Woody Allen at the Golden Globes: navigating the ties between the art and the artist

Diane Keaton and Woody Allen in "Annie Hall"

Diane Keaton and Woody Allen in “Annie Hall”

(It’s two weeks after the fact, and I’m still thinking about this…)

I’m an avid viewer of award shows, so I have lots of opinions about the Golden Globes themselves. For instance: it’s unequivocally true that Tatiana Maslany should have won for Best Actress in a Drama Series, and Tina and Amy should just host every award show, always. Those facts aside, when the HFPA honored Woody Allen with the lifetime achievement award, I was a bit underwhelmed.

Admittedly, I have only seen one Woody Allen film: Manhattan. I thought it was beautifully shot and presented, I appreciated the cinematography, the style, the ambition, and Allen’s uncanny ability to create a world of his own imaginings, even in the most iconic city in America—but nothing about the film screamed “full of excellent roles for women.” I wasn’t horribly shocked by this at the time; however, on Golden Globes night, he was praised for writing just that.

But as it turns out, there was much more to be conflicted by while watching that segment:

Allen sexually assaulted his 7-year-old daughter, and I heard about this for the first time on the day after the Golden Globes. I was horrified that this was not a narrative I knew.

I’ve heard about his work for years, in art classes and film classes. So many people I know are rabid fans and have described their favorites of his films to me in detail. One friend has explained to me how much I’d love Annie Hall an absurd number of times, and at least 10 of his films have landed on various lists I keep of movies I want to watch at some point.

And because I’m interested in films, I want to see them, still. I want to know something of his body of work, and this is where I found myself conflicted.

How do you separate the artist and the art? Can you? Should you? Can and should you separate anyone’s personal world from the work they do?

I kept these questions in my head for days, working out my thoughts on the issue and slowly coming to conclusions. Then, I came across Tavi Gevinson’s take, which so eloquently states a decision I had also come to. She says:

“I’m not going to deny myself the relationship I have to Woody Allen’s work … If I do that, I should also deny myself the relationship I have to the work of other questionable (and occasionally downright disgusting) artists. If I do that, I should also deny myself the relationship I have to work that is itself questionable or downright disgusting. And if I do all of that, I would be limiting my world, when I am actually capable of both loving a movie and knowing that its creator is repulsive.”

Several artists and public figures I’ve admired have done terrible things I cannot and have no desire to ignore. Most have done less heinous things, which are easier to overlook. But there is a difference between a creation and the person who created it. To appreciate a resulting work and the cultural conversations it has started, I do not feel I have to appreciate (or monetarily endorse) its originator.

In short: I can watch Annie Hall and remain disgusted by the thought of Woody Allen. And I only wish the Golden Globes might have considered painting the guy in a less picturesque light during its international broadcast.


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