“WOODY ALLEN IS A PREDATOR.” Or so screams out from the Salon website posted on March 26, 2015. The sub-title is “Why Mariel Hemingway’s new revelation matters,” and it is meant to grab my attention—and it has. It also send chills up my spine and should yours also, whether you’re in the “I knew it!” camp or the “No way!” camp. It is meant to pull visitors to the Salon site—and it has.
My immediate response to this headline was, “Just gimme some truth!” Then, I took a moment to ponder those sixteen words and I realized that it wasn’t what I was expecting; it was a bit of a shock.
Why is Mariel Hemingway of all people saying that Woody Allen is a sexual predator! A modern monster! Where is this all coming from? And how does she know?
Six in ten people acknowledge that they have done nothing more than read headlines in the past week.
Did she witness something?
Did he take her into his confidence and confess?
Say it ain’t so, Joe!
Well, it ain’t so—those three sentences above are just a headline to attract attention to an article on the Internet. But the impression that headline will have on almost every reader—that Hemingway has the goods on Allen—is what every reader who reads the headline will walk away with, unless that reader reads on.
Now, in the rules regarding normal editorial writing and publishing (you know, like they used to use in the print media), the title “Woody Allen is a genius. Woody Allen is a predator”: Why Mariel Hemingway’s new revelation matters can be interpreted only one way: that the statement in quotation marks followed by a colon was spoken by the person named after the colon. (And the use of the colon is suspect—a dash mark would have been more appropriate.) 1
As written, the impression that this headline leaves is that Ms. Hemingway, an actress who made two movies with Mr. Allen (Manhattan in 1979 and Deconstructing Harry in 1997), has recently uttered or written revelatory words that include accusing Allen of being a “predator.”
I have not read Hemingway’s book, nor do I intend to. I rarely find biographies or autobiographies of entertainment figures interesting. Nor do I have to read it to address Ms. Keane’s article: I am writing this merely to call attention to that part of the book that Keane cites as evidence that Allen is a predator.
Using Ms. Keane’s example, I did not find Allen’s behavior predatory. In fact, I found it essentially the opposite of predatory. By contemporary standards, his behavior is positively gentlemanly.
I suppose Pandora’s box could have looked something like this, although it could just as easily have had a more feminine finish.
A qualifying statement
Now, due to the hostility that certain subjects broached in both Ms. Keane’s article and my response engender in many people, I must, perforce, make this qualifier: nothing I write here is intended to sanction rape or any form of non-consensual sex or any form of sexual abuse of children.
That said, anybody with an awareness of the vast differences in cultural mores right here in this country—right now, this day—should realize that there are several words in my qualifier that require addressing as their meanings are fluid—primarily rape and children.
Hell’s Bells! Throw a little alcohol, pot, or coke into the mix and we can even have discussions on the meaning of consensual! But that’s a whole other can of Pandora’s boxes that I am not going to tackle in this lifetime. Now back to the Allen/Hemingway article …
So that we are all on the same page, let’s parse the three sentences in the headline. First, to parse a sentence—and the use of the word parse is rather recent; I certainly didn’t hear it used in my English or grammar or writing classes in high school or college in the 1960s or ’70s—is “to divide a sentence into grammatical parts and identify the parts and their relations to each other” (Merriam-Webster).
It is also used to mean the deconstruction of a sentence into its individual parts (words) to determine what they mean, what is being said.
No way could anyone intend to include Woody Allen among such true geniuses as Albert Einstein.
What do these sentences mean?
So, let us parse the first sentence, “Woody Allen is a genius.” The use of genius here is not meant to place Mr. Allen among the Einstein and Shakespeare crowd. The five-word sentence actually means that it is the opinion of the writer of the sentence that Woody Allen is an extraordinarily creative artist, an exceptionally gifted filmmaker.
Okay, that’s an opinion that I share and many an argument can be made to back it.
Second sentence: “Woody Allen is a predator.” The word predator of course does not refer to its primary definition, “an animal that lives by killing and eating other animals.” (Merriam-Webster)
Neither does it mean MW’s secondary definition: “a person who looks for other people in order to use, control, or harm them in some way.”
