Allen and SatchelHere are my thoughts on Woody Allen and the continuation of his career in the midst of continuing questions about sexual assault. You may have seen Ronan Farrow’s Hollywood Reporter column, some of the reports from Cannes about accusations being avoided in Allen interviews, and the big news of Allen’s upcoming series on Amazon. Here’s my take.

I spent a lot of time this weekend on the road, and at one point started to think about what kinds of crimes would stop me from appreciating someone’s art. Of course, it’s an age-old question: can you separate the artist and their work from their life? Should you? Why or why not? Tweets from Wesley Snipes and about Sean Penn’s defamation case against Lee Daniels sparked my thoughts. Snipes, as you may remember, spent time in federal prison for tax evasion. Sean Penn was accused of domestic abuse, and Lee Daniels contrasted the treatment of his Empire star Terrence Howard–also accused of domestic abuse–to Penn’s. Thinking about all of these actions–some alleged and some convicted–I wound my way through my own system of judgment. Out of all the offenses I could imagine, the worst were the ones that caused more vicious, invasive bodily harm: violence, rape, murder. Those made it more and more difficult for me to separate the artist from their actions, especially when they seemed to be reflected in their work.

This has become more and more important to me in the last few years in the wake of persistent questions about Woody Allen and the ongoing allegations of sexual abuse against his daughter over twenty years ago. I became a media scholar in the wake of my Allen fandom, but in the past few years, I realized that I had to let that lifelong love go. If I was going to truly consider myself a critical and feminist media scholar, I could no longer take an ambivalent approach to him and his work.

I had to admit that whether or not any accusations could be proven, there were too many questions remaining and too many issues reflected in his work to be open-ended about what they might mean. They were troubling and could not be sufficiently resolved. Nor was his work changing. The men were getting older, the love interests younger, the romance with elitist (and white, wealthy enough) cultural objects was ongoing. I’m glad that my appreciation for his work in the past got me to where I am today. I’m also glad that my criticality has kept me from remaining nostalgic about his work and his career, to stay blind to the crimes he may have committed and to the ongoing offenses in his work. In the end, I say when in doubt, believe the survivor, so I can’t anymore with Woody Allen.


ELLE's 21st Annual Women In Hollywood Celebration - Arrivals

Alright, are we really being Internet busybodies by talking about Renee Zellweger? Let’s be honest here since Zellweger and company haven’t been. The problems here are due to sexism, ageism, and lookism in the US entertainment industry, true. But her own comments make Zellweger complicit in this. She is not “revealing the hard work of beauty” but eliding it. By attributing her “new look” to tropes of aging and wellness, she’s leaving this look up to nature as if scalpels had nothing to do with it. A good rest–even spanning several years–does not stretch your skin tautly across your face, changing the shape of your eyes and nose. Audiences may not deserve to be privy to all the intimate details of cosmetic procedures, but to show up to an industry event–where you’re expected to be photographed and interviewed and to gain attention accordingly–and act like your “new look” won’t–or shouldn’t–cause a stir is ludicrous.

This is an industry-wide–indeed, culture-wide–problem and Zellweger’s just one part of it, but reflective of the changes that need to happen to make this a better business for women, on and off the screen. In teaching prep the past few weeks I’ve been watching doc after doc on women in the industry, and it gets tiresome after a while hearing these women talk about the dangers of Hollywood’s representations of women while seeing how little their faces move and how much bigger their cheekbones are than when they were in their 20s. Part of chipping away at the problems with these -isms is going to have to involve ending the conspiracy of silence around these fitness regimens and cosmetic procedures, and being honest about what “work” is really going into these bodies.

“Submission Tip #30: Publishing Fast vs. Publishing Well

“I know that we live in an accelerated society full of impatient strivers trying to make their mark during a period of economic uncertainty and against intense competition (and blah, blah, blah…). Still, I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest to young writers that they think less about publishing fast than publishing well. 

“Meaning what? Meaning that for many of us it’s a long life. We have a lot of years to write material that is meaningful to us—books and essays and stories we’re proud of. And I see too many writers exhibiting a sense of panic about getting their stuff published now, signing with an agent, securing a book contract, and maybe agreeing to unrealistic deadlines and terms they might come to regret. I see writers so hungry for validation that they don’t have time to focus on what, exactly, is being validated. I felt this same crippling urgency when I was in my 20s, but I, like most, was lucky enough to be ignored and rejected by the publishing world for ten years until I had a better idea of was I was doing.

“Strike while the iron is hot! That’s the sound of a businessperson talking to a young writer. You’ve just published an article or story that has everyone talking, so better sign on with that interested agent now and get that book deal in ink.

“Guess what. That iron can be made hot again simply by putting in your time and writing a good book. And that iron can be made very cool by forcing out a bad book prematurely.

“I don’t know. I’ll be the first to admit that deadlines and pressure are essential to making a living as a writer (so is cutting your teeth in publishing by being willing to write just about anything for any venue). And I have seen plenty of writers get connected to excellent agents and editors through their exposure…. 

“At the same time, I wish young writers could have more time to do what they must and grow in the ways they need to without feeling like they have to leap for the golden ring at the first sign of marketable interest.

“Your writing is yours. Others can sell it, but ultimately your writing will represent you, not them. Protect it.”


“…. Dilation as the ‘opening’ of a closed text to make it ‘increase and multiply’ and to transform its brevity into a discourse ‘at large,’ then, joins dilation as both sexual and obstetrical ‘opening’ and the production of generational increase.”

“The final context for ‘dilation’ is an erotic one within a specific masculinist tradition–the putting off of coitus or consummation which Andreas Capellanus describes as a feminine strategy in the art of love, a purportedly female plot in which holding a suitor at a distance creates the tension of a space between as well as intervening time….”

Parker, Patricia. Literary Fat Ladies: Rhetoric, Gender, and Property. London and New York: Methuen, 1987. Print. p. 15-16.


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