Criminals, Celebrities or Both?
When one thinks of Woody Allen, some of the first words that come to mind would be screenwriter, director, actor, talented, and maybe even legend. He is an extremely well known man for many of his brilliant movies.
However, is this what he should be remembered for? For other individuals such as his ex-partner Mia Farrow, his son Ronan Farrow and adopted daughter Dylan Farrow words such as rapist, molester, and monster might come to mind when thinking of Woody Allen. Approximately 21 years ago, Woody Allen was accused of raping his adopted daughter, Dylan. At this time of the accusation Dylan was only 7 years old.
Although Dylan testifies then and till this day, that he did in fact touch her inappropriately, the evidence was not considered credible. Not credible? A 7 year old confessing to her adopted father touching her inappropriately is not credible? How can this be? Just because there was no anal or vaginal injury it is considered not-rape? In other words she is lying, right? At the young age of 7, Dylan was taught a lesson about the world. That lesson being that we live in a misogynistic world – a world in which is hostile to women. A world that constantly blames the victim, in most cases the female, instead of the perpetrator. Constantly, as a society we are making excuses to why one girl or woman got raped. She either drank too much, wore provocative clothing, had male friends she trusted, etc. Essentially, no matter what, she was asking for it by behaving a certain way. Always putting responsibility on the rape-victim and not the rapist.
However, it is not always a female victim and a male perpetrator, although that is the dominant form. The power inequality theory states, “power differences between men and women produce gender domination and subordination, leading to men’s sexual entitlement and rape” (Aulette and Wittner 2012: 273). The fact that there are people who commit rape is horrifying enough; but the fact that there are people who turn a blind eye or openly support these criminal acts is absolutely repulsing. During Woody Allen’s allegations many people, including females, stood by his side.
This reinforces the embedded idea that it is okay for males to get away with these acts. This demonstrates the obsession and importance we put on celebrities. We are willing to ignore these allegations against Woody Allen because of all the great movies he has created. In other words, the positive attributes of Woody Allen outweigh the negative. This did not only occur for Woody Allen, but many other famous celebrities. Michael Jackson also had allegations of child molestation; however, many people still praise him for his music. After these allegations, people continued to let there children hang out with Jackson at his own amusement park, potentially putting their children at risk.
Our society holds these celebrities to such high standards that they cannot do wrong, which may actually encourage them to commit deviant acts. When ‘googling’ Woody Allen many articles came up about his life, movies, and even about the allegations. Many of the discourse that covered the allegations, discredited Mia Farrow and framed Allen as innocent. This relates to Foucaults idea of biopower. Biopower describes the use of institutions and discourse to control the social body. These articles are all considered normalizing discourse – they reinforce the idea that it is okay, in this case for a male to take advantage of a female sexually. Especially if that male is famous.
However, not all discourse can be controlled and Ronan Farrow, Allen’s son is voicing his opinion.
Although Woody Allen denies molesting his adopted daughter Dylan, he does not deny his love for his step-daughter Soon-Yi Previn. Allen and Previn claim they did not start a romantic relationship till she was of consensual age of either 18 or 19.
Because they have been married now for 22 years does that mean that Previn could not have been a victim? Brownworth states, “Allen married their victims doesn’t make them any less victims” (Brownworth 2014). It absolutely still means she could be a victim. Many factors play into this situation. The obvious one is the age difference and the fact that Soon-Yi Previn looked at him as a father. Allen gave Previn the attention that she did not receive from her biological father. I believe this could put Previn at a vulnerability in which Allen took advantage of. Even though Previn was not a biological daughter, Allen was still considered her dad and he crossed boundaries. Although we cannot know the exact truth, Previn may have agreed to engage in intimacy in worries of loosing the most significant man in her life.
Besides the age, and gender, race also plays a factor. Allen is a White upper class male while Previn is an Asian female. This demonstrates another power inequality. Individuals within western culture may have dismissed this as rape because “Asian women are [also] stereotyped as sexually threatening dragon ladies, cunning femmes fatales who seduce white men, or geishas, who exist to please white men sexually and domestically” (Aulette and Wittner 2012: 111-112). In other words, Asian women are dehumanized and considered mere objects for sexual satisfaction.
Although Hollywood seems to believe that Allen’s and Previn’s relationship is okay, Ronon Farrow once again voices his opinion, highlighting the weirdness of the situation, while Mia Farrow encourages him!
Unfortunately, these celebrities have a major impact on a lot of individuals. People admire and look up to them and they are not always setting good examples. In order to limit or eliminate rape culture altogether, we need to put the focus on the perpetrator and not the victim. Less women are willing to come forward about rape because of the blame, guilt and shaming they receive. This is unacceptable! We need to change the discourse completely around in order to get any further! So next time you’re watching a Woody Allen movie or listening to Michael Jackson remember the victims!
Aulette R. Judy and Judith Wittner. 2012. Gender Worlds. 2nd ed. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.
Brownworth A. Victoria. 2014. “Op-ed: When Hollywood Excuses Famous Men Who Rape…” She Wired. Retrieved January 26, 2014 (http://www.shewired.com/opinion/2014/01/17/op-ed-when-hollywood-excuses-famous-men-who-rape).
