While it’s not a universal truism, more often than not, bad morals make for bad art, and the unwillingness to say so produces even worse criticism.
Specifically, there’s no getting around Allen’s celebrated film “Manhattan.” Allen’s character in the film dates a 17 year-old Mariel Hemingway, as if an older man having a sexual relationship with a teenager is a perfectly normal thing to do. It certainly doesn’t seem so normal when you consider that Allen later started dating, and eventually married, the adopted teenage daughter of his then-wife Mia Farrow.
Dederer’s essay is worth reading for the thoughtful and self-aware things she has to say. Specifically, the downfall of others is always an invitation to look inward at our own flaws. “Even in the midst of my righteous indignation when I b-tch about Woody and Soon-Yi, I know that, on some level, I’m not an entirely upstanding citizen myself,” she writes. However, Dederer’s essay also unintentionally reveals a great many troubling blind spots about the explicitly political nature of the relationship that liberal America has with popular entertainment.
The False Choice of Bad Habits Justifying Good Art
By way of a discursive explanation, there’s this Bill Hicks bit — he can be a creative, even brilliant comedian, but I used to like Hicks a lot more when I was in high school and immature enough to think that being transgressive and angry passed for funny — about how if you had a problem with drug use you should probably just burn your record collection because drug use was so inspirational for so many musicians. The explicit point here was to force acceptance of the idea drug use is a good thing to some extent. Read the rest of this entry »