Woody Allen Is Guilty. It’s Still No Reason to Cancel “Manhattan”
Before I make my seemingly contrarian, but merely qualified observations about Woody Allen’s incestuous pedophilia scandal, as it relates specifically to his masterpiece, Manhattan, let me say that I published a strong endorsement of Dylan, Mia and Ronan’s position in 2014, along with my own vivid recollections of being molested at eight years of age, thankfully not by my father.
I’m certain that Dylan remembers. I know I do: I can probably find the house he took me to in Porto Santo Stefano on the Italian coast via Google Earth just by memory.
It’s frustrating that Mia and her kids will never get their day in court. But they are trying Allen in the court of public opinion using the full power of skilled filmmaking, even intercutting his own stilted voiceovers from the readings of his memoir, for which they might be slapped with a copyright infringement suit — it’s so worth it. They’re turning a storyteller’s favorite weapon back on him, and I commend them for it — episode by episode of this harrowing documentary, they are hanging, drawing and quartering a man who did irreparable harm to people he loved. To me, this is a far more effective form of justice than a prison sentence for an octogenarian.
The problem I see with using the word ‘underaged’ specifically in reference to Manhattan — and to nothing else is this heartbreaking case — is that Mariel Hemingway’s character was not underaged: The age of consent in New York is 17. Using this film in particular as proof of his lust for young girls is pure theatrics, not evidence of pedophilia.
There is another interview in the documentary in which a researcher talks about reading Allen’s notes and early drafts in the archives at Princeton. He says something like, “Time after time he comes back to the theme of teenaged girls.” A shock-provoking animated graphic overlay, mimicking a script being revised, shows the action being rewritten over and over until the character described becomes an archetypal 18-year-old Vassar graduate; in other words, the It girl of the era: pretty, Waspy, bright, articulate; Edie Sedgwick without the addiction to speed, eyeliner and Andy Warhol. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. It certainly doesn’t prove that Allen is an incestuous pedophile.
Furthermore, Mr. Academic, precisely how many of these drafts constituted “time after time”? I’d like footnotes with your deposition, please, with titles and dates, not tabloid-ish innuendo.
Even if time-after-time is justified, as a content creator myself, I have a major problem with the archetypes many of us use in our work being turned into hard evidence of a crime as grievous as incest and pedophilia.
I also see no place for highly subjective, early-21st-century, bespoke, moving-goalpost morality regarding older-younger relationships. It’s so rampant and pernicious that, weirdly, I get these jolts of panic that these same “feminist” Scolds Without a Cause will bring back Prohibition, like their counterparts did a hundred years ago. History never repeats, James… history never…
The last long-term relationship I had was with a man 20 years younger. American friends said he looked like my brother; British friends were more forthright: “He looks like your son.” The last guy I dated for more than casual sex was twenty-one years old, a far greater, more shocking and apparently depraved age spread than the one in Manhattan. Both Wes and the younger guy instigated the relationship with me. The youngest behaved much like Mariel Hemingway’s character in terms of neediness and clinginess; it’s actually typical because they’re, well, young and insecure; one of the reasons they’re attracted to older people is to have a more solid sense of security.
My relationship with Wes ended due to a sort of tragedy of errors that we both are responsible for; his grievances are equal to mine. I terminated the relationship with the youngest one because, while I could handle the insecurity, flakiness is one Californian handicap this New Yorker will never tolerate. But, as Allen’s character notes, the sex was off the hook, and constant.
Again, the moralizing tone that the documentary takes about the girl’s sexual cravings and emotional neediness, her passion for an older man in the face of his ambivalence, which are posited as ludicrous and evidence of Allen’s over-inflated authoritarian-celebrity male ego — when they are absolutely accurate and well observed from my blessedly vast experience — are just ignorant and nasty.
The same applies to this new construct: Manhattan was the warning bell we should have heeded about Allen’s incest and pedophilia… in 1979, when the drinking age was still 18, and liberals had yet to be infected with so much illiberalism.