In the context of the accusations against Allen, predator is a buzzword loaded with tacit meaning: it means sexual predator. Given the ongoing debate about Allen’s reputation, it means a mature male who seeks out and seduces or rapes immature females. 2
Despite what the millions of headline-readers believe, there is no actual evidence (an accusation is not evidence) that this applies to Allen, but that’s what the third sentence and the article that follows are supposedly about.
That third sentence is “Why Mariel Hemingway’s new revelation matters.”
In the context of the accusations against Allen, ‘predator’ is a buzzword loaded meaning a mature male who seeks out and seduces or rapes immature females.
Anyone who has made it through Journalism 101 knows that the headline of any article is often the only part of an article that most people read! According to The Washington Post, “Roughly six in ten people acknowledge that they have done nothing more than read news headlines in the past week.”
That is a higher percentage than I was taught in Wilkes College way back in 1970, when functional literacy was at a higher rate and attention disorders much lower. In fact, it is so much higher than what I remember being taught that I would guess that a large percentage of the small percentage that claim to have read more than the headlines did so but once (or are just lying in the survey).
So the headline will give the overwhelming majority of visitors to this Salon page the impression that Mariel Hemingway has accused Woody Allen of being a sexual predator of children.
Reading the article that follows leaves another impression entirely as to what the actress actually said—or did not say. 3
Mia Farrow in perhaps her most memorable yet least endearing role in an Allen film in which she played a former mobster’s girlfriend in Broadway Danny Rose, for which she should have been nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actress.
Queasy blind spots
The second lede sentence in bold print just beneath the headline reads, “I love Manhattan, even though it makes me queasy. Hemingway’s new memoir forces me to confront my blind spot.” So, the author loves Woody Allen’s movie but admits that it now makes (or always has made) her queasy, and that she now has (or always has had) some problems with the film, her “blind spot.”
“This is my own garbage confession: Woody Allen’s Manhattan used to be one of my favorite movies. If I am confessing fully, I have to admit that on some level, I will always feel drawn to it, maybe in the way that disillusioned former church-goers might feel a yearning from somewhere deep inside of them when they pass a door they know on so many levels they can never cross again. Knowing the truth about what you believe and longing for the time before you knew it are not mutually exclusive states of being.”
For those unfamiliar with the Farrow/Allen case, most of what follows in Keane’s article will be meaningless. Suffice to say that more than twenty years ago Allen was accused of sexually molesting his 7-year old adopted daughter. The child was thoroughly (physically, emotionally, intellectually) examined at the time by two state agencies at the behest of the prosecutor. Both agencies arrived at the same conclusion: there was no evidence that she had been abused.
The judge in the case refused to accept the expert testimony: he considered his own opinion of greater worth than those of the experts, as is his right as a judge. (There was still no evidence against Allen and the prosecutor dropped the case. But that’s another story.)
So, if medically and legally the child was not abused, then there was no abuser. That has not stopped the anti-Allen horde. (There are some who believe that Mia Farrow, who had been jilted by Allen, fueled the child’s accusations or was the actual abuser.) 4
So combine the article’s two headlines with its opening paragraph and we know we are in for an unpleasant reading experience if we happen to be among those who remain utterly unconvinced by the arguments for Woody Allen’s guilt.
Mariel Hemingway in the famous vanilla malt slurp-race scene in 1979’s Manhattan with Woody Allen providing musical support for her on his jew’s-harp, an instrument he learned from John Sebastian in 1966 while making the insane movie What’s Up, Tiger Lilly?
And then there is the actual movie
Since I want my readers to click on over to Salon and read the article in its entirety—never take anyone’s opinion at face value when a few minutes research can verify or contradict that opinion—I will just present a few facts about the plot of Manhattan the movie:
• Isaac (Woody Allen) is a 42-year-old television writer who quits his unfulfilling job to be a serious writer.
• Isaac is having an affair with Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), a very bright 17-year-old girl.
• Isaac’s best friend Yale (Michael Murphy) is married but is having an affair with Mary (Diane Keaton).
• Isaac’s friends try to get him to see women his own age and he dumps Tracy, breaking her heart, and becomes involved with Mary.
