Woody Allen Is Just Trolling Us Now
Someone should invent a word for that moment when you realize an artist you love is a terrible person. The term could be used to succinctly describe the painful transition between before and after, that fracture in time separating carefree consumption from morally weighted knowledge. It would define the general discomfort of watching Last Tango in Paris versus the full-on horror of learning Bernardo Bertolucci and Marlon Brando conspired to commit veritÃ© sexual assault against Maria Schneider to get an authentically humiliating take. It would sum up the sudden creepiness that emanates from Cliff Huxtable with awareness that serial sexual abuser Bill Cosby is actually ensconced in that sweater. It’s the disturbing realization that sexually predatory thug Harvey Weinstein was involved in so many iconic films and incidents of sexual harassment dating back decades, it casts a shadow over an entire industry. Or the insight that R. Kelly—who will never face charges because this country doesn’t believe black women can truly be victims, as Weinstein also proved—was genuinely trying to sell us all on age-of-consent laws being useless.
We should also, then, invent a new word for the problem with Woody Allen, who seems to be pretty much rubbing it in our faces at this point. As has been well covered, Allen has long been the subject of numerous charges of sexual abuse and general morally reprehensible behavior. He reportedly began dating his wife, Soon-Yi Previn—who is 35 years his junior and to whom he has been married since 1997—when she was a teenager still living with her adoptive mother, Allen’s longtime girlfriend Mia Farrow. Allen’s adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, wrote a New York Times open letter in 2014 that detailed her allegations of childhood sexual abuse against the director. This is all to say that for a long time now, Allen has been a primary go-to example of artists whose real-life behavior raises uncomfortable questions about their work and how, or if, audiences should engage with that work. But those questions now seem to be morphing into something related but slightly different. Something more along the lines of, "Is Woody Allen’s directorial career just a front for trolling us now?"
That’s because yet again, Woody Allen is apparently making a movie about a significantly older man having sex with a much younger woman, possibly a minor. According to snoops at the New York Post’s Page Six, the film “centers around a middle-aged man who is sleeping with a much younger woman,” along with a bunch of “young starlets,” one of whom is somewhere between 15 and 21. The main character, per the Post, “makes a fool of himself over every ambitious starlet and model.” This is not, by a long shot, the first time Allen has made a movie using this premise; the theme of old dude/young girl has basically become one of his calling cards. But after pumping out a steady stream of films that we now recognize offer an unvarnished look into Allen’s psyche, it feels like we maybe don’t need to know more.
Keep in mind that this isn’t just about Allen’s own questionable behavior, but timing: the film happens to be shooting as allegations of rape and sexual abuse against Harvey Weinstein roll in. Allen is also fresh off a jag of admitting his previous awareness of Weinstein’s behavior, dismissing the importance of accusers’ claims and expressing sympathy...with the scandal's sexual predator. Earlier this month, Allen noted that no one had told him Weinstein-related “horror stories”—at least, not “with any real seriousness,” you see—which he suggested was a smart move, because he wouldn’t have cared anyway. (“[Y]ou are not interested in it. You are interested in making your movie.”) In two separate messages, Allen expressed sadness for Weinstein, and also fretted about how tough this might make things for dudes who are into lowkey workplace sexual harassment.
“You also don’t want it to lead to a witch hunt atmosphere, a Salem atmosphere, where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself,” Allen noted, emphasis mine, his heart breaking for winking creeps in cubicles next to yours around this country. “That’s not right either.”
Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s fine if that guy feels like he should quit what he’s doing and seek counsel from someone before he shows up at work again. Jezebel also recently recalled Allen’s 2010 remarks about Roman Polanski, who previously made a deal to plead guilty to statutory rape with a 13-year-old, and on Monday was accused of molesting a 10-year-old girl in 1975.
“He’s an artist, he’s a nice person, he did something wrong and he paid for it,” Allen said of Polanski. “They are not happy unless he pays the rest of his life. They would be happy if they could execute him in a firing squad. Enough is enough.”
From Manhattan to this new film, in his words and work, Allen keeps telling us who he is. It seems safe to say, message received. These are quotations and actions from a man who can’t be bothered to get it, partly because he's confident he'll never lose his career over that failure, and he may be right. Hollywood keeps giving him the money to make films, the backing to perpetually rehash his therapy sessions, a bully pulpit from which to sympathize with fellow abusers and awards that reinforce his sense that all this is just fine. It's a set-up that's made him very comfortable here, so he keeps going back to the well and dredging up material and arguably, very nearly trolling us by now. But here's hoping, even for those of us who once enjoyed him, this feels like the right time to wrap.