Diane Keaton Woody Allen
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OPINION

Diane Keaton defends Woody Allen – while he demeans her

The way these two “friends” speak about each other publicly is wildly imbalanced, says Rachael Sigee

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By Rachael Sigee on

The absolute last thing anyone wants is to be disappointed in Diane Keaton. Her achievements in film, feminism and hat-wearing are legendary. In theory, her social-media contributions should be akin to Cher’s in off-the-wall brilliance.

But, instead, Keaton is tweeting support for Woody Allen and our hearts are collectively sinking.

Now, nevermind that the interview Keaton posted actually appears quite damning of Allen’s attitudes towards women (in it, he alleges Mia Farrow “coached” her daughter to lie), her consistent loyalty to a man now widely considered a manipulative misogynist is actually becoming difficult to fathom.

This is a man who is alleged to have abused his seven-year-old daughter, who married his wife’s adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, who he met as a child and married when she was in her twenties and Allen was in his forties. He has a litany of accusations against him of truly repulsive opinions and behaviours, and a filmography obsessed with very young women.

It is not the first time Keaton has voiced her support of Allen. She did it in 2014 after being called out in Dylan Farrow’s open letter on the subject – but in today’s climate, it is a bold move and one that she is being criticised for.

The industry tide is finally turning against Allen as actors donate salaries, distance themselves from his work and publicly apologise to Dylan Farrow, but it is evident that Keaton is willing to stick her neck out for the man she considers her friend.

“Considers” because, the last time Allen returned the favour and talked about their friendship in public, it wasn’t exactly how many women would choose to be eulogised.

That was back in June at an American Film Institute ceremony where Allen paid tribute to Keaton right before she was awarded a lifetime achievement award.

This was before the Weinstein story broke, before #MeToo and Time’s Up and before Dylan Farrow gave her first TV interview on the sexual abuse she alleges she suffered at the hands of her father as a child. Allen was still a lauded director, whose past actions were questioned by a few but endorsed by many.

 

It is complicated, especially for women, when men they care for, know and love are accused of crimes like these

 

No one paid the event much attention apart from to note that it was a rare and unexpected appearance from Allen and to comment on what a lovely surprise it was for a pair of old friends to be reunited.

But, reflecting on Allen’s tribute speech now, The Cut has called it “an example of stealth misogyny”. The site has published a thorough analysis of its content and delivery that is well worth a read (if you have the stomach). 

In summary, Allen talks about Keaton’s looks: “She dresses, as you know, to hide her sexuality — and always has, and has done a great job, ’cause it’s never emerged over the years,” and “she’s a beautiful girl. And she’s never succumbed to any face work or anything. She’s very uncompromising. She prefers to look old.”

He talks about her love life: “She’s been involved with half a dozen of the most gifted, charismatic, attractive men in Hollywood and it’s very interesting ’cause every one of them has dumped her.”

And in his list of her achievements, he includes “fellatrix”, meaning a woman who gives blowjobs. The room full of A-listers laughs along and why shouldn’t they? His tone is comedic, his barbs are disguised and the blowjob joke barely registered. He’s directing his audience just as he has directed films – with the intent to normalise his own reprehensible behaviour.

This is the way Allen talks about a woman he purports to be one of his oldest and closest friends. And it is galling.

It is complicated, especially for women, when men they care for, know and love are accused of crimes like these. Some handle it with dignity, empathy, honesty and respect for the victims (Sarah Silverman, Alison Brie, Pamela Adlon) while others are clumsy and defensive (Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner).

It is inconvenient to discover that you have to interrogate your relationship to them and disarming to discover your judgement has been mistaken. But it is a responsibility that we all share.

In 1992, although it was decided that there was not enough evidence to charge Allen with abuse, a judge believed Dylan’s testimony sufficiently enough to award full custody to her mother.

And when Keaton endorses her friend Woody Allen, whether by forgetting, ignoring or plain excusing, she is part of the problem. Being friends with someone for a long time is not a reason to excuse their behaviour. Neither is having shared creative processes with them. And neither is having defended them in the past.

No woman is at fault for the behaviour of a man – and Keaton cannot be held responsible for Allen’s actions – but it is not the time to play the contrarian and previously untouchable men need to hear that their peers and friends do not condone their behaviour. They need to feel shame.

@littlewondering

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Diane Keaton
Woody Allen
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