• After a tangle of plot and sub-plot elements, Isaac realizes that his heart belongs to Tracy and tries to get her back. 5
That’s the outline of the plot. Yes, it’s an older man/younger woman story, in this case the woman being a teenager—even if she is of the age of legal consent (which varies from state to state). My interpretation of the film’s theme has always been that the older man’s feelings for the younger woman are confused and compromised by the fact that by our society’s definition, at 17 she is too damn young.
Therefore she cannot possibly be mature enough for the relationship that he and especially she envision together.
At 17, Tracy is too damn young—therefore she cannot possibly be mature enough for the relationship that he and especially she envision together.
Because of our social mores and the tacit taboo on anyone deemed “adult” having sex with anyone under the age of 18, this must be so—even though Tracy does not act like in any way immature. In fact, she is the most emotionally and intellectually stable character in the movie. Nonetheless, Isaac convinces himself that he cannot take the relationship seriously.
In the early part of the film, when he is content with Tracy, Isaac does look somewhat pathetic or even mildly lecherous, if only in the kind of buffoonish manner we lovingly associate with many of Allen’s film roles. Nowhere in the film does he look particularly dangerous or evil or, you know … predatory.
In fact, his affection for her and she for him is obvious to the movie’s viewers all along. Most of us are rooting for the couple to get past the cultural mores and commit to a “meaningful relationship.”
But Isaac is swayed by his reservations and by his friends and breaks off the relationship with Tracy and begins one with Mary.
These complications make up the narrative of the story. They include such important issues as Yale’s wanting Mary (despite the damage it will do his marriage) and Isaac’s ex-wife writing a tell-all about her marriage to Isaac (despite the damage it will do to many people, notably Isaac).
So it is that all of the other people in Isaac’s life prove to be confused and compromised.
Except the one shining beacon of emotional stability and sureness in the movie: Tracy, the supposed “child” with whom he is in love.
When Sleeper came out in 1973, I was still under the impression that Woody Allen was a comedian who somehow looked avant-garde by playing on old slapstick routines.
And then there is the movie critic
Okay? Back to Ms. Keane’s article. She acknowledges the fineness of Manhattan as a movie, then digs in: “If you had asked me at 17 if I would ever date a 44-year old, I might have actually barfed.”
If the photo of Erin Keane that accompanies the article is current, she is nowhere near her forties, so such a relationship may still be icky. If you had asked me at 17 if I would ever date a 44-year old woman, I might have actually barfed, too. Now I know better and in hindsight wished that I had found “older women” more attractive.
(And keep in mind: this has absolutely nothing to do with the accusation of sexually abusing a 7-year old girl.)
“We all have our blind spots. Woody Allen is a cultural blind spot for us, an artist of incomparable influence whose work has purchased him forgiveness from a public he spent his entire artistic career grooming to forgive men like him.”
First, who is the “us” she is talking about and speaking for?
Second, are we supposed to believe that Woody Allen movies like Bananas, Sleeper, Annie Hall, Love And Death, Broadway Danny Rose, Bullets Over Broadway, Midnight In Paris, etc., were really about Allen using some form of subliminal messaging to undermine our morals and prep us, one and all, to forgive him his trespasses—those trespasses apparently being his fondness for attractive women between the ages of 17 and 77.
Several paragraphs are then devoted to the “revelation” of Hemingway’s book Out Came The Sun: in 1980, Allen had approached her when she was 18-years-old and essentially propositioned her by inviting her to accompany him on a trip to Paris as his lover. The result of this attempted wooing: “She shot him down. He left the next day.”
That is the extent of Woody Allen’s “predation”: he met a 17-year-old woman and was apparently infatuated with her. He waited until she was an 18-year-old woman and then attempted to woo her.
He moved on.
He obeyed all the rules.
That is the revelation hinted at in the tabloid-esque headline!
(And keep in mind: this has absolutely nothing to do with the accusation of sexually abusing a 7-year old girl.)
Does the article end here?
This “revelation” is followed by a “debate over whether or not we can separate a work of art from the flawed human being who created it,” in which Roman Polanski is used as an example of powerful men getting away with rape.
