It’s sometimes uncomfortable to out yourself as a Woody Allen fan. Without fail, somebody will sprint across the room or emerge from behind a nearby piece of furniture or shrubbery to wave her finger an inch from your face and explain that you’re a de-facto pedophile and adulterer. You calmly ask if she’s even seen Husbands and Wives and hand her a napkin, pointing to the foam around her mouth, while her pudgy friend waddles out of the bathroom to join in condemnation, pointing out that he has too much self-respect to watch such “depraved jew-trash” as he wipes his hands on his pants. As the conversation depreciates into a potpourri of affected indignation and thinly-veiled antisemitism, you debate the merits of continuing to discuss your true cinematic inclinations in social situations. Next time I’ll talk about Weekend At Bernie’s, you think.
I won’t pretend I don’t understand why the name Woody Allen leaves a sour taste in the mouth of some. It’s not that I think cheating on your wife with your fourteen year-old adopted daughter at the height of your film career is good thing to do. Far from it. I wouldn’t exactly consider myself a moral sentinel, but I’ve successfully avoided this tragic pitfall my whole life so far and it hasn’t cost me a thing. That said, I had nothing to do with Annie Hall. And for this, I will never forgive myself. Such is the mark of masterpiece, I suppose – the extraction of, not deference, but jealousy from maladroit young writers who, having partaken, are more inclined to give up altogether than draw inspiration. In a sense, I’ve got no choice but to turn a blind eye Woody Allen’s personal shortcomings. My admiration of him is begrudging to begin with. Unfortunately for me, no amount of creepiness will make Annie Hall less good. Hitler could have made it and I’d still force potential girlfriends to sit through it as a litmus test, watching carefully to make sure they laugh hysterically at the scene where Alvy sneezes in the cocaine (there’s something wrong with you if you don’t think that’s funny). Though something tells me Hitler would’ve made a far less convincing counterpart to Diane Keaton, though not for lack of comedy chops. The death-to-Jews stuff is hilarious, but if you’ve never heard his bit about battling diarrhea at the “der supermarkt,” you’re missing out.
Sue me, I like the man’s movies. So much so that I don’t actually care much about who he’s screwing and whether or not he raised said person.
Now before you grab your torch and your good jeans and come pounding on my door, screaming for my child-touching head on a stick; take a deep breath and consider the fact that I live on the second floor of my building and you’ll probably only piss off the latino guys who live downstairs. Also, there’s a fire station across the street and it’s as sure as anything that a horde of drunk, anti-Woody Allen protesters wielding flaming sticks violates some kind of fire code.
Moreover, I’ve done nothing but indulge the same mode of mental partitioning we all do from time to time.
You won’t, for example, catch me posing threateningly outside your door, brandishing nunchucks, screaming accusatorily about extra-marital blowjobs, because you happened to enjoy Bill Clinton’s speech at the DNC last year. I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to assume you’re some kind of unabashed supporter of oval office fellacio just because you’ve expressed some kind of approval for the 42nd President or his policies or his wife or his charming Arkansasian (sp?) drawl. Why? Well, because frankly that sounds like a to-do and I’m not a fan of those. It’s the same reason you’ll never catch me violently assaulting you at a stoplight in attempt to perform a citizens arrest on pedophilia charges for blasting “Billie Jean” on your car stereo. I have other, less strenuous things to do. Leaning against a pillow, for example. Or finishing that can of Pringles I hid from my roommates.
The truth of the matter is that great people aren’t always great role models. I could offer you a bushelbag full of examples of less-than-perfect individuals who’ve managed to do or make or say something worthy of praise in spite of themselves. If you’re the sort of person whose excitement for professional athletes scales with how firmly they value fidelity, than I suppose it might upset you to find out that Tiger Woods is a shitty husband. Personally, I like to keep my standards a bit lower than that to avoid disappointment, especially in the case of muscle-bound strangers who’ve made careers out of hitting balls really hard. Even indisputably bad people are capable of contributing something. Look no further than the fact that Charles Manson’s album is for sale on the iTunes store. Would it be in poor taste for me say it’s actually pretty good?
I guess this is what it comes down to for me. I don’t have the energy or capability or desire to memorize the personal biography of every individual whose products I consume, as fun and viscerally satisfying as affected indignation is. Don’t get me wrong – I love finger-waving, stomping, bulgy forehead veins, general huffyness, and unacknowledged projectile saliva as much as the next guy, but to summon this song-and-dance at the drop of every hat seems untenable and slippery. Next we’ll be throwing our iPods in the street because Apple manufactures in sweatshops and withholding our donations from the Catholic Church because the Pope condones child-rape. Where does it end?
For now, I’ll pick my battles. One or two seems manageable. At the moment I’m going with 1.) people who play music through their phone speakers on the subway (unless it’s Hall & Oates) and 2.) Channing Tatum. It’s like someone built a hot-guy machine and churned him out without giving him any acting lessons.
As reasonable people, we can draw the line in the sand wherever we want. That’s why it’s called a line in the sand – you can always smooth it over with your foot and draw it someplace else – or make it into a squiggly line. Or a spiral. Or boobs. Point is, it’s still technically a line. If Thriller makes you dance, if Braveheart or the Passion of the Christ brings you to tears, if contributing to the Catholic pedophile defense fund warms your heart every Sunday, than be my guest. I’ll keep petitioning Netflix to add Manhattan and Vicky Christina Barcelona to the instant queue and we’ll go our separate ways.