The artist, the art

crimes

I’ve been a huge Woody Allen fan ever since my parents took me to see “Hannah and Her Sisters” in the theater in 1986. I had never seen a movie quite like it, and I watched all the Woody Allen movies I could after that.

“Broadway Danny Rose” and “Crimes and Misdemeanors” are up there with my all-time top picks. I even hung a portrait of Woody in my high school locker.

So, when news about his situation with Mia Farrow and his subsequent marriage to Farrow’s daughter hit – okay, that was even a little disturbing to type – I wanted to ignore it, and I did for a long time. Today, the allegations against him are getting nastier and nastier. More accurately, they are just more and more public.

The thing is, I still want his art to stand alone. Frankly, if I’m going to have to support on a personal level every artist whose work I enjoy, well, let’s just say my list of music, movies, and literature would shrink considerably.

I hope this all goes without saying that if someone has broken the law, he or she should be held accountable. I just don’t necessarily want to hear about it all until the authorities do whatever they have to do.

And I really don’t want anyone telling me which movies I should avoid because of someone’s alleged wrongdoing.

That said, I don’t feel the same way about writers who give advice. I recently tried to reread “The Road Less Traveled,” a book I absolutely love by the late psychiatrist M. Scott Peck. Halfway through, I decided to find out more about this fascinating man. (In this age of Google, I’m nosy that way. If I’m watching a show I really like, I immediately look up all the actors because I’m curious about how they got where they are.)

I immediately regretted having looked Peck up, and here’s why. His 2005 obituary in The Guardian had this subhead: “Pop psychiatrist who ignored his bestselling advice on adultery.” Yikes, right?

The opening sentence is, “Psychiatrist M Scott Peck, who has died aged 69, made millions with his first book by advocating self-discipline, restraint, and responsibility – all qualities he openly acknowledged were notably lacking in himself.”

It goes on to say, “He spent much of his life immersed in cheap gin, chain-smoking cigarettes and inhaling cannabis, and being persistently unfaithful to his wife, who eventually divorced him. He also went through estrangement with two of his three children.”

I suppose at least he was open about his faults, but I still had to call my friend to discuss my outrage. I was mad at Peck because I thought his words were so heartfelt, so spot-on, and ultimately, something to which I could aspire in certain areas of my life. He wrote this brilliant stuff, so how in the world could he not have lived it?

My friend’s reaction really made me think. “Well, he wrote a truth, but that doesn’t mean it was his truth,” she said.

Could the same be said for Woody Allen? Who knows? All I can say is that no matter what happens in his personal life, I likely will still continue to watch and re-watch his movies.

An interesting piece on this: Can we separate the life and work of artists? (from CNN.com)

 

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