“For those of us who were taught to be drawn to these ambiguities, to embrace to them, even, the fictional veil of Isaac was just enough of a separation between fact and fictional truth to allow Manhattan and, by extension, Allen himself, a pure artistic life. Hemingway’s memoir destroys that separation once and for all. Woody Allen was Isaac, and quite possibly still is.”
Huh? According to Ms. Keane, Manhattan is no longer a work of fiction: it is autobiographical! Reading such things into works of art—movies, novels, paintings, songs—is a mistake that far too many movie reviewers make (I hesitate to credit them with the honorific of critic) and should be reserved for rookies.
If the topics of works of creativity were literally true—even if only partially and then hidden—then Smokey Robinson would have offed himself decades ago out of the sheer misery of all those tears over how many times his heart had been broken.
(And keep in mind: this has absolutely nothing to do with the accusation of sexually abusing a 7-year old girl.)
“There are still many people who don’t believe Dylan Farrow when she says Allen sexually abused her as a child.”
Wow! I could as easily write, “Despite the fact that there is no evidence that any such event occurred, there are still many people who don’t believe Woody Allen when he says he didn’t sexually abuse Dylan Farrow as a child.”
Hah! I found an opportunity to slip some Basil Wolverton art into an article on false memories, the public pillorying of cultural icons, and anything to do with sex. Yet here I have a page from Wolverton’s depiction of the doom and gloom prophesied in the Book of Revelations.
And then there is the promised revelation
She then brings Mr. Allen’s marriage to Mrs. Allen into the conversation, something that has absolutely nothing to do with the accusation of sexually abusing a 7-year old girl. Ms. Keane’s final revelation for her readers:
“Hemingway’s revelation demands we look unflinchingly at the reality that Manhattan so artfully disguised as art, and see it for what it truly is. Woody Allen is a genius. Woody Allen is a predator. He put those two sides of himself together, hand in hand, and dared us to applaud. And we did—over and over. We all have our blind spots, but after a while, we also have to admit what we have deliberately refused to see.” 7
Ah, so here we find the two lines quoted in the headline and they are indeed those of the author, not of Mariel Hemingway. And they are part of a logical conclusion: that Woody Allen’s desire for the very desirable 18-year-old Mariel Hemingway proves that he desired the 17-year-old Hemingway. They are also apparently part of a non-logical conclusion: that his desire for the 17-year-old which was always a sublimation of his desire for a 7-year-old.
So, fellow fellows—and I know that there are at least two of you reading this—by this fallacy of logic, I could warn you that the next time you find yourself admiring a particularly fetching young mother walking by you on the street or in the mall with her little girl, you may in fact be repressing a desire to have your way with her little girl instead!
A large-sized caricature of Woody Allen in La Rambla, Barcelona, in a photograph by Lluis Ripoll for Fine Art America. This has nothing to do with either Ms. Keane or my article but I thought it would provide a temporary distraction from the morbid subject matter of both.
No comment on the comments section
When I found this article a few days ago, the overwhelming majority of initial commenters were as baffled by Erin Keane’s observations and conclusions as I was. Several pointed out the lack of logic in the conclusions or the lack of relevance to the observations and several also called Salon to task for publishing the piece.
Whether or not the more ravenous anti-Allen elements (who seem to have a looming presence on the Internet and a lot of spare time on their hands) have taken over the comments section is something I am not interested in finding out.
Was Wholly Grommett, occasional God of Irony, at work here? Shortly after Allen’s “predation” of the 18-year-old Hemingway, the 19-year-old Hemingway was starring in Personal Best, in which she played a bisexual athlete. To promote the film, the 20-year-old Hemingway posed for Playboy!
I will conclude with three points
1. After a decade of America living with what is called recovered memory syndrome and the damage that it did to so many people (mostly men accused by mostly women diagnosed by mostly female therapists), we now know that almost any memory can be implanted into almost anyone’s brain. In fact, recovered memory syndrome is now often called false memory syndrome!
2. In an article/editorial for Slate titled “Did Woody Allen Molest His Adopted Daughter 22 Years Ago?” Jessica Winter states, “Allen’s defenders have always had one simple fact on their side: He has never been charged with a crime, much less convicted.” There are glaring problems with that statement: Allen’s defenders don’t have to have any facts on their side; the accusers have to have some facts on their side to make an argument—here, to make a case.
