Friday, February 7, 2014

Why Woody Allen Matters

The Woody Allen saga is back in the news this week. I have alluded to the fact that Woody was, in the time, the living, breathing example of what therapy could do for you. He typified the goal of therapy. He showed in his person what it meant to overcome repression and to live a free and creative life.

After all, he had undergone three decades of therapy. It had to have been good for something.

In a new Weekly Standard article, John Podhoretz emphasizes the importance of Woody Allen as an idol, as someone people worshiped and even emulated.

Until Soon-yi… as it happened. When the Woody Allen idol crashed in 1992 the problem was not suspicious that he molested a 7 year old; it was about what everyone knew he had done to Soon-yi Previn.

Podhoretz describes it:

But what this nightmarish business, being played out in public, brings to mind again is this: Woody Allen slept with and took pornographic photographs of the teenage sister of his three children, the daughter of his all-but-common-law wife. His conduct was unspeakable—and when Walter Isaacson, then editor of Time, asked Allen about it, he replied, famously, “The heart wants what it wants.” He was 56 years old.

What made Woody Allen an idol?

Podhoretz answers:

Really, what he was saying was this: I can because I can. Allen was an idol, perhaps the idol, of an entire class of his fellow New Yorkers, his fellow Jews, and his fellow skeptical liberals. There was almost nothing his admirers didn’t admire about him. They loved him because he was funny, because he wanted to produce serious art in the style of the great European filmmakers, and because he played jazz at a club every Monday night. They loved him for writing New Yorker stories, and they loved his relationship with Mia Farrow.

Naturally, the idolatry extended to Woody’s thoroughly modern semi-marital arrangement with Mia Farrow. At a time when people believed that traditional marriage was a form of institutional repression, it looked like Woody and Mia had found a way to liberate themselves from it.

Podhoretz explains:

The year before the photos came out, Allen’s slavish biographer, Eric Lax, published a fulsome article in the New York Times Magazine about the wonders of Allen and Farrow’s coupledom, then 11 years in duration. It was “not a conventional union,” he said, pointing out that they lived in separate apartments across Central Park from one another. But, Lax wrote, in a rather striking passage, “Few married couples seem more married. They are constantly in touch with each other, and not many fathers spend as much time with their children as Allen does. He is there before they wake up in the morning, he sees them during the day and he helps put them to bed at night.”

Idolatry, anyone? There you have it, in one exemplary human being, an expression of sophisticated countercultural values, New York style.


Sam L. said...

Watching a Woody Allen movie now is much like the feeling I get seeing O.J. Simpson in the Naked Gun movies.

n.n said...

Rebels with a cause and without a clue. Every generation has a stable filled with these creatures.

Recruiting Animal said...

I see you saying that Woody Allen's affair with his "step-daughter" is typical of someone's set of values.

But I can't figure out whose exactly. New York liberals? Really?

You see, although I like reading your blog, I think you betray your intelligence with the kind of unfair, nasty critique that you accuse others of making.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I'll try to be less critical in the future.... I was saying that Woody Allen was a product of psychotherapy and the culture that it promotes. For many intellectually sophisticated New Yorkers he represented the goal of therapy. As the quotes suggest, when he was living in his cross-park arrangement with Mia Farrow, he was applauded by New Yorkers for having overcome traditional lifestyles and morality.