Monday, September 17, 2018

Lest Ye Be Judged

The biggest problem with gossip is that it is always judgmental.

Woody Allen's wife Soon-Yi Previn gave an interview that was published this week.  I mostly ignored that news because I don't know (but pretty much don't believe) if Mr. Allen sexually assaulted Dylan Farrow as a child.  I've spent enough time with family law cases to believe Ms. Farrow would make up the allegations and encourage her daughter to believe them (children at the age of 7 are extremely susceptible to suggestions from their parents, and extremely eager to please their parents.  It's the major problem with the "child abuse" cases of many decades ago, with lurid tales of "satanic practices" that people believed, even when such things supposedly took place in broad daylight in the public setting of a day care or a pre-school).  I was relieved that at least the interview seems to have taken all the air out of the "Mr. Allen-stole-Soon-Yi/raped her as a child."  Nothing in the interview supports those lurid suggestions that Mr. Allen ripped his now-wife from the cradle; but Ms. Cauterucci finds ways to imply Mr. Allen is a white slaver, anyway.

Nor, according to Ms. Previn, did Mr. Allen steal her from the arms of a loving family.  Is it true Ms. Farrow was "Mommy Dearest Redux"?  I don't know, and I don't care.  But where gossip is concerned, such judgments are always the concern:

 (In 2015, Mariel Hemingway said a fortysomething-year-old Allen flew to visit her at her parents’ house when she was 18 to try to convince her to travel to Paris with him; when she confronted him with her suspicion that he would make them share a room, he left.) 
Actually, he spoke to Ms. Hemingway's parents, and they left it up to her.  She declined the offer, he left quietly, and nothing more was said.  Besides, she was 18, presumably the age of consent in New York at the time.  Ms. Hemingway recounted the story to describe how gentlemanly Mr. Allen was.  Ms. Cauterucci uses the story to be sure we understand what a predator he is, and therefore he must be guilty of the crime he's never been charged with, and implicitly of still playing Svengali to his wife.

The whole discussion of the interview is on this line:  Ms. Previn is manipulated by her husband, who is in the room during the interview (who knew the interview was a police investigation and the witnesses should have been questioned separately?).  This, of course, infantilizes the 47 year old woman, but she must remain perpetually a child so we can sit perpetually in judgment, and remain perpetually outraged.

Merkin also periodically lets Allen jump into her conversations with Previn to correct his wife. When Previn says Allen has reshaped her life by giving her “a whole world that I wouldn’t have had access to,” Allen interjects to clarify that he “provided her with material access and opportunity, but it’s all her,” and that he’s “more introverted and nondescript.” 

The bastard!

Another journalist might have confronted Allen with the way he described his role in their relationship to the Hollywood Reporter in 2016:

She was an orphan on the streets, living out of trash cans and starving as a 6-year-old. … And so I’ve been able to really make her life better. I provided her with enormous opportunities, and she has sparked to them. … She’s very sophisticated and has been to all the great capitals of Europe. She has just become a different person. The contributions I’ve made to her life have given me more pleasure than all my films.

This far creepier characterization positions Allen as both white-savior colonizer and parent, raising a Korean-born child into the Westernized wife of his desires. Merkin’s failure to mention it betrays the apparent purpose of the profile: not to give the long-silent Previn the chance to claim her life story as her own, but to make one last-ditch effort to save Allen’s legacy from the bright lights of the #MeToo movement. 
Well, I suppose, yeah, that is a "creepier" description, or at least a disturbing story of Ms. Previn's childhood*, but "white-savior colonizer...raising a Korean-born child into the Westernized wife of his desires"?  Seriously?  It's my understanding from the interview they started dating when Ms. Previn was in college.  I think the reference to travel is for that period, not when she was an adolescent.  Is Mr. Allen really guilty of a sin for taking his girlfriend/wife (whenever the trips occurred) abroad?

I mention this because this response to the interview is an overheated reaction to a non-story sparked only by Amazon cancelling the release of Mr. Allen's latest film.  Maybe they looked at it and said "Nope, not really what we paid for."  Maybe they panicked over actors now refusing to work with Mr. Allen, and regretting that they ever had (never stopped Scarlett Johansson, a movie that provoked almost as much controversy  as "Manhattan" but only for her age v. Mr. Allen's, and that was many movies ago).  Who knows?  But in an age when people are being put in cages in Texas for the temerity of applying for asylum in this country, and the President is declassifying DOJ documents and records of private conversations the better to belittle the special prosecutor, the story of Mr. Allen and his wife are rather small beer.  And frankly, it doesn't aid the story of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who is going to have a hard enough time getting a fair hearing (as Dahlia Lithwick points out, the accuser is always tardy in making her accusation, no matter when it is made).  The life of Woody Allen is an old chestnut, and a hoary one.  His wife says she gave the interview because of the Amazon cancellation and the things being said about her husband.  Devotion to one's beloved cuts no ice with Ms. Cauterucci:  Mr. Allen should be tarred and feathered and Mrs. Allen be made to wear a scarlet "A".  Because otherwise women will never have justice in America.

Or something.  I've given up figuring out why people get so angry about other people, especially other people they don't really know.  That, too, is a sin in the interview:  that the interviewer was a family friend.  Again, I didn't realize all celebrity interviews should be conducted as if they were hostile witnesses and the truth could only be obtained by harsh and demanding questions.  But Mr. Allen deserves no less than the Grand Inquisitor, and his wife deserves shaming just for being married to him.

Or maybe for taking so long to break her silence.  Wouldn't that be ironic?

*but the interview confirms it, and I seriously doubt the original interview inferred it was Mr. Allen who took her off the streets of Seoul and brought her to America to live with Ms. Farrow.  So what's creepier than distorting facts to make a point you can't make otherwise.

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