Crimes and misdemeanors in an Allen analysis
Richard Morgan’s Jan. 7 Outlook essay about Woody Allen, “Making art out of lechery,” was deeply dishonest. Morgan talked in present tense about “an 82-year-old’s fixation with 18-year-olds,” yet Morgan mostly discussed work Allen wrote at least 40 years ago.
Morgan said any Allen movie could be titled “A Woman Gets Objectified by a Man.” “Annie Hall”? “Zelig”? “The Purple Rose of Cairo”? “Midnight in Paris”? Morgan distorted “The Kugelmass Episode,” omitting how it lampoons Kugelmass — who’s seeing Madame Bovary. If “c’est moi” was written near Kugelmass’s dialogue, perhaps Allen considered having Kugelmass say that in Yonville.
Allen is right that this #MeToo movement can become a witch hunt; proof is what Senate Democrats did to now-former senator Al Franken (D-Minn.). Judy Klass, Nashville
Richard Morgan’s essay on Woody Allen obviously was trading on the sensitivity of the moment to men’s abuse of underage women. He mentioned Allen’s alleged abuse of Dylan Farrow, and the reverberations from that note are meant to wash over every other instance of Allen filming or writing about women. No other real case of abuse is mentioned, though he came up with one imagined scenario of sexual harassment (against Nati Abascal).
The author said Allen’s private notes show an “obsession” with young women but offered only a couple of mentions of women ages 16 to 18, a meager harvest from those 56 boxes of Allen’s sketches reaching across 57 years of his life. That’s not obsession. The author says Allen writes “Freudian” scripts, but the big word just sits there reverberating darkly.
And perhaps the cheapest of shots: The objectifying of a woman by a man, “in [Allen’s] view, is the pinnacle of art, its truest calling and highest purpose.” No example discussed.
Morgan worked with snarky comments, innuendo and distortion. A short list of Oscar-nominated female roles became “a nesting-doll joke . . . Allen used [Diane] Keaton and the others . . . [as] an Oscar lure shiny enough to blind aspiring acolytes to his darkness.” Desperate for wit, he aimed this cheap shot at one of Allen’s real accomplishments: the creation of complex female characters with a range of interesting personalities and destinies that appealed to and, in some cases, made great actresses.
Morgan’s judgments were crude, his wit shallow (“garden of earthly deletes”). He has reduced a filmmaker of depth and wit to a misogynistic fetishist. His article was neither film criticism nor journalism, just opportunistic. Stephen Jaeger, Burbank, Calif.
Woody Allen is not unique among artists who have explored the apparently timeless theme of aging men yearning for younger women (and aging women observing this melancholic phenomenon). Doing so does not make him a lecher, a term that, as with many other epithets, has lost its power through agendadriven overuse.
Allen and some of the actors who have appeared in his films have earned the respect of his audiences and his peers because he has explored that theme with humor, irony, poignancy and a deft directorial skill. What’s clear is that Richard Morgan approached the Allen archives with prosecutorial intent and with an eye on the market for such unnuanced and insulting portrayals. Kerry Snow, College Park
Woody Allen in 2016 in Cannes, France.