Jordan Waterwash: Sylvia Plath vs. Woody Allen

I’ve been thinking a lot about Woody Allen recently—mainly Annie Hall and the relationship artists have with their work. I love Annie Hall. I love the characters; I love the colors; I love Annie. The way Woody Allen builds a sepia-toned world around Annie and Alvy’s intimate understanding of one another is truly masterful.

But I hate Woody Allen and nearly everything he stands for.

Accusations of Allen as an abuser have been circulating for as long as I’ve been alive. He infamously married his ex-wife Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter, Soon-Yi, in 1997 after having an affair with the 21-year-old a few years prior. The affair broke up Farrow and Allen’s marriage.

The other allegations against him are even more sinister. One of Farrow’s adopted daughters, Dylan, accused Allen of sexually assaulting her when she was a child.

The only thing about Annie Hall that really gets me is the scene where Alvy takes Ariel by Sylvia Plath off of Annie’s bookshelf and says, “Sylvia Plath. Interesting poetess whose tragic suicide was misinterpreted as romantic by the college-girl mentality.”

I read The Bell Jar for the first time in the beginning of January and this pithy, biting line colored my whole reading. The novel traces the life of a young woman called Ester who struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts. Though the novel isn’t biographical, Plath’s own mental health problems can be seen in Esther.

My mind raced at the thought of disrespecting Plath on accident, to succumb to the “college-girl mentality” Allen so artfully weaved into my subconscious, despite my own experiences with mental illness. I know how unromantic Sylvia Plath’s suicide is because I know how unromantic mental illness is. It’s ugly and it sucks and there’s no better way to put it.

Still, I can’t bring myself to hate Annie Hall. When I think of Annie with her ginormous khaki pants and her lanky limbs, I think of myself; in her I see everything that I see in Sylvia Plath, and I understand her. But what would Annie and Sylvia think of me supporting a film made by a man like Woody Allen?

Art—with a capital “A”—exists on two planes: in the mind of the viewer and in the hands of the creator. Woody Allen crafted Annie Hall just as Sylvia Plath crafted The Bell Jar. Their hands molded two pieces of Art I adore, but their hands were calloused in different places and from different things. Allen is unquestionably morally corrupt, but it’s my own enjoyment of his work that I can’t reconcile.

Jordan Waterwash is a senior Creative Writing and Renaissance Studies major. She thoroughly enjoys Victorian literature and singer-songwriter/mastermind Tom Rosenthal.

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