Why MeToo Is Problematic: A Real Feminist is No Victim
My adopted mother, the couture designer Mary McFadden, declared when she turned 50 that she wasn’t interested in dating anyone over the age of 25. She married a 21-year-old, then had a messy divorce all over the Phil Donahue show, causing a book deal we were about to close to collapse: “People won’t buy a lifestyle book about someone whose life they disapprove of,” said our British-accented American agent on a call from her apartment on 83rd and Fifth. A few years later Mary recanted her decree, wisely moved the bar to 30, and settled for marrying a 32-year-old.
That’s feminism, not finger-wagging so intense it fans the flames of the culture pyre unnecessarily, threatening to overcook the the hundreds of White men both straight and gay, both guilty and really-not-guilty-of-much that are already roasting on it. As my creative partner, Rain Li, said when this MeToo/TimesUp production of The Crucible began its never-ending run, “I went to Cannes for six years in a row. Harvey Weinstein invited me to his room every single time. I was never so stupid as to go.”
The fact she was 24 years my senior certainly didn’t detract an Oscar-winning actress from MeTooing me harder than I’ve read about any male celebrity so far, stalking me over the course of six months, promising me work if I had sex with her; I was a still budding screenwriter desperate for a break — no matter what they tell you, trust me when I say that even actual, real White über-privilege gets you nowhere beyond an entry-level position in a meritocracy. I even introduced the screen legend to my boyfriend, a Hapsburg prince, in case anyone was going to quibble with “über-privilege.” It didn’t stop her screen-legend entitlement to have anyone she chose.
It was so bad that the only member of the entourage who could stand up to the this diva’s ferocious temper sat her down for a Come-to-Jesus about her treatment of me, following an outrageous night that ended with us almost knifed to death in Hells Kitchen. The movie star called my mother to apologize for calling every hour on the hour, it seemed to everyone around me, over those months to find out where I was. I have a few more where that came from, stories of powerful women behaving just like powerful men. I fended for myself. I prefer to treasure the anecdotes than wailing about trauma and oppression — I don’t want to wallow in the victimarian collective of super-entitled, Selfie Era American collective narcissists who have zero clue what real adversity and trauma mean. (Let me qualify that statement, too: I do not speak Hindi this well because I don’t know India arguably better than I know America.)
If they think Trump embarrassed America, at least he was elected to power. These nefarious, Jacobin, self-proclaimed moral judges, juries and executioners of people’s social and professional fates that are turbo-charging roving, cowardly gangs of online trolls casts a far darker shame on how America’s presents herself to the world – even Macron denounced it, but The Times and WaPo just hate-laughed and carried on publishing their hate-filled Opinion columnists, according them the same respect as objective journalism.
No, there are no double standards about my MeToo experiences just because I’m a man: True feminism means absolute parity, not selective, self-serving equitability that covers exposed empty heads with tinfoil halos that transmit virtue signals of compassion and empathy out into the chatting void of Twitter-dumb, when really it’s plain old hatred and frustration looking for a punching bag, and maybe a hot yoga class afterward. Namaste.
I could easily spin the stalking screen legend to fatten up my right to premium victimhood by talking about how shamed I was as a gay man for not being attracted to some of the world’s most beautiful, talented women, especially when they honored me by literally tackling me to the floor. At least I finally found her Oscar statuette, when I fell into the potted plants on the window sill where she kept it hidden, the world’s most prestigious icon lost in a forest of ivy.
Luckily, in gay culture we consider older-younger relationships to be healthy, especially for the intellectual and emotional development of the younger guy. There is zero stigma attached; on the contrary, many consider it erotic. There’s no faux morality created just to make sure the person who’s being locked in the stocks of public opinion is guilty, even unto the eyes of heaven. The same applies to Manhattan, and revisions to drafts of Allen’s work. (Betcha Princeton returns the papers after this documentary, faster than you can say “Woodrow Wilson.”)
When you give Allen and his supporters enough truths to create reasonable doubt, then their conspiracy theories about Mia Farrow and her children become real, in their entirety. This is the same as the social justice movement making the Right right with their many ill behaviors and double standards.
