The Woody Allen Problem
Clemens Bilan/ Venturelli/ Luca Teuchmann/ Getty Images
A reader named Regina emailed me and asked, “Why are we not ready for Mel Gibson to come back but we’ll still embrace Woody Allen’s films?” Turns out Regina has something in common with Ronan Farrow, because he’s asking the same question. The Hollywood Reporter provided Farrow with a guest column following their profile of Allen last week (the one in which he said incredibly creepy sh*t about his wife). Farrow’s article is worth reading in full, and he poses some tough questions about how we cover great artists accused of terrible crimes. He admits to playing the game himself, trying to tread the line between wanting to ask about the tough stuff but not burning bridges in the process.
But he draws a line in the ethical sand when it comes to his sister, Dylan Farrow, who has accused Allen of molesting her as a child. Farrow draws a parallel to Bill Cosby, whose career is effectively over after sixty women accused him assault, many of whom had previously gone on the record. But Allen’s career continues unabated, and Farrow is writing about the culture of silence, complicity, and protection that insulates Allen from serious interrogation or criticism.
I absolutely believe Dylan Farrow. But while I think Allen is overrated and he keeps making the same movie over and over again, in his voluminous output he has made some good movies, like Annie Hall and Manhattan. Allen and his work pose the age-old question—can you enjoy art when you know its creator is a creep? TS Eliot was anti-Semitic, but The Wasteland is a tremendous piece of literature. Does one cancel out the other?
Actors keep working with Allen because actors benefit from the relationship. Look what he did for Scarlett Johansson—working with Allen was a major part of her career reinvention a decade ago. Kristen Stewart did recently say that she and Jesse Eisenberg talked about it, though, so they’re aware of the pressure. But still, the allure of working with the great Woody Allen (insert eye roll here) overcomes whatever reservations they may have. So yeah, I think we have to question them, because he’s protected by his collaborators, isn’t he? That’s Farrow’s whole point. It’s a system of collusion held up by all the people who benefit from the Woody Allen machine.
But the bigger issue isn’t one of actors—it’s the people who continue to give Allen money. Amazon is the latest, not only buying the distribution rights to Café Society, but also giving Allen the opportunity to make a television show. We should go harder on Amazon for choosing to go into business with Allen than Miley Cyrus for agreeing to star in his show. Getting to neg Miley Cyrus may be an ego trip, but the development deal perpetuates his influence and platform. Question actors, make them uncomfortable, maybe eventually they stop working with him, which would tarnish his prestige. But make it uncomfortable for the studios and investors giving him money and you might just diminish his power. (Lainey: and then we’ll see how “youthful, agile, nimble, and spry” he really is. And whether or not he can still keep writing his mind-f*cky little notes to his actresses.)
Click here to read Ronan Farrow’s essay at THR.