I saw something on television yesterday morning that I haven’t seen in a long time. A very long time.
A network TV commercial for a new Woody Allen movie played while I was getting ready for work. I can’t even remember the last time I saw a TV commercial for a Woody Allen movie.
It’s not like he hasn’t been churning out movies all along. We haven’t had a year without a Woody Allen film since 1976, according to the Internet Movie Database ( IMDB). But they don’t advertise them on television. At least not here in North Carolina.
I’d always assumed it was because he was considered somewhat unsavory because he hooked up with Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter while in a long-term relationship with Ms. Farrow which was the very definition of ‘It’s complicated.’ And, let’s face it, hooking up with his almost-stepdaughter was kind of creepy, and only made things more complicated.
But Woody insisted then and now that there was nothing wrong with the relationship. Before the dust settled, he had been accused of molesting his seven-year-old adopted daughter, but no charges were ever filed, and the world moved on to other, fresher scandals du jour. Woody married Soon-Yi, and other actresses were found to star in his movies after Mia Farrow cut bait and fished no more.
Which is all old news. It happened decades ago, and Woody and Soon-Yi are an old married couple now, and those of us who had previously enjoyed Allen’s films had to make up our own minds what our relationship with him and our cinematic pleasure was going to be.
Myself, I took the weenie way out and decided he would make no more money off of me. That would be the punishment I would inflict upon him. I declined to financially support his creepiness. I refused to buy any further movie theater tickets, or buy or rent DVDs, but if a movie popped up on television or a DVD turned up at the library, I’d watch it. I felt a little dirty doing it, and certainly wouldn’t admit to anyone those occasional cinematic guilty pleasures, but I still enjoyed the odd freebie from time to time. It wasn’t an ideal solution, but it was a serviceable one. I could still enjoy the work of one of my favorite filmmakers, free of any guilt that I was financing his pervy ways.
It worked well until his adopted daughter, now an adult, published an open letter describing what he had done to her in riveting, graphic detail. She opens the letter by asking, “What is your favorite Woody Allen film?” After telling the harrowing tale of Allen’s abuse of her and its impact on her life, she ends the letter by asking the question again, “Now, what’s your favorite Woody Allen movie?” That ended the Woody Allen movies for me. Haven’t watched one since, free or otherwise. Denial runs deep, but not that deep.
But now I see they’re advertising his new film on TV. Here in flyover country no less, where Woody Allen has never been a big box-office draw. I have to wonder why. And of course, why now.
It has to have something to do with the avalanche of stories of sexual misconduct hitting the news on an almost daily basis. It just has to. But in what alternate universe does a new lack of tolerance in the culture for sexual impropriety excuse old sexual impropriety?
Perhaps the marketing team of the new Woody Allen film felt that if being accused of sexual misconduct is the new normal, now was the perfect time for Woody Allen to go mainstream and expand his popularity outside the New York – LA axis. After all, he has a proven track record of surviving sexual scandals.
Perhaps that marketing team felt that after electing a president who confessed on tape the great pleasure he takes in sexual assault, America was ready to embrace the discreet filmmaking charms of an alleged pedophile and creepy pseudo-stepchild marrier.
Perhaps the marketing team is concentrating on marketing to the South because Alabama has made it clear to them that Alabamians share a love for one of Woody Allen’s favorite themes — old men who chase and seduce teenagers — and they’re making the assumption that a predilection for pedophilia is a regional trait.
And of course, none of these potential reasons make any sense.
Perhaps the jailhouse of public opinion is filling up, and like any jail, when it starts getting too full, some of the folks who have been there the longest get paroled. So maybe, the marketers have decided the time is right for the court of public opinion to set Woody Allen free.
So, in the words of Dylan Farrow, “What’s your favorite Woody Allen movie?”
Mine was “Manhattan.” You know, the exquisitely photographed black and white love letter to the city after which it is named, in which, incidentally, Woody Allen’s middle-aged character has an affair with a high school girl, patterned after Allen’s own affair with a Stuyvesant student.
So if you’ve been asking, ‘why now’ as far as all the recent allegations of sexual crimes, misdemeanors and shenanigans, perhaps a better question would be, ‘why not before.’
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.