I watched ‘The Irrational Man’ on Netflix last night, for something to do and not knowing anything about the film, but as the credits rolled I saw that Woody Allen wrote and directed it.

I had the impulse then not to watch but made myself do so with particular attention to the script. It intrigued me.

A typical plot: an older eccentric and seemingly troubled professor of philosophy draws in the attraction and desire of a young bright student who in time breaks up with her loving boyfriend over her beloved professor.

The professor resists his student’s overtures at first, while simultaneously conducting an affair with an older married colleague who is also completely smitten with the professor and would run away with him in a heart beat.

This man is so much the object of desire, despite his appalling behaviour. He drinks whiskey from a hip flask regularly and is rude and abrupt with people.

He has a rugged look and what appears to be a scar on his lip – congenital perhaps – and a small pot belly – as if he’s given up caring about his appearance, while the women are both so perfect in their bodies and beauty, both the older women and the younger one.

Eventually the professor succumbs to his desire for his young student, succumbs and in the process decides to murder a judge whom he and his student believe is corrupt after they overhear a woman and friends in conversation about him.

It seems this judge is matey with the woman’s ex and is making it impossible for her to keep her children.

The professor is fired up by this story of unfairness and finds himself alive again, energised, no longer in the grip of the ennui that had engulfed him earlier, given his plot to kill the judge, unbeknown to any one, including the student.

The symbolism is obvious, as if the professor loses his capacity to ‘judge’ in face of his desire to right what he considers a wrong, notwithstanding his own wrongdoing.

I won’t go into how it all unfolds. To me the plot is somewhat implausible and high drama but I listened for the usual lines. One short sentence in particular jumps out when the professor takes the young student out for dinner and she says to: “I love how you order for me”.

I wanted to puke.

It’s all part of the seduction I suppose, part of the drama but thinking more about these things and I feel like Carly Findlay, who among other things writes about how disabled people are misrepresented in film.

I’m struck yet again by the way women are represented in films and the artist, in this case the genius professor, is seen as a flawed hero who begs for our understanding.

I wonder whether some of Woody Allen’s work is his attempt to make sense of his own troubled self.

Nothing wrong with that I suppose – I do the same in my writing, but there’s something about how the women fare in all of this that bothers me.

I resent women simply being portrayed as the adoring, somewhat innocent and more often than not extremely beautiful underdog to the tortured and flawed genius hero/man, who is looking for salvation – or a mother, with whom he can have a sexual union that reassures him he’s not getting too old and past it.

Enough of this rant, which seems to me to be connected to the MeToo# campaign, if only at a tangent.

Long may it live.

4 thoughts on “MeToo#”

  1. I am fortunate in my life that all the women I know are not only delightful, but also very strong and self sufficient. They have had to be so. That is why I find them so attractive, in a non sexual manner.

    1. That’s good about the women in your life, Andrew. Would you be able to say the same about the men in your life. I reckon there’s a type of weakness inherent in being a bully or in using your own power to disempower others, however subtle and a great deal of strength in respecting one another regardless of who we are and even our behaviour. Respect doesn’t condone bad behaviour but it doesndoesn’t get onto any moral high horse either. Thanks, Andrew.

  2. I’m going to begin with a sweeping statement: I believe only damaged people make great art. This is not to say that those content with their lot in life, the emotionally stable, the fully actualised and the actual innocent can’t make art because anyone can do art, can paint a picture or write a poem, but they don’t have the kind of need you and I have. Damaged people come in all shapes and sizes. Some are guilty of terrible things; some have had terrible things done to them and sometimes even by themselves. Our pasts shape—or misshape us. Would Magritte have been as great an artist if his mother had lived? Where would Frida Kahlo have been without her tempestuous relationship with Diego Rivera? Where would Jackson Pollock have been without the bottle? Where would Louise Bourgeois be without her father’s many affairs? Where would prolific writer Anne Perry be if she’d not assisted with the murder of her best friend’s mother? Where would you and I be if we’d had happier childhoods?

    I’ve been a fan of Woody Allen’s work for as long as I can remember. I get round to every film, have read all his published fiction and even managed to catch one of his stage plays when it was put on in Glasgow. On my to-read pile is a copy of his latest three stage plays since I’ll probably never get to see them performed in the flesh and I have a photo of him on the bookcase in my office, the one Birdie took a shine to a few years back and ripped chunks out of. In the old days I might’ve called him a hero of mine but I’m not sure I have any heroes. The more you learn about people the more they let you down. I don’t think we’d get along if I ever met him but then I’m not sure I would’ve got on with Larkin or Beckett or even Richard Brautigan; they’ve all lost their sheen. But then I’m not really interested in them as people. The work stands apart.

    There’re a lot of questions being asked at the moment and most of them don’t have easy answers. Apparently Netflix lost $39 million thanks to the fallout from severing its ties with Kevin Spacey. I wonder how much his colleagues have lost and will lose over the years as his films and TV shows drop in popularity. Bob Gunton, who had the relatively minor role as the warden in The Shawshank Redemption, reported that his residual cheques were near six figures in 2004 when the film itself was ten years old and he’s continuing to get paid for that work to this day. Now, what if that film had starred Kevin Spacey instead of Tom Hanks? Spacey has 83 credits in IMDB. That’s a lot of screen time and some fine films. Carrie and I still have to watch the fifth season of House of Cards and I can tell you here and now we will watch it. We’ve invested two days of our lives in that project and I’m damn well going to see it through to the end.

    It’s easy to get all high and mighty. There won’t be a single person involved in any one of those productions who isn’t guilty of something from sundry peccadilloes on up. Many will be guilty of collusion. Others of turning a blind eye. But we need scapegoats. I’m a little concerned that Aziz Ansari’s career might be over because of what was probably just a bad date. I’m not defending him but nether am I in any position to accuse him. This is just a very bad time to have the finger pointed at you.

    Woman have had a hard time of it over the years. That’s stating the obvious. I worry about what the future holds and I’m glad I’m not going to be around to see it. My wife is as strong as they come and yet she still likes to be treated like a lady. I would hate for that to be lost in the kerfuffle. It would be as bad as the Amazons cutting off a breast to better use a bow, if that were true.

    1. I’m inclined to agree Jim, that creativity derives from struggle and damage in one’s life, but for the rest, I reckon if we can attend to the damage other things might emerge. Besides which I doubt there’s anyone who hasn’t been damaged in some way or other. To me it’s the human lot. Though of course there are degrees of damage and art making is one way of dealing with that damage. As for women being treated as ‘ladies’. I have trouble with the very word ‘lady’ these days. I prefer the word ‘woman’, but that’s just me. I reckon we all deserve to be treated with respect, men and women and all between, children and animals and plants and all living things, and even the inert. But it’s hard to get past the inequality of life, which might be inevitable but to my mind is always worth railing against without taking any high moral ground. We’re all in the struggle together, it’s only some might be more aware of the struggle than others. Thanks, Jim. I’m reading your manuscript, two thirds of the way through and should write to you soon, hopefully by the weekend.

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