In November 2017, Claire Dederer published an essay for The Paris Review, the majority of which was an attempt to untangle how – given allegations of sexual abuse against him, the scandal of his marriage to his ex-partner’s daughter, and his valorisation of relationships with very young women in films like Manhattan – she could now watch Woody Allen’s movies and what her responsibilities are as a writer. Are they “to turn away, or to overcome my biographical distaste and watch, or read, or listen? And why does the monster make us – make me – so mad in the first place?”
This paper is a response to these questions. It considers how feminist researchers might begin to negotiate their anxieties about seeming to either endorse or celebrate Allen’s work in a climate in which (some) actors are expressing their regret at having worked with him.
These anxieties are compounded when exploring the work of Jewish women performers within cultural products that often marginalise, ridicule, or else blame the characters they play for the problems of the protagonist. There are no easy answers but, by discussing how working with Woody Allen might both be informed by, and calibrate, the 'star texts' of performers such as Julie Kavner, Louise Lasser, Scarlett Johansson and Elaine May, more empowering readings of Jewish women might be possible based on their own histories, careers and performing presence.
This is a PEP Talk research seminar, organised by the Performance.Experience.Presence research group at the University of Plymouth.
All are welcome to attend for free. No booking required.
PEP Talks are livestreamed for those who are unable to attend in person via the @talkspep Instagram account.