Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Why I Boycott Woody Allen Movies

"Whoa there, buster!"

If you read my essay yesterday, in which I wrote rather harshly of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, and the sexual scandals that have developed from their affair over twenty years ago, perhaps you were surprised.  I actually admitted that I personally protest what I believe to be flaws in Allen's character by not watching his movies.

I don't make a habit of calling for protests and boycotts.  When Southern Baptists tried to boycott Walt Disney, I thought their idea was goofy, if you'll pardon the pun.  When gay-rights activists tried to boycott Chick-fil-A, I treated that with a bit of flippancy, too, joking about how eating less Chick-fil-A would be a healthy choice regardless of our sexuality.

For a lot of people, hearing a self-professing evangelical like me say they boycott Woody Allen movies probably seems more prudish than anything.  What, I'm some pious geek who only sees G-rated flicks?  Or no movies at all?

Others, however, might question that since I regularly write about all* sin being equally bad, equally heinous in God's eyes, and equally deserving of Hell, why boycott Woody Allen pictures when any other producer, actor, director, or sponsor is just as sinful?

Why, I'm glad you asked!

First of all, I must admit that as I've grown older, my appetite for movies has waned considerably, and I find fewer and fewer offerings from Hollywood to be either interesting or worth risking my morality over.  These days, I'm hardly going to the movies at all.  Evangelicals increasingly complain that all they find in theaters is junk, but we keep going, as if reliably purchasing tickets to consistently bad movies is any incentive for Hollywood to change its product in any substantive fashion.  So for me to boycott a certain producer's movies, I'll admit, is neither a terrible sacrifice for me, or something that has changed my life in any significant way. 

I also understand that even if my boycotting Woody Allen movies was a major sacrifice for me, my one little protest would hardly force any type of change in either Allen's beliefs about the appropriateness, morality, or even criminality of his behavior with his adopted daughter, Dylan, and her sister, Soon-Yi.  Nor would my one personal boycott impact in any way Hollywood's embrace of Allen's craft, or change the way fans embrace their favored celebrities.

I don't even pursue this little boycott of mine with the type of vigor that would be required to sway legions of moviegoers to join me in refusing to purchase tickets to Woody Allen movies, or DVDs, or even watch his movies in syndication on television.  If lots and lots of people decided to join my boycott, I believe that would be a pragmatic demonstration of our intolerance for Allen's personal immorality with his and Mia Farrow's daughters, but even then, no boycott can force the confession and repentance of anybody.  We can't legislate morality, even through boycotts.

All a boycott does is, in some measure, limit the amount of money you knowingly and willingly contribute to a person or institution that perpetrates a behavior with which you're in opposition.  It's an economic contrivance, and hopefully a moralistic manipulation, but mostly, it's simply a personal affirmation of one's own beliefs and standards.  The target of any boycott can respond to the economic pressure, if enough people join the boycott, but that response may be purely to salvage lost profits, and maybe a tarnished reputation.  It won't necessarily convince the boycott's target to change their own beliefs and morality.

That's why I normally don't give boycotts much credence.  Usually they're more of an emotional reaction or a political ploy than anything else.  How can I say that?  Look at all of the negativity the Southern Baptists' boycott of Disney generated - not against Disney, mind you, but against hyperventilating fundamentalists motivated more by hatred of gays than a loving concern for people involved in lifestyles the Bible teaches are unhealthy for us.  Alternatively, I have a hard time seeing people boycotting Ben and Jerry's, for example, because their products contribute to the sin of gluttony.

So, why bother boycotting Woody Allen movies?  Why bother mentioning the fact that I do, in fact, boycott Woody Allen movies?  Is it some sanctimonious exercise on my part?  Some sort of esoteric statement of my piety, while Allen and most of his fans revel in debauchery?

Oh - did I catch you with that word "debauchery?"  Quite a judgmental word, isn't it?  Quite the condemnation of Allen's lifestyle, right?  And how fair is it of me to condemn Allen's fans by claiming they revel it in along with him?

Well, let's face it, folks:  even if he did not rape his adopted daughter, Dylan, as she claims, he pursued a sexual relationship with the adopted daughter of his mistress.  Soon-Yi Previn was at least 19 at the time, which while being a year beyond the legal age of consent, was (and is) still 36 years younger than his.  He was supposedly a father figure in her life, the biological father of one of her siblings, and the adoptive father of two other of her siblings.  Maybe I am a prude, and maybe I am moralistic, and I know I'm being judgmental - but guess what?  The Bible says I can be all three, because God forbids fathers to have sex with their children.  It's depraved on his part, and emotionally crippling for the child, even if she is 19 at the time, and not officially his daughter by marriage, legal decree, or even the immoral adultery with which Allen and Farrow had engaged.

In addition, such destructive behavior on Allen's part leaves wide open the door to consider Dylan's accusations against him, and mocks the protective role with which Farrow, even in her own misguided state, had apparently assumed him to play in their version of a family unit.

Child abuse is a particularly wicked sin because it is not an activity pursued between consenting adults, however sinful some activities between consenting adults may indeed be.  But adults are to protect children, even children who are not their own, and Allen has demonstrated his complete, willful, and desired disregard for not only moral sex in general, but the protection of progeny in his care, even if it's not biological progeny.  Society gains nothing of value from gay marriage, which is why I oppose it.  Yet society actually suffers clear harm when people like Woody Allen select their own children for sexual abuse.  Children who may not be mature enough to deal with the ramifications, and indeed, should not be expected to be mature enough to have to deal with such ramifications.

So I boycott all Woody Allen movies.  Not because it makes me feel better, or because it puts any sort of dent in child abuse statistics in this country.  I boycott Woody Allen movies because I cannot in good conscience support the freedom the fame of his celebrity affords his vile, predatory sexuality.  In my essay yesterday, I began by asking if anybody else but Allen had done what he'd done to Soon-Yi, would he be a free man?  Would Hollywood simply be snickering at his adopted daughter, Dylan, or outright defending him as people as famous as Barbara Walters has publicly done for Allen?  Would he be allowed to keep his lucrative job in his industry, or would society be demanding justice for the young women he's taken advantage of in his own family?

The public makes celebrities.  I remember an old quote from the 1980's country western singer Barbara Mandrell.  She readily admitted to a journalist that she was no great singer.  No, she said, she just had more spunk and determination to be famous than many other singers have.  Being a celebrity is all about your fans, which means you and I make people like Woody Allen famous.  Which means we can also protect them, even as they victimize others. 

No matter how famous they may be, I can't hunt for child predators.  I can't protect all children from them.  None of us can write legislation to make child abuse disappear.  But I can withhold my financial endorsement of people who directly contribute to the scourge of child abuse - and help to encourage society's tolerance of it.

What can you do to help fight child abuse?  Hey, if it's more than boycotting Woody Allen movies, go for it!

* All sin is equal with the exception of the "unpardonable sin," which is denying the truth of Christ as revealed by the Holy Spirit.  In other words, God cannot forgive anybody who denies that Jesus is His holy Son.

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