Going Bananas

Jesters do oft prove prophets.
— Shakespeare

Fielding Mellish: 

Doing a sociological study on perversion. I’m up to Advanced Child Molesting.

Fielding Mellish:  

“I am reminded tonight of the farmer who had an incestuous relationship with both his daughters simultaneously.” 

Who pokes fun at child molestation? 

Who jokes about incest?

Who has this lewd and depraved sense of humor?

Who is this Fielding Mellish?

The answer to these questions is Woody Allen.

Fielding Mellish is the main character in the 1971 movie, Bananas. Fielding was played by Woody Allen. Allen created, wrote, directed and starred in  the role of Fielding Mellish. Bananas is Allen’s early slapstick comedy about a nerdy and neurotic lovelorn New Yorker who travels to a fictitious banana republic only to find himself as the president of this 3rd world country after a military coup. The lines written and uttered by Woody Allen in this movie are his unique brand of humor. Interestingly, Allen wrote the script and one-liners about multiple incest and child molestation 20 years before the child sex allegations by his daughter, Dylan Farrow.

In 1971, were movie goers simply laughing along as Allen poked fun at the child molestation and incest? Did it occur to anyone that these were very serious issues that are neither funny, nor entertaining?

Was Allen’s Fielding Mellish character articulating the unconscious desires of Allen who twenty years hence would be accused by Farrow of having a sexual relationship with her daughters, Dylan and Soon Yi simultaneously? Dylan was the 7 year old adopted daughter of Allen and Farrow. Soon Yi was the 19 (approximately) year old adopted daughter of Andre Previn and Farrow). Since Allen and Mia Farrow never married, Woody Allen was not Soon Yi’s legal stepfather.  The relationship between Allen and Previn has been referred to as a stepfather involved romantically with his stepdaughter because she was adopted and legally Farrow’s daughter and Allen’s son’s sister. The sexual relationship between Allen and Soon Yi began when he was 56 years old and she was approximately 19. Her precise age is unknown because she was adopted from Korea. Legalities aside, this relationship reflects the creep factor of an imbalance in power and a highly inappropriate violation of family trust and propriety, at the very least.

Incest and child molesting jokes are hardly the stuff of humor, unless, you are Woody Allen. Playing the wimpy nerd, provides Allen with a wide berth to push the moral envelope. Push it, he does. As Allen told Reuters, “Yes, we are a religious country, but to me that is their problem. I am not religious or prudish.” Unite, prudes, who abhor lifetime achievement awards for artists like Woody Allen.

Some eight years later, in 1979, Allen writes, directs and stars in a movie about a 42 year old nerdy divorced man who dates a 17 year old high school co-ed. Not surprisingly, in his highly acclaimed movie Manhattan, Allen plays in the starring role as the middle aged man who beds a teenager, played by a very young and innocent looking Mariel Hemingway.

Yet again, there was no outrage by the public in 1979 about Allen’s comedic portrayal of a highly inappropriate relationship with an old man having sex with a teenage girl who looks about 14, but is conveniently scripted to be the age of 17, the legal age of consent in NY. The scene where Allen waits outside the high school to pick up his teen lover exceeds the creep test, to say nothing about the vile bedroom scenes with the wizened old man and the high school student. 

Is Allen’s art imitating life?

According to news accounts, Woody Allen’s affair with 17-year-old Stacey Nelkin was the inspiration for his classic 1979 movie, Manhattan starring Mariel Hemingway. In the film, Allen’s character says, “What do you do when she’s 17? I’m older than her father.” Another sick attempt at Allen humor, at the expense of children. And the audience laughed and bought tickets to Allen’s movies.

Allen has talked at length in interviews that his movies are autobiographical exploring his deep seated neuroses. In an interview, Allen said, “almost all my work is autobiographical and yet so exaggerated and distorted it reads like fiction. I’m believable as me only as certain things, as an urban studious looking twerp my age.” 

Humor and his wimpy looks disarm the audience and provide Woody Allen with a license to push the moral envelope. The audience’s moral compass is dulled by his seemingly harmless one-liners and goofy looks.  If a lecher doesn’t look like a lecher, but rather like a harmless nerd, the moviegoers give him a pass. He silences the critics with his portrayal of a reprobate in horned rim glasses with a comedic sleight of hand.

The latest round of verbal volleys between Woody Allen and the Mia Farrow family clan bring into focus the propriety of Woody Allen’s conduct. Does society honor a successful and prolific film maker whose private life raises serious moral questions. Allen strongly denies the allegations that he molested his daughter Dylan. Yet in Maureen Orth’s Vanity Fair article, she asserts that Allen had been in therapy for alleged inappropriate behavior toward Dylan with a child psychologist before the abuse allegation was made public.

Speaking of therapy, the therapist plays a recurring role in countless Woody Allen films. Many of his movies are replete with scenes of psychotherapy sessions, including Bananas. This is yet another example of Allen’s life imitating art, since Woody concedes that he has been in therapy throughout his adult life. 

One of Allen’s famous comedic lines is “I’m going to give my psychoanalyst one more year, then I’m going to Lourdes.”

It’s time for Lourdes, Woody.

ArticleLara Barger