I recently watched Allen v Farrow, a four-part documentary on HBO that makes a compelling case that Woody Allen sexually abused his 7-year-old daughter. In addition, court testimony from Woody’s maid and doorman indicated that Woody began his affair with Soon Yi while she was in High School. Soon-Yi was ripe for predation, she had never had a boyfriend or even been kissed. She was an easy mark for a sexual predator like Woody Allen.
In NY and NJ, a monthly conversation was “Which is your Favorite Woody Allen movie?” I could not participate since I stopped watching Woody Allen films after Manhattan…which struck me at the time as creepy. I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time; but I found the relationship between Mariel Hemingway and Woody Allen disturbing. (Ironically that is the film that the documentary used to demonstrate how Woody has been grooming his audience to be comfortable with middle aged men dating 17 and 18 year old girls.)
Some of my friends continue to love Woody Allen movies (although his latest film was not released in the US). They believe that it is impossible to know the “true story.” They argue that an artists’ private life should not impact whether his art is consumed.
But what should we do with the art from flawed individuals? This month, R Kelly is being tried for child pornography and sex trafficking. Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, Harvey Weinstein, and Kevin Spacey are just a few of the artists whose private lives have been exposed to reveal serious moral flaws.
What should happen?
Should we let the market decide or should we demand that distributors refuse to sell their products? If so, who decides? Or should it be an individual decision?
Picasso was a well-known misogynist (who famously put out a cigarette on a model’s cheek). Jackson Pollock was a philanderer “bad boy” who appropriated the work of Janet Sobel, the first artist to pioneer the drip painting technique. While Pollock initially credited her with the “drip” technique; art historians, eager to promote Pollock’s work, claimed the technique was created by Pollock and discredited Sobel as a housewife or amateur.
Who decides what is acceptable immorality and unacceptable immorality? Is sexual predation the sole criteria? How about stealing or shoplifting? What about philandering? What about spousal and child abuse?
Do we excuse behavior of predators who were victims themselves (e.g., R Kelly)?
More often than not, we ignore personal immorality. For example, both Clinton and Trump were sexual predators. Yet we elected them to the Presidency with their moral deficits on full display.
Some believe that compensation is the most important component. If the morally deficient artist is no longer alive, purchasing their art will not financially benefit the offender.
I don’t know the answer; but I find the question fascinating.
To quiet my own conscience, I boycott products by misogynists, spousal and child abusers, and sexual predators. I miss listening to one of my favorite songs; I Believe I Can Fly. But it is a small price to pay.
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.