John Apple Jack – Sexually Progressive and Racially Ignorant
John Apple Jack (2013) directed by Monkia Mitchell is a type of romantic comedy that features two gay men. Boy meets boy, boy forgets about boy, boy pines for boy. Fast forward ten years later when boy finally sees what’s been in front of him this entire time but now the other boy needs major convincing. This is the simple formula for the cliché romantic comedies; however, this time it involves a homosexual relationship. John (Chris McNally) is a wealthy, promiscuous, white man who runs his family restaurant. He has lived an extremely extravagant life with top of the line foods, drinks, cars, and men. However, after hearing of his sister’s engagement to his childhood crush, Jack (Kent S. Leung), John decides to confess to his family that he is attracted to men, although they were already aware. John hopes that Jack will see this confession as an act of commitment to him. His father shortly after hearing the news cuts John off from family money and leaves him with no place to stay.
Jack is a cook at John’s restaurant and is ready to create his own restaurant and family. Growing up he had always hoped that John would acknowledge him, fall in love and live happily ever after; however, after many years of being ignored, tension heated between the two. During one of their arguments, Jack throws an apple at John’s head to quiet him. Nevertheless, when John becomes homeless, it does not take him very long to find his way to Jack’s place. They spend the night together and realize that they are soul mates. This did not last very long, and Jack realized that John was not a 100 percent committed and he decided to marry his sister after all. John refused to let this happen and interrupted the wedding by throwing an apple at Jack’s head. Jack and John end up together and open their own restaurant entitled ‘John Apple Jack’.
For obvious reasons, the movie does an excellent job of portraying a relationship between two men. However, like most movies it also has its downfalls. When John admitted to being attracted to men, most of his family did not even flinch. It was a nonissue. As well, Jack’s mother considered it a nonissue and just wanted her son to be happy. Although this does happen for many people and is the hope for the future, it does not demonstrate the hardships that many gay men/women go through. Gay oppression still exists and John Apple Jack tends to ignore this.
The demonstration of Jack’s family was also extremely progressive. Many films produce the stereotypical Asian family by creating a patriarchal structure where the father makes all the decisions while the mother remains silent. There is typically a one-way communication where the adults speak to the children, and the children do not speak back. In addition, shame and guilt are used to control and train children. They emphasize loyalty and honour to the family and avoidance of shame and embarrassment to the family. The mothers typically use less nurturance and more verbal and physical punishment than White mothers who meet emotional needs of children. However, in John Apple Jack, this is not displayed. Jack does not have a father figure in his life because he was actually a product of in vitro (a progressive reproductive technology). The mother shows caring attributes throughout the entire movie and makes it known to her son that homosexuality is not shameful or embarrassing to her and should not be to him. It is actually John’s White mother who has an issue with his sexuality, but in the end accepts it.
Before John commits to Jack he has a variety of sexual encounters with other men. John hires a stereotypical Asian ESL boy toy. Although this role created many comical moments, it is offensive. This role is viewed as feminine, passive and submissive towards John (a White male). Therefore highlighting racial power dynamics. It mimics the colonized and colonizer relationship. Although Asian men are typically depicted as asexual within Western film, when they are viewed as sexual, they are “presented as wanting to be sexually subordinated and violated by a more dominant, stereotypical white male” (Kendall and Funk 2003: 106). As a result, gay Asian men are not seen as physically attractive but more appealing because of their submissiveness. In addition, Jack was also hired by John, which can be viewed as problematic.
In addition, cultural appropriation was a major theme within the film. John gives Jack the idea of Westernized Asian cuisine for his new restaurant. John is using traditional food of a marginalized culture (Asian) because it is viewed as profitable. This is harmful “because it is an extension of centuries of racism, genocide, and oppression” (Zinelibrary 2011: 5). It “treats all aspects of marginalized cultures (also known as targets of oppression) as free for the taking” (Zinelibrary 2011: 5). This is extremely problematic, and John Apple Jack reinforced this way of thinking.
John Apple Jack was an important movie in acknowledging different kinds of relationships such as between two gay men. However, it demonstrates the problematic factor that the LGBT community tends to ignore race.
Before going to the Reelout festival my understanding of queer films was very minimal. Throughout my four years at Queen’s University I have come to realize that the culture is extremely White, heterosexual, middle to upper class focused. The fact that these festivals still exist and they are not displayed in popular culture depicts homosexuality as different and the minority. It would be amazing to get to a point where these films are not viewed as progressive because it is about a gay relationship but viewed as standard, like heterosexual relationships.
Mitchell, Monika. (Director). (2013). John Apple Jack [Film].
Kendall, Christopher N. and Rus Ervin Funk. 2003. “Gay Male Pornography’s ‘Actors’: When ‘Fantasy’ Isn’t.” In Prostitution, Trafficking and Traumatic Stress. New York: The Haworth Maltreatment and Trauma Press.
“Cultural Appreciation or Cultural Appropriation.” 2011. Zinelibrary. Retrieved February 26, 2014 (http://zinelibrary.info/files/culturalappropriationread.pdf).