Let me start by giving you some homework.
First, read Claire Dederer’s piece in The Paris Review, “What Do We Do with the Art of Monstrous Men?”
You may need a little time to let that one sink in. Take it.
Today, I finally gave myself the time and quiet space I needed to read this important and disturbing piece. It’s been bookmarked to read for a few days, mere weeks after I logged on to Craigslist and posted this:
“2009 autographed Woody Allen poster. Lucky for me, Craigslist doesn’t have a comments section! $100 OBO.”
Don’t ask my why I priced it at $100. How do you put a price on a poster autographed by a monster?
Like the author, I’ve been struggling with my feelings about Woody Allen for many years. I loved his movies despite his unusual personal life, and I wanted somehow to separate the two. In the early days of my relationship with Tim, one of our favorite dating rituals was to grab takeout Chinese and rent a Woody Allen VHS tape from our neighborhood video store. We spent countless nights cuddling on the couch watching Annie Hall, Bullets Over Broadway, Sleeper. Tim loved the early ones that I thought were weird. I loved Allen’s 90s works, especially Everyone Says I Love You. We loved the timing, the beautiful shots of New York, the casting, the music, the entire formula that kept us coming back for more. When a new Woody Allen film came out in the theater, we rushed to the theater to see it on the first weekend.
In 2009, Woody Allen came to Austin’s Paramount Theater to play with his jazz band. I surprised Tim with tickets, and with the package, we received an autographed poster that I promptly framed and hung on the wall above our piano. We didn’t see him sign it, so Tim questioned the authenticity, but it didn’t matter to me. We had the autograph of one of the best filmmakers of our time! Woody Allen’s autograph on our wall, right next to the autographed poster of Pinetop Perkins.
By 2009 when Tim and I saw Woody Allen puff around on the clarinet at the Paramount Theater, we were well aware of Allen’s extremely unusual and unsettling relationship with his former stepdaughter, Soon-Yi Previn. We knew they’d married and were living together in Manhattan. Perhaps we were able to turn a blind eye to Allen’s marriage to Soon-Yi because Tim and I share a 14 year age difference. Perhaps we figured that by the time Soon-Yi reached the age of consent, did it really matter? But our situation was and is drastically different. Tim was never my stepfather, and I started dating him when I was an adult.
Did Woody Allen’s weird relationship status stop us from enjoying his films and spending money to see Allen perform mediocre jazz? Not at all. We reconciled his relationship decisions by separating those decisions from his art. Yet, when the theme of dating underage girls crept into his films, we were somehow able to push that aside. We weren’t alone. Enough of us pushed it aside so that to date, Allen’s films have grossed more than $575 million.
Flash to November 21, 2017, when I posted on Facebook: “Lord, please don’t let Al Roker have a pervy past. Amen.”
We can no longer push the conversation aside. The conversation of sexual abuse and harassment is a top news headline almost every day now. I’m so uncomfortable with it that I chose to confront it with a joke. Yet we all know it really isn’t funny at all. Donald Trump bragging about grabbing women by the P word is not funny. Roy Brown using the local high school and mall for his own personal nonconsensual Match.com isn’t funny. When Harvey Weinstein, the biggest mouth breather of all time, uses his power and status to sexually abuse and harass actresses it is just. not. funny.
The Woody Allen poster has been taken off the wall, never to return. It may be comforting to know that since I posted it on Craigslist two weeks ago, I’ve not had a single inquiry. Surely that means we’re moving in the right direction.