Filled with typically caustic, funny and sad observations about life and art, Woody Allen’s latest interview with NPR also contains a rare segment of the director — who has (somewhat) weathered accusations of child molestation — talking about his personal life.
The media has already run with these two answers, in which Allen talks about his “paternal” relationship with Soon-Yi Previn, who the actor began dating over two decades ago when she was his then-partner Mia Farrow’s adopted teenage daughter.
It’s not a particularly pleasant read, to put it mildly.
Do you feel that way now with [your wife] Soon-Yi Previn?
I lucked out in my last relationship. I’ve been married now for 20 years, and it’s been good. I think that was probably the odd factor that I’m so much older than the girl I married. I’m 35 years older, and somehow, through no fault of mine or hers, the dynamic worked. I was paternal. She responded to someone paternal. I liked her youth and energy. She deferred to me, and I was happy to give her an enormous amount of decision-making just as a gift and let her take charge of so many things. She flourished. It was just a good-luck thing.
So run me through your thought process back in late ’80s.
I started the relationship with her and I thought it would just be a fling, it wouldn’t be serious. But it had a life of its own. And I never thought it would be anything more. Then we started going together, then we started living together, and we were enjoying it. And the age difference didn’t seem to matter. It seemed to work in our favor, actually.
She enjoyed being introduced to many, many things that I knew from experience, and I enjoyed showing her those things. She took them, and outstripped me in certain areas that I showed her.
The major takeaway here is the gross tone-deafness of a man who has been accused of child molestation talking about how much he loves having a younger, daughter-like wife — this on top of his directorial obsession with May-December romances. But that has always been Allen’s M.O. in interviews. When he talks about his personal life it’s often to reflect on his image or his work, not on the other people involved. Unfortunately, in this case it serves to further a narrative that makes his wife into a blank non-entity, whether it’s his version of the story or Mia Farrow’s.
In 1992, Soon-Yi Previn released a statement about her relationship to Allen, striking back at these conceptions of her. “He was never any kind of father figure to me,” she said. “I’m not a retarded little underage flower who was raped, molested and spoiled by some evil stepfather-not by a long shot. I’m a psychology major at college who fell for a man who happens to be the ex-boyfriend of Mia. I admit it’s offbeat, but let’s not get hysterical.”
At this point, over two decades later, Soon-Yi Allen is a grown woman in her 40s, with children of her own. Her agency complicates the narrative story surrounding Woody Allen, whatever you make of it or of him. Yet if you look Soon-Yi up online the results are almost entirely things that either Woody Allen or Mia Farrow have said about her, aspersions cast or generalizations made without her input. It’s unfortunate and rather sad that her husband’s statement now aids the media in infantalizing a grown woman.