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We Need to Stop Normalizing Woody Allen’s Creepy Behavior

by Stephanie Sklar 11 months ago in pop culture · updated 2 months ago
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Let's Call His On and Offscreen Relationships with Considerably Younger "Women" What They Really Are: Downright Gross

Woody Allen and Mariel Hemingway in Manhattan, United Artists, Courtesy Everett Collection, Attribution link: https://variety.com/2021/film/news/mariel-hemingway-woody-allen-manhattan-1234952300/

Today, we’re going to have a look at Woody Allen’s relationship in the 1979 film, Manhattan, in which his character, Isaac Davis, is a 42-year-old writer who is dating 17-year-old Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), a college-bound high school student. No one around them in the film bats an eyelash, raises an eyebrow or does a double take in regard to this strange relationship. At the time, most of the critics, male and female — lauded the film, with no mention of this relationship being downright creepy. Mariel Hemingway has never looked more beautiful in the black and white cinematography and the Gershwin music is romantic and wistful, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that the normalization of this relationship is downright weird and unsettling. Although Mariel Hemingway says she had a positive experience in working with Allen, she does admit that he was the first person she ever kissed and that she was worried about this onscreen kiss for weeks. What’s even more disturbing is that she admits that he attacked her like she was a linebacker while they were practicing the kiss.

It gets worse. Mariel Hemingway claims in her memoir, Out Came the Sun, that Allen tried to lure her to Paris when she turned 18 and that her parents lightly encouraged her to go. Once she figured out that she wouldn’t be getting her own room on the trip and that he wanted to share a room, she called it off.

Let’s face it, Woody Allen is a creepy dude and life eerily imitates art. Anyone who marries his stepdaughter is a creepy dude — no matter how you look at it. His films can be brilliant (e.g. Hannah and Her Sisters, Another Woman, etc.). No one is taking that away from him, but he cheated on Mia Farrow with their stepdaughter, Soon-Yi. Woody Allen is big about technical language and technicalities to facilitate and legitimize his bad behavior. He “technically” wasn’t her stepfather since he and Mia Farrow never married and therefore, he was her mother’s boyfriend. Soon-Yi confirms all of this too. Uh-huh. Guess what? That’s still gross. It’d be the equivalent of my stepdaughter’s close friend messing around with her mom’s boyfriend, which she would never do because she’s a normal human being, which, I’m sorry, but Woody Allen and Soon-Yi aren’t. They’re not normal, stable human beings.

Woody Allen and Soon-Yi contend that she was 21 when their affair began. 21 may sound like it’s okay for some because it’s the legal drinking age, but I’ll let you in on a little secret. I was really stupid when I was 21. I made some of the worst decisions when I was in my late teens and early 20s. I thought I knew a lot at the time, but I didn’t really know much. Woody Allen was 56 when he and Soon-Yi’s relationship began. That’s a 35-year age difference.

But wait…It gets worse. According to family friends, the age difference is worse than Woody Allen and Soon-Yi mentioned and said Soon-Yi was a teenager when their affair began in the documentary, Allen v. Farrow. I’ll approach this cautiously, being that Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick have been known to play fast and loose with certain facts to further their agenda and that in them doing so, people have gotten hurt from being wrongfully and/or unfairly accused.

And the problematic behavior doesn’t stop there. We have the sexual molestation allegations from Dylan Farrow, Woody Allen’s adoptive daughter. Allen’s attorney said the memories were implanted memories by her mother, Mia Farrow. This is one hell of an allegation and a new one too. Usually, it’s the therapists who have been accused of implanting memories — not the parents. That‘s what is so striking about this case. When sexual abuse occurs, the fight-or-flight response goes into overdrive and the victim either blocks parts — maybe even a lot of the abuse — out to cope or he or she remembers every single detail. There’s a common misconception among survivors of abuse that they need to go to therapy to try and remember what happened. Sketchy/shady therapists can then put the patient under hypnosis to try and remember what happened and that’s how implanted memories occur. The patient ends up remembering things that didn’t happen.

However, in this case, Allen’s attorney is saying that Mia implanted memories early on in Dylan at the age of 7. As someone who studied Psychology and was one class away from my minor, there’s something about this accusation that doesn’t wash. Please keep in mind that that’s just my personal opinion. Please take it with a grain of salt. After all, I was so close — yet so far away — from getting that Psych minor.

Let’s be clear that just because implanted memories occur, it doesn’t mean that the abuse didn’t occur. It means that the incorrect memories of abuse are now mixed in with real memories of abuse. Then it gets tricky in regard to what happened and what didn’t. Such therapy should be outlawed because you’re messing with the normal and natural fight-or-flight mechanism that blocks out certain memories to shield you and protect you and to help you cope.

Mariel Hemingway’s heartbreaking account of her and Allen’s onscreen kiss made me think about one of my favorite shows, The Facts of Life. There’s one episode in which Tootie (Kim Fields) is being chaperoned by her friends and Mrs. Garrett (Charlotte Rae) to a photo shoot in NYC to see if she has what it takes to be a model. The photographer tells her that she’ll have to go on a diet to lose her baby fat and that she’ll have to do implied nudity. Bear in mind, Tootie is probably 13 years old here — if even that. She tells the photographer that his directions for her to snarl like an animal embarrassed her and made her uncomfortable (Me too.) and that she didn’t want to give up good food, Eastland (her school), and her friends. Basically, Tootie doesn’t want to stop the natural process of growing up that so many young women miss out on when they enter into the modeling and/or movie industry and I don’t blame her. “How am I supposed to make love to the camera when I’ve never even kissed a guy?” Well put. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Works Cited

Allen v. Farrow. Directed by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, performance by Mia Farrow and Dylan O’Sullivan Farrow. Home Box Office, 2021. HBO Max, https://www.hbomax.com/series/urn:hbo:series:GYB3SAQKmr698pQEAAABL.

Eckardt, Stephanie. “Mariel Hemingway, Then 16, Was Terrified of Her Kissing Scene with Woody Allen in Manhattan.” W Magazine. 5 Jan. 2018, https://www.wmagazine.com/story/mariel-hemingway-woody-allen-teenage-girls-first-kiss. Accessed 18 Jun. 2021.

Hemingway, Mariel. Out Came the Sun: Overcoming the Legacy of Mental Illness, Addiction, and Suicide in My Family. Blackstone Audio, Inc. 2015.

Lind-Westbrook, Jennifer. “Allen v. Farrow: Woody & Soon-Yi’s Relationship Timeline Explained.” Screen Rant. 25 Feb. 2021, https://screenrant.com/allen-v-farrow-woody-soon-yi-relationship-age-explained/. Accessed 19 Jun. 2021.

Rose, Lacey. “Oprah Winfrey Steps away from Russell Simmons Accuser Doc, Pulls from Apple+.” The Hollywood Reporter. 10 Jan. 2020, https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/tv/tv-news/oprah-winfrey-steps-away-russell-simmons-accuser-doc-1268653/. Accessed 19 Jun. 2021.

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About the author

Stephanie Sklar

Stephanie is a writer who resides in Maryland with her boyfriend, their daughter, and their two orange tabby cats, Slam and Allie. She loves the beach, boardwalk, Barn 34’s pancakes, and soft-serve ice cream in Ocean City, MD.

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