -- of the highest order. The man took naked photos and later MARRIED his decade-long partner's DAUGHTER, for God's sake. And not only that; he tried to minimize it by insisting there WAS no scandal, that what he was doing was A-OK ("the heart wants what it wants" and all that).
But it wasn't just Soon-Yi he took advantage of. If you believe Mia Farrow's claims about the sexual abuse he perpetrated on their then-7-year-old adoptive daughter Dylan, and I do, you probably feel a sick smorgasbord of disgust, shock, rage and gloom whenever you see Allen's wizened mug. Or at least I do. (Side note: check out Mia Farrow's surprisingly awesome memoir, What Falls Away, for lots of inside details about her relationship with Woody and his troubled connection with her kids.) How could such a sharp, brilliant man seem so frighteningly averse to basic decency, so incapable of caring about the consequences of his behavior? How could he be so … cold?
Vanity Fair's forthcoming November issue has a big story about the whole Allen and Farrow mess. Writer Maureen Orth interviews eight of Farrow's 14 adopted and biological children, including daughter Dylan, who had never before spoken publicly about Allen's alleged abuse. Dylan, who now goes by a different name, reportedly refuses to speak Allen's name. Ever.
She says of her abuse, and her decision to tell her mother what was happening, "I was cracking. I had to say something. I was seven. I was doing it because I was scared. I wanted it to stop.” (She never pressed charges against Allen.) She also says Allen has contacted her twice by mail, once sending her a ton of photos of the two of them together, along with a letter that read, “I thought you’d want some pictures of us, and I want you to know that I still think of you as my daughter, and my daughters think of you as their sister. Soon-Yi misses you.” The missive was signed “Your father.” (Hi, I'm vomiting.)
Allen still stirs up such messy, ragingly conflicting feelings in so many women like myself. Hearing Dylan's new details about her abuse -- not to mention Allen's nonchalant attitude about the accusations, plus his ongoing refusal to acknowledge that his relationship with Soon-Yi was built on a sick, indefensible foundation -- makes my stomach churn. Yet I own the box set of all his movies. I get excited to see his films. I laugh and cry and do all the things you're supposed to do when confronted with his wit and charm and humor.
But I do it all through gritted teeth and a shifting tidal flood of guilt. I don't WANT to love or support Woody Allen. I guess I should go listen to that kinda-sorta-similarly-themed song by LeTigre, "What's Yr Take on Cassavetes?" ("Genius? Misogynist? Messiah? Alcoholic?") and hash the whole thing out with myself. At least before his next movie comes out.
So, what's your take on Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, and these latest revelations?