As a nebbishy, socially inept child raised Jewish in New York City during the 1970s, the movies of Woody Allen were passed down to me almost as though they were part of my larger cultural heritage. They were inseparable from gefilte fish, klezmer music and Neil Diamond.
I remember many a Sunday afternoon watching “Take the Money and Run,” as it was broadcast for the trillionth time on channel 11. I remember taking great delight in his illegible bank robbery note, or in the design flaws inherent in using a fake gun fashioned from a bar of soap.
Subsequent movies were received with the same delight. “Bananas” and “Sleeper” were the cinematic equivalent of comfort food to me, and I partook of them as one partakes of a plate of meatloaf and mashed potatoes.
Then, in 1992, Woody Allen started fucking Soon-Yi Previn, and he ruined all of that. Today I can’t get any further into his catalog than 1980’s “Stardust Memories.” The ick factor is simply too great, particularly once he started casting Mia Farrow and it became impossible for me to watch them onscreen together without thinking about what he would someday subject her to.
If that were the only thing that Woody Allen had done, that would be plenty, but it’s not. Clearly unable to fathom the idea that he might have done anything wrong at some point in his life, he decided to weigh in on the current clusterfuck shit show that is the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
According to Variety, he told the BBC that he thought the entire situation was “very sad for everybody involved,” as if he were describing a roof collapse or a tornado. He decided to follow the trail of breadcrumbs down the path to the stupidest thing he could possibly have said.
“You 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,” he said.
In my opinion, this was worse than his accountability-free characterization of Weinstein and his victims. It betrayed a worldview in which women are candy, or toys, to be ogled, eyeballed and browsed. If she has a problem with it, you can say you’re “just looking” and wander off with a “Who, me?” expression on your face.
Men concoct a lot of elaborate fantasies about the women they encounter. Provided the man doesn’t articulate the fantasy, I personally think it’s fine. It’s the difference between playing music on headphones or being one of those jackasses who plays music openly on Bluetooth speakers for the entire subway car to suffer through.
Once the man has put his fantasy out there, he’s crossed a line, and he can’t stuff it back into the box like it never happened. Once he’s brought someone else into it – yes, even by winking – he’s forever changed the nature of how she perceives him. She cannot walk by his desk without feeling tense, awkward and weird, and that’s entirely on him.
That feeling might eventually leave her over time, but he should be aware that if he’s caused her even a single day of social discomfort, then she’s paid a price for his fantasies that he’s not paying. And that’s all because he believed that she should be drawn into whatever ridiculous fantasy he’s concocted about her place in his life.
Allen’s comment, to me, betrays a very “Mad Men” worldview in which women are basically sex dolls to be drunkenly fucked on a desk before the man’s one o’clock shows up. The recently departed Hugh Hefner embodied this worldview, and it doesn’t surprise me that Allen feels this way too.
I’m sure it’s tempting for some people to chalk that up to him simply being a product of his time, but I think that’s a horseshit copout. Weinstein tried to deploy it himself to justify his own nauseating behavior, as if the 1960s and 1970s were The Golden Age Of Ejaculating Onto Potted Plants, a charming anachronism that has now gone sadly out of fashion, like bell bottoms.
So, Woody, if you’re reading this, let me give you some free advice, from Jew bro to Jew bro. Shut the fuck up. If someone sticks a microphone in your face and asks you about a sex scandal, and your immediate first thought is, “But how will this affect men?” then please shut the fuck up.
You’re lucky to still have a career. Be grateful for that while you look back on your storied filmography, and while your wife of many years lovingly spoon-feeds you oatmeal to stimulate a bowel movement.