What Blake Lively Got Wrong When She Defended Woody Allen

Photo: Michael Buckner/Variety/REX/Shutterstock.
Today, at a roundtable in Cannes, Blake Lively came to Woody Allen's defense. While refraining from commenting on Ronan Farrow's revealing essay in The Hollywood Reporter — she claimed she hadn't read it — the actress stated that she thinks Allen writes "amazing" parts for women. "My experience with Woody Allen is that he's empowering to women," she told reporters during a lunchtime press event. Writes amazing parts for women? Perhaps. But empowering to women in general? That's definitely debatable. This is a man who has recapitulated the pretty young ingenue plot for more than half a century. It might mean something iconic to have a part in a Allen film — but it certainly doesn't mean anything particularly progressive. Calling him empowering is stretching the definition of the word for myriad reasons. Lively is hardly the only prominent star to lift up the acclaimed director across the years. Cate Blanchett, Diane Keaton, Scarlett Johansson, Kristen Stewart, Emma Stone: All of these actresses and more have either tacitly or explicitly endorsed Allen after working with him. For what it's worth, that's probably a fairly savvy career move in Tinseltown: Starring in an Allen film is its own type of award — as well as a sign that you're rising through the ranks of Hollywood, a true standout. For that reason, I expect it's easier to be on his side than not. But that's the real problem with both what Lively said as well as the way that Allen has gone unquestioned all these years about the allegation that he molested his own daughter. The world, and these women along with it, have mostly allowed him to continue his sterling reputation as a filmmaker while sweeping anything that doesn't fit with their version of Allen under the rug. Put another way: He's been given the easy way out, not ever truly being held accountable for Dylan Farrow's narrative — even after she wrote that heartbreaking Times piece. Allen received twice as much space to rebut her comments, all while never really quite answering what was at the heart of the accusations. He's managed to dodge responsibility all this time. What's worse is that no one has ever really demanded otherwise. Of course, it's not Lively's job to ask Allen the tough questions — it's the media that's made it so easy all these years by not demanding that he answer the hard questions. It's Hollywood that has continued to celebrate him for his filmmaking skills, instead of choosing to stand by a young woman who had nothing to gain by telling her truth. Lively is a product of a culture in which we give someone a pass because of their talent — and working with Allen will arguably wind up being a boon to her career, which isn't always so easy to peer at without an arched eyebrow. But to call him empowering? That's what Lively got wrong with her defense about Allen today. To call someone empowering is to say that they are imparting power to the previously vulnerable. Allen is just writing one-note roles for Hollywood's rising and risen elite.
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