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A Film Icon, Reconsidered

Ellen Levitt

Posted on March 7, 2021 15:19

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Now do more of you understand why I disliked a certain movie? A certain filmmaker?

When it was first released, I saw Woody Allen's film Manhattan in the movie theater and was greatly discomforted by it. I was disgusted by the plot, especially the storyline of a teenaged girl, not much older than I, having an affair with a man more than twice her age. It didn't help that I thought she was pretty and he was homely. She was being manipulated. 

I discussed this film with friends and people older than I, and most scoffed at my complaints. They either downplayed it because it was a Woody Allen creation, or because it was "just a story." But this feeling of having wasted my time and money on a slimy product stayed with me for the rest of my life.

I saw only a few Allen films after that and except for one that I sort of enjoyed (Zelig), the others bothered me.

In light of the HBO documentary Allen v. Farrow, do you still want to belittle my disgust at Manhattan? At Allen himself?

I'm from Brooklyn, as is Allen, and taught one semester at his alma mater, Midwood High School. So many New Yorkers have admired him, and it can't be denied that he has been a highly popular filmmaker. But this reputation made it that much harder for those of us who didn't like his work, who thought his media depictions of women were frequently awful, and that Manhattan, in particular, was an affront.

I pondered this back then and ponder it now: do many men (and women, and teens) think that it was acceptable for a man in his 40s to date a girl in her late teens? Even if it was "fiction"? 

Was I prudish for disliking this storyline, as several people told me? Yeah, I was. But perhaps if you liked that storyline, you were perverted. Or liked rooting for a pervert.

Someone once pointed out to me that the film Harold and Maude was the flipside of Manhattan because it portrays the romantic relationship of a young man and a much older woman. But Harold was in his 20s, and not a minor. That's significant.

But...fiction is fiction, right?

Recently I posted on Facebook that "I was creeped out by" Allen, and I was a bit surprised but reassured to see that many of my friends (women and men) had also harbored these feelings about Allen and about Manhattan. Perhaps some of this sentiment is due to hindsight and to the hoopla surrounding Allen v. Farrow. But not all of it. People are now less willing to put up with degrading depictions of women, people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, Jewish people, and other groups. Perhaps we're less inclined to put up with crap and humiliation in the name of "art" or "humor" or "someone who knows better than you."

People can hold their opinions, debate their sentiments amongst one another, praise and pan what they wish. But do consider and reconsider your opinions sometimes, especially of celebrities. 

Ellen Levitt

Posted on March 7, 2021 15:19

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Source: The Wrap
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