Woody Allen – Professionally brilliant yet personally reprehensible; can the two be reconciled?

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By Francine Holmes

I pose the title question as a sort of response to an article written by a friend entitled The Importance of Supporting Survivors of Sexual Abuse In The Now.  It is regarding the recent allegations of sexual abuse made against Woody Allen.  I find myself conflicted with the dichotomy of his successful career vs. his well known family problems, as I’m sure many are.  Professionally, I have always admired Allen and viewed him as one of my favorite filmmakers.  His movies are entertaining, funny, smart, and ring true to real life.  I have seen and own almost all of them, including my favorite, Annie Hall, and the funniest in my view, Take the Money and Run.

With that said, I was at a loss for words when sardonically asked by a friend, “So, do you still think he’s brilliant?” after the news broke about the alleged sexual abuseMy fandom for Woody Allen’s work has never been a secret but neither has my zero tolerance stance on abuse of any sort.  Over the years my affinity for his work has led to many discussions regarding his morals, to which I’ve always answered: “The man, for all his faults, hasn’t done anything illegal.  Sure, it’s morally reprehensible to date and marry one’s stepdaughter, but it should not take anything away from his professional fortitude, as the two are different and should be analyzed separately.  Or should it?  Upon reading countless articles on the subject, including the earlier mentioned, I’m at an impasse.  Is it at all possible to find Woody Allen professionally brilliant yet personally reprehensible?  Can the two coexist or somehow be reconciled?  Would I even pose this question if he weren’t famous?  Am I, and others who share my sentiment of ambivalence, part of the problem?  How should our opinion of Allen compare to our opinion of other famous people who have broken the law, such as Richard Nixon, Martha Stewart, or Michael Vick?  Or even people who broke no law but violated ethical standards, such as FDR, JFK or Bill Clinton?

Stemming from all of this is another issue.  I’ve seen several social media posts blame and shame the victim.  On this topic I’m more opinionated: victims should not bear the burden of negativity, which often leads to secondary effects of the original abuse. Rather than add to their despair, we should allow for a safe environment to empower them to speak out against their aggressor.

Regardless, the more public figures get preferential treatment because of their status, and the more popular they are, the more likely the public is to brush it under the rug. Celebrities should be tried and judged fairly, no matter how many movies they’ve made.

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