Yesterday, Dave Davies replayed a Terry Gross interview with Woody Allen on Fresh Air. You can read about how I feel about Woody Allen here. I also really like Terry Gross. She is an excellent interviewer.
This morning, I read this short story in Tin House by Maggie Shipstead called “You Have A Friend in 10A,” that was about a young famous person (actress) who’d been absorbed by a cult, and has a horrible relationship with her mother, a daughter who’s still in the cult, and a bunch of strangely self-conscious ego.
And the piece was lovely, fabulously written, and uncomfortable and funny and strange, kind of like that Woody Allen movie Celebrity.
In the end of the Terry Gross interview, which was done in 2009, and was about Whatever Works (a movie that Allen did before marrying Soon Yi, Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter, who was 19 to Allen’s 6o-something) that addressed May-December romance, she asked him what parallels exist between his life and his work. Kind of insistently.
Of course, Allen denied that the movie him is really anything like the real him, who is a guy who likes to watch baseball games in his underpants with a beer. Gross persisted. Both struck me as deeply disingenuous.
Like Allen was saying, “Everybody thinks you’re such a sensitive interviewer, and I’m going to show you to be a bumbling jerk.” And Gross was sying, “Everybody thinks your a child molester, and I’m going to corner you into admitting it.”
In the Tin House story, the cult leader is also a celebrity, which is how this young woman is absorbed into the cult in the first place.
The piece opens with her at 14, in her own bathroom, holding the adult male testicles belonging to her movie director while he jacks off, immediately after she bumped her first line of cocaine.
I couldn’t help but think about Woody Allen and Soon-Yi. Which I wouldn’t have, if I hadn’t heard Gross and Allen posturing at each other. It seemed like they were kind of beaming each other with deeply politically correct and polite contempt.
I couldn’t help but imagine how watching Woody and Mia do their strange, not-domestic/domestic thing, how being reared in the shadows of celebrities would affect a kid.
I couldn’t help but be a little bit grossed out, couldn’t help but see the parallels: Woody Allen was that movie director in Shipstead’s story, and Soon Yi was that defenseless, naive innocent.
And I am sad. Because I strongly, firmly, adamantly believe that other people’s private lives are none of my business. I don’t want to know about them. I don’t know anything about them by looking at them from the outside. I don’t care about politicians’ sexual orientations. I don’t care if they’re faithful to their wives. It doesn’t matter.
But when people choose celebrity–when they choose to live in the public eye–do we hold them to a different standard? Do they do ridiculous things just because they know people like me will write blog posts, and other people will write barely true magazine articles, and follow them around snapping photos? Is it some kind of secret, celebrity in-joke? Is it that you actually go to LA or Hollywood or wherever these folks live, and they’ve got station wagons and sweatpants, just like the rest of us?
I know it’s old news. But I’ve been doing my best not to think about it. It’s just way too close to pederasty. Which fills me with sadness and disgust.
Will I keep watching Woody Allen movies? Yes. Will I suspend judgement? Eventually. Why? Because. It’s none of my damn business, and who knows? Maybe it’s a wonderful, healthy, rewarding, beneficial thing for everybody involved.