There is enough wrong with Allen’s crimes against Dylan that it shouldn’t need additional tenuous evidence of his lust for younger women gleaned from the subtext of his work, of all places. How did subtext and perceptions become facts and truth, not just in Allen’s case, but for every Indentitarian Left trope haunting this country? Could it be because there are no facts to substantiate their own specious tropes — how trops they love that word — so they need to be invented?
It’s Not About Soon-Yi, Either
Using the marriage to Soon-Yi is likewise fraught in terms of proving incest and pedophilia conclusively; they seem perfectly happy to me, despite the relentless shaming by just about the whole world. Again, the age of consent in New York is 17, and Soon-Yi wasn’t Allen’s daughter. What Soon-Yi’s narrative might serve to show is that Allen had no problem praying on Mia’s children. But not really. It’s not in the least equal to what happened to Dylan.
As I commented to a post today of a classmate from high school in New York — we met there in ’79, the year Manhattan was released — the film needs to be judged for the time and place in which it was made. Allen and Farrow still hadn’t met when the film was scripted and shot.
Most people who weren’t there cannot imagine what NYC was like back then. Compared to the shit that was going down day and night in New Babylon City — the random bedlam, the crime, every inch of every subway car tagged, the scream and rattle of trains; Studio 54, the drugs, Madison Square Garden, being awed every time by Grand Central Station, Beth Israel Hospital where I was born; the bathhouses, the drag queens, the hustle (“Do the hustle!”), the constant pre-app cruising, the colored sex-preference bandanas, sex in the Rambles, sex in the backrooms of gay bars, sex on the Pier, sex in the back of bookstores, sex in the park across the street from home, sex wherever you please, the gay bashers with baseball bats; the boom boxes, the restaurants, the mugging, the break dancing, the celebrities, the dazed tourists who don’t know how to walk with the flow, the hourly scandals, the vulgar, titled European expats bedecked in tans and highlights and Bulgari; Shakespeare in the Park, the Public Library, black tie events in the Met’s Temple of Dendur, the coming out balls at the Plaza; the fashion, Calvin Klein and Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren, the glamour, the dancing, the shopping (Barneys, Bloomingdales, Macys, Bergdorfs, Charivari, Fiorucci, Gucci (where I worked to earn pocket money in high school), Paul Stuart (where our former houseman and my best friend and protector, Dominic, is a salesman), the potholes, the privilege, the Harvard Club, the DJs who saved our lives; the slums, the doormen, tacky Trump and Olympic Towers, MOMA, the right churches, the right synagogs, the cabs, the nightclubs, the highest levels of banter and brilliance and asshole-ishness, the paparazzi, the limos, the towers, the gentlemen’s clubs; the sirens, the New Yorker strut, the New York minute, the schizos, the winos, the hookers, Soho aggressively gentrifying, the junkies nodding out; the theater, being overwhelmed by Times Square every time, the pimps, the live sex shows featuring underprivileged White, Black, Latino teens doing anything for cash, the mighty-mighty Hudson, the yuppies, the homeless; being only allowed to go to Silvia’s in Harlem as a White unaccompanied by Blacks (otherwise, “Chile, you in the wrong place”), hailing taxis in Harlem that wouldn’t stop for Vanessa and her blue-finger-nailed mother, Deloise (“go on, honey chile, make yourself useful”); the art, the characters, such characters, the midnight screenings of ‘Eraserhead’ and ‘Rocky Horror’, the drug dealers, the Lower East Side (another a no-go area), the gossip, the wealth, the artists, the musicians, the actors I no longer want to join as a career, the dancers, the singers, the jazz dancing; Wall Street and Fifth and Madison and Park and Broadway and Central Park West as well as South, and Central Park the park; the Twin Towers still standing, the canyons between the skyscrapers, the Empire State Building versus the Chrysler Building; the Village and Uptown and Downtown, and the constant noise and vibrating hum of the City that proclaims its reality as a living, steam-blowing dragon coiled on an Everest of gold, no place like it anywhere, the Capital of the World, the origin of everything cool and hip and about to happen — Woody Allen’s Manhattan is pretty tame.
Unnecessary outrage is so tired. When did Americans stop being cool? Shortly after Manhattan stopped, I suppose. It’s always led the way.