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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My Conflicted Love of All Things Woody Allen

It began on a wintery March day in 1985. My best friend, Katie, had suggested ditching school, a sure remedy for our raging case of "senioritis." We climbed into Katie's red VW Bug and headed for her house. First we stopped at a gourmet popcorn shop for snacks, then a video store to get some movies. 
(Her mom worked; mine did not).

Katie found "Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask)." 

"Have you ever seen this?" she asked, holding the chunky VHS case in the air. "It's a riot."

(Remember video stores? Remember VHS tapes? God, I'm old...)

Katie was right. We laughed our asses off all afternoon watching that movie, and it remains one of my favorite Woody Allen movies to this day. Hannah and Her Sisters is another favorite.  And Annie Hall, and...I could go on.

And now, Blue Jasmine. 

I treated myself to this movie last night. There was no trudging out video store in the blizzard, no VHS tape, not even a DVD. Just a simple push of the "On Demand" button, and the movie appeared on the screen, in my bedroom, while I snuggled beneath my down comforter. Ah, the On Demand button...getting older does have its advantages. 

I'm not going to review the movie. Simply put, I liked it, and think all of the nominations it has received are well deserved. 

My husband, Scott, came to bed towards the end of the movie. "Is it good?" he asked. "Did you like it?"

"It is. And I did. I mean, I do like it."

And then there it was...that heavy, sinking feeling I always get when I admit to liking anything Woody Allen does or has done. It's my maternal conscience...the one that jumps up and judges and shakes her finger at me and says Woody Allen has a thing for young girls and it's wrong in every sense. Well, had a thing for young girls.

Maybe my heightened aversion to his personal life choices has more to do with the fact that I'm the mother of two daughters. One is 15, and the other is getting ready to turn 13. Soon-Yi Previn was 19 when she began her affair with Woody. He was 56. I can't imagine my oldest daughter, who will turn 19 in three short years, falling in love with a man who is older than her father. It's very strange to me. (It's strange to all of us, right?) It makes me squirm with repugnance, and when I get like this, my thoughts inevitably turn to Mia Farrow. 

If I'd been married to Woody Allen--or any man with whom I adopted children--and he "fell in love" with one of those children, I would want to kill him. The relationship is wrong and inappropriate, and I know...I'm being very judgmental. I'm not Woody Allen or Soon-Yi Previn. What do I know of their relationship? But I'm a mother and a human being and whenever this issue comes up or I see it on TV or in magazines, I get that heavy, slinking gut-reaction and if there's one thing I've definitely learned as I've gotten older, it's to listen to my gut. 

So this is my conundrum. How can I have these objectionable feelings when it comes to his life choices and still like and appreciate him as an artist? What does it say about me? That I'm ok with him being married to a young woman who once lived in his home as a child? That he can get away with this kind of behavior because he's a brilliant writer, satirist, director and actor? 

I like Woody Allen and his movies. I can't help it. He makes me laugh. I appreciate his talent. I wish I was half as talented a writer as he is. And seeing how he continues to win awards for his work I'm clearly one of the throng who holds him in high esteem. 

I'm just wondering if I'm in the minority of those whose moral standards are at odds with their appreciation of him as an artist. 

Am I?

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