(Hey, perhaps we should form a loose Internet affiliation: the Woody Allen Defenders. I think the Allen/men-haters would come to refer to us acronymically as WADs …)
And the facts—which are separate from the accusations which are based on memories—do not support Dylan Farrow: as a child she was examined twice and determined to have shown no signs of sexual molestation. But again, that’s another story.
3. Finally, there is only one person who certainly knows what happened that day. One person whose memory we might trust, and that is Woody Allen. And there is no reason for anyone to trust his word: of course he could be lying. Who wouldn’t in his place if he is in fact guilty of a heinous crime? But Woody Allen’s memories/words are backed by the findings of the medical examiners. Dylan Farrow’s memories/words are not.
The character assassination of Woody Allen
This article is the fourth in a series of articles lumped together as “the character assassination of woody allen.” Here are the parts so far:
1. the character assassination of woody allen in the media continues as ignorance and opinion trump facts
2. if you’re not with me, then you must be against me
3. mia and dylan and the neverending story
4. why mariel hemingway’s new revelation doesn’t matter
HEADER: 17-year-old Mariel Hemingway with Woody Allen making the 1979 movie Manhattan. Eighteen years later, the 35-year-old actress would work again with Allen in Deconstructing Harry. No details of any problems on- or off-screen between the two have ever been reported.
1 Since titles are meant to attract our attention, they should titillate. No problem, but they can arouse our curiosity and still follow correct grammar and punctuation rules. This title should probably properly be, “Woody Allen is a genius. Woody Allen is a predator.” Why Mariel Hemingway’s new revelation matters
2 To the Andrea Dworkins of the male-hating branch of feminism, all heterosexual intercourse is both an act of seduction (which has nasty connotations to those folk) and a rape, as seduction and rape are synonymous to them. One of the cleverest witticisms of the radical feminist era (still with us, folks) was penned by Ms. Dworkin: “Seduction is often difficult to distinguish from rape. In seduction, the rapist often bothers to buy a bottle of wine.” When I was single, I thought of having a tee-shirt made with this printed on it accompanied by a bottle of Chianti. It would have made an interesting conversation-starter …
And if you are a reader of this blog and a potential nealist, then you do not pronounce witticism as “widəˌsizəm” as Google suggest, but as “wit-ti-sizim”: all four vowels are short, as in “it.”
3 Another little known secret to article writing in newspaper is that the article’s lede (the primary and secondary headlines and the opening paragraph) may reflect the newspaper or magazine’s publisher or editor’s opinion, not necessarily the conclusion that the actual writer/journalist arrived at. Those facts may be buried in the concluding paragraphs of the article and my actually contradict the lede!
Please note that despite Ms. Keane’ title as Salon’s Culture Editor, someone higher than her may have made the decision to place the confusing wording atop her piece …
4 Would it be precipitous of me to find some correlation between the anti-Allen people in this never-ending assault on Woody’s integrity and being and the anti-men people who seem to make up an increasing percentage of our fellow Americans of the opposite sex?
5 The marvelous Judy Davis plays Isaac’s ex-wife turned lesbian who is writing a tell-all book about her years wasted being married to him. But that is sub-plot material and not germane to this issue but I couldn’t end this piece without mentioning Ms. Davis.
6 Why don’t men organize and tell their tales of being accused of abusing their wives or children and the horrow show their lives turn into whether guilty or not? A dear friend of mine was accused of the same crime as Allen: sexually molesting a 7-year-old girl. Even after the mother confessed to coaxing the child to accuse my friend (long story involving the ex-husband and cocaine) and the police acknowledged that they knew my friend was completely innocent, falsely accused, he was informed that the mere accusation placed his name on a computerized list of sexual deviants. He was warned that, should he ever be accused again, the burden of proof would be on him!!!
7 Ain’t it amazing; the ability of so many of these female pundits to examine unflinchingly the real or perceived questionable behavior of men but how easily they go beyond mere flinching when the real or perceived questionable behavior of women are involved? Remember, if Woody Allen is telling the truth, then Mia Farrow has been lying and abusing her children for more than twenty years with virtually no scrutiny from anyone!