Woody the Factual; Woody the Fictional


Call me a crazy stalker with no life (I do), but all this recent revisionist Hubbub about the Woody Allen child molestation case can’t help but make me think about the meaning of some of his movies, his on screen persona and why people were so devastated when what happened, happened.

I’ll never forget turning on the news to see Woody giving a press conference saying that the child molestation charges against him were untrue, but he was “guilty of falling in love with Mia Farrow’s 21-year-old daughter.” He went on to say what a great actress and beautiful woman Mia was, at first, I thought it was a joke.

I was shocked and appalled, so was the nation. No one could believe that the loveable, nebbishy intellectual, who always seemed to have a case of extreme Jew guilt, could possibly have done something so insensitive. It seemed like something a hillbilly in a wifebeater would do, not a respected filmmaker.

I’d loved Woody ever since I was little. I’ll never forget the first time I saw him. I was eight years old, there he was dressed as a sperm, in “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex (but were afraid to ask). Something about his small head, large thick glasses and nervous attitude comforted me. Even though I didn’t understand half of the jokes in the movie I could relate to his fear and feeling of ineptitude. I decided then and there that I was going to marry Woody (I didn’t know I was too old for him).

When I got older I discovered his short stories. I loved Without Feathers. Woody Always said that even though he wasn’t an intellectual he was often mistaken for one because of the way he looked. I wasn’t an intellectual either, but I grew up around a few of them. Woody had a way of taking classic works of literature and retelling them in their most plebian form. I must have read Notes from the Overfed a million times I could relate to the overfed man much more than the underground one.

When the scandal broke I was 26. Appalled as I was by the whole thing, I had to know everything. I bought my first ever copy of “People”(sorry trees, sorry western civilization, sorry mom and dad) I couldn’t help it. It said Mia discovered the affair when she found naked pictures of Soon Yi in Woody’s dresser.

Woody later came out to defend himself in several interviews. He acted as if he didn’t understand why anyone was upset, even Mia. He gave some story about how he and Mia hadn’t slept together in years and their relationship was platonic. He said he hadn’t really known Soon Yi very well until she was an  adult.

The story got weirder when he produced a creepy Valentine given to him by Mia along with several crazy sounding correspondence. I felt sorry for her and at first I believed the story about the molestation. The guy who would sleep with his girlfriend’s  daughter seemed so different then the Woody Allen character in the movies that it seemed he was capable of anything.

The only thing that made me doubt it a little bit was and experience I’d had with a “therapist” of sorts. She wasn’t a real therapist she had some sort of counselor certificate from a Jesus college, my insurance didn’t cover mental health, care so I ended up going through a charity and getting her. I told her my mother was so complacent that I was lucky my father wasn’t one of those pedophiles and she tried to convince me that my father was, in fact, a pedophile. I didn’t believe her of course, but I could see how someone might if they had been through a very traumatic experience. There was a lot of that sort of thing going around in the nineties. It seemed that you weren’t anybody if you hadn’t been sexually abused as a child. I volunteered on a rape crisis line and some people would call in who hadn’t been raped at all they wanted someone to talk to and there wasn’t a hotline for other kinds of crisis in the area.

Facts in the molestation case began to emerge and it really sounded made up (I’m not saying it was, I’m saying it sounded that way). It was alleged to be an isolated incident that took place on a single  afternoon during the custody hearings. Woody was alleged to have taken Dylan into a room at Mia’s house and molested her and then never did it again. He said himself it would be an odd moment to decide to become a child molester and I have to agree.  The charges were later dismissed for lack of evidence, he lost custody of his kids as well he should have. Even if he wasn’t a child molester, he should know better then to schtup his kid’s stepsister.

After reading about the scandal I was reminded of The Purple Rose of Cairo in which Mia portrayed a battered woman and ineffectual waitress whose one comfort in life is going to the movies by herself in the afternoon. She see the same movie over and over again because she is in love with (or thinks she is in love with) the lead actor. The character he plays in the movie comes down off the screen and romances her, he is a classic movie hero honest faithful and trust worthy, with a firm belief in the screenwriter. “He’s fictional, but nobody’s perfect”, Mia quips. When the actor who plays the character finds out what has happened he comes to town to romance Mia and take her away from the fictional version of himself. The actor is of course an insincere boar who only cares about himself.

After the scandal broke, I couldn’t help but think that Woody was actually writing about himself, we all saw him as a lovable and  neurotic, self-deprecating intellectual, when in actuality he was a pompous sleaze who didn’t give a fuck about anything but his own enjoyment.

Most recently Woody wrote and directed Blue Jasmine which has been nominated for an Oscar just as it should have been. The movie is about a Blanche Dubois like character who comes to live in her sister’s dumpy San Francisco apartment after her Bernie Madoff like husband had killed himself in jail.  !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!SPOILER ALERT! STOP READING I YOU HAVEN”T SEEN IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It turns out the only reason he was ever caught is because he was cheating on her with several younger woman and a good friend of hers. She got mad and in an irrational moment turned him into the feds.

In other words the character is an upper-class New York woman who has been cheated on and humiliate, sort of like Mia.

I can only imagine what Mia must have thought when she heard the plot, first he cheats on her with her adopted daughter, acts like it doesn’t matter and then he marries the daughter, He goes on to make a movie a year and gets nominated for many an Oscar while her career stagnates. Then he writes a movie which arguable mirrors some of her story and he gets all kinds of accolades for it. If I were her I’d be pissed all over again.

A lot of his movies deal with luck like Crimes and Misdemeanors and Matchpoint. If those movies a single piece of luck saves the hero’s from the consequences of their actions. I can’t help but wonder, if Mia hadn’t found those pictures of Soon-Yi, what would have happened?

At the end of the day, he is as much of a bastard as he is a talent. No one is like Woody in terms of talent and proliferation. Anyone can see what an amazing writer and director he is and it turned out he was a pretty good actor too. His work and his humor are deeply inbeded in our culture. He has influenced many, many writers and comedians including Lena Dunham, Louis C.K. and Todd Solandz to name a few.

None of us will ever know what happened, but we can try to read between the lines.

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