The Dilemma of Manhattan & Woody Allen’s Creepy Behavior On & Offscreen


Director Mariel Hemingway, Woody Allen and Gordon Willis Manhattan (1979). Assignment link:

Today we look at Woody Allen’s relationship in the 1979 film. Manhattan, in which his character, Isaac Davis, is a 42-year-old writer who dates 17-year-old Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), a college-bound high school student. No one around them in the film bats an eyelash, raises an eyebrow, or does a double take on this strange relationship. At the time, most critics, male and female, praised the film, and there was no question that this relationship was particularly creepy. Mariel Hemingway has never looked more beautiful in black-and-white cinema, and the Gershwin score is romantic and wistful, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the normalization of this relationship is downright strange and unsettling. Although Mariel Hemingway says she had a positive experience working with Allen, she admits that he was the first person she kissed and that she worried about that on-screen kiss for weeks. More disturbingly, she admits that he attacked her like a linebacker while they practiced kissing.

It will be worse. Mariel Hemingway states in her memoir, The sun came out, that Allen tried to lure her to Paris when she turned 18, and that her parents mildly encouraged her to go. After realizing that she would not be getting her own room on the trip and that he wanted to share a room, she canceled.

Let’s face it, Woody Allen is a creepy dude, and life eerily imitates art. Anyone who marries their stepdaughter is a creepy dude – any way you look at it. His films can be brilliant (e.g Hannah and her sisters, Another womanetc.). No one will take that away from him, but he cheated on Mia Farrow with their stepdaughter, Soon-Yi. Woody Allen has a lot of jargon and technicalities to facilitate and legitimize his bad behavior. He wasn’t “technically” her stepfather, as he and Mia Farrow were never married, so he was her mother’s boyfriend. Soon-Yi also confirms all this. Uh Huh. Guess? That’s still rough. Maybe because after becoming a parent, my world view changed. My daughter is the same age Soon-Yi was when Woody Allen courted her. I would be amazed if my daughter dated someone in her forties who is old enough to be her parent (maybe even older), and I know that if you are a parent, especially a young adult woman, you know exactly that. where i come from

Woody Allen and Soon-Yi claim she was 21 when their affair began. 21 may be fine for some because it’s the legal drinking age, but I’ll let you in on a little secret. I was very stupid at 21. I made the worst decisions in my late teens and early 20s. Back then I thought I knew a lot, but I really didn’t know much. Woody Allen was 56 when Soon-Yi’s relationship began. That’s a 35-year age difference.

But wait… It gets worse. Family friends say the age gap is worse than Woody Allen and Soon-Yi mentioned, saying that Soon-Yi was a teenager when their affair began in the documentary. Allen v. Farrow. I approach this with caution as Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick have been known to play fast and loose with certain facts to advance their agendas and thus have been hurt by wrongful and/or unfair accusations.

And the problem behavior doesn’t stop there. We have the sexual harassment allegations from Dylan Farrow, Woody Allen’s adopted daughter. Allen’s attorney said the memories were those of his mother, Mia Farrow. It’s a hell of a charge and a new one at that. Usually therapists are accused of implanting memories – not parents. That is what is so striking about this case. When sexual abuse occurs, the fight-or-flight response goes into overdrive, and the victim either blocks out parts of the abuse—perhaps most of the abuse—to cope, or remembers every detail. A common misconception among abuse survivors is that they need to go to therapy to try to remember what happened. The outline/shadow therapists can then put the patient under hypnosis to try to remember what happened, thus creating the implanted memories. The patient ends up remembering things that never happened.

In this case, however, Allen’s attorney says Mia implanted memories in Dylan at an early age of 7. As someone who studied psychology and was a class away from my childhood, there is something about this accusation that doesn’t add up. Note that this is just my personal opinion. Please take it with a grain of salt. After all, I was so close—yet so far—to getting that Psych minor.

Let us clarify that just because implanted memories occur does not mean that the abuse did not occur. This means that the incorrect memories of the abuse are now mixed with the real memories of the abuse. Then it becomes complicated what happened and what didn’t. Such therapy should be outlawed because you are messing with the normal and natural fight or flight mechanism that blocks certain memories to protect, protect and help you cope.

Mariel Hemingway’s heartbreaking account of her and Allen’s on-screen kiss made me watch one of my favorite shows, The facts of life. There’s an episode where Tootie (Kim Fields) is accompanied by her friends and Mrs. Garrett (Charlotte Rae) to a photo shoot in New York to see if she’s got the model. The photographer tells her she needs to go on a diet to lose her baby fat and wear implied nudity. Remember, Tootie is probably 13 here – if even that. He tells the photographer that his instructions to snarl like an animal made them feel embarrassed and uncomfortable (me too) and that he didn’t want to give up good food, Eastland (his school) and friends. Basically, Tootie doesn’t want to stop the natural process of growing up that so many young women miss out on when they enter the modeling and/or film industry, and I don’t blame her. “How do I make love on camera when I’ve never kissed a guy before?” Well put. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Referenced works

Allen v. Farrow. Directed by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, starring Mia Farrow and Dylan O’Sullivan Farrow. Home Box Office, 2021. HBO Max,

Eckardt, Stephanie. “Mariel Hemingway, then 16, was horrified by her kiss scene with Woody Allen. Manhattan.” W Magazine. January 5, 2018 Accessed: June 18, 2021.

Hemingway, Mariel. The Sun Is Out: Overcoming My Family’s Legacy of Mental Illness, Addiction, and Suicide. Blackstone Audio, Inc. 2015.

Lind-Westbrook, Jennifer. “Allen v. Farrow: Woody and Soon-Yi’s relationship timeline explained.” Screen Rant. February 25, 2021 Accessed: June 19, 2021.

Rose, Lacey. “Oprah Winfrey Walks Away From Russell Simmons Accuser Doc, Gets Off Apple+”. The Hollywood Reporter. January 10, 2020 Accessed: June 19, 2021.

Stephanie Sklar

Stephanie Sklar is a 40-year-old writer whose work appears on The Movie Buff and She lives in Silver Spring, MD with her boyfriend, their daughter, and their two orange tabby cats, Slam (the shorter, fatter, lighter colored and tabby) and Allie (the longer, slimmer and leaner hunter (more Siamese, orange and stealthier). She holds a BA in Mass Communication from Towson University, with an emphasis in film and journalism. Stephanie loves the beach, walking, pancakes and soft serve ice cream at Barn 34 in Ocean City, MD.

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