Amazon’s fledgling original content studio—fresh off its Golden Globe wins on Sunday night—just made the biggest deal in its short history. And it’s so freaking depressing.
Woody Allen is heading to Amazon. Goddammit.
It was just about a year ago that Buzzfeed’s Kate Aurthur asked, “Will Hollywood ignore Woody Allen’s daughter’s sexual abuse allegation again?” News that Amazon will be partnering with Allen on the Oscar winner’s first-ever TV series confirms that, at least in Tinseltown, all is forgiven.
It seems now the question instead should’ve been two-fold: “How long until Hollywood ignores the allegations?” and “Why would we be surprised when it does?”
First, the details of the deal (of which there really are none). Untitled Woody Allen Project will be a half-hour comedy series, of which there is no concept, plot, casting, or even start date at this time. Allen himself said, “I don’t know how I got into this. I have no ideas and I’m not sure where to begin. My guess is that Roy Price [VP of Amazon Studios] will regret this.”
And, of course, the biggest detail of them all: the announcement comes 11 months after Allen’s daughter Dylan Farrow accused him in The New York Times of sexually assaulting her when she was 7—accusations that Allen fervently denied but which nonetheless made him the pariah, though apparently a short-lived one, of Hollywood.
Most frustratingly, Farrow put on blast those who have been able to work with Allen by accepting “the ambiguity” of Allen’s split with Mia Farrow, despite being aware of these allegations that have been bubbling for 20 years. As Aurthur wrote in her Buzzfeed piece, “While Allen’s current wave of success is probably unstoppable, his daughter has certainly condemned those who separate the artist from his art. And she’s made sure that those who do business with Allen in the future will have her words ringing in their ears, even if they choose to disbelieve or ignore them.”
The people at Amazon, it seems, are game to plug their ears. This is the first major Hollywood deal Allen has made since the scandal dominated headlines in the last calendar year, and it’s confusing and dejecting that Amazon would make it.
Amazon, you see, had all the goodwill in the world going towards it. It was the little streaming service that could, chugging along mightily next to juggernaut Netflix, first announcing itself with A-list talent with its first moderate success, the comedy Alpha House, before garnering well-deserved critical acclaim and all-important “cool” buzz for its series Transparent and, more recently, Mozart in the Jungle. The few times I spoke with people at Amazon Studios, they talked with excitement about how these building victories were going to allow them to attract more top-tier talent—and in turn how landing that talent will only woo bigger and bigger names.
The slate of just-announced pilots for 2015 that Amazon is developing is brimming with TV’s top and most sought-after creatives. Sure, none of them are of the notoriety of Woody Allen. But, really, who is?
It’s easy to understand the temptation to work with Allen, even with knowledge lurking in the back of the mind that the decision would be controversial. Controversy, after all, courts eyeballs. Hell, despite writing this screed, I’ll be intrigued enough to check out what the hell Allen has come up with for Amazon (presuming this very vague deal actually materializes into a TV show down the line). While it’s hard to imagine that there won’t be blowback to Amazon’s partnership with Allen, Amazon is probably banking on the blowback being worth it.
After all, there’s no indication to otherwise. Sure, Magic in the Moonlight only grossed a third of what Allen’s last, pre-scandal effort, Blue Jasmine, took in at the box office. But Magic in the Moonlight also kind of sucked, and its receipts were actually in line with most of Allen’s indie oeuvre.
It’s infuriating to think that Hollywood, not to mention culture consumers, is so willing to reward a purported predator with such a splashy deal. But Hollywood has always had this insufferable “separate the artist from the art” mantra, and this is just the latest example.
For the love of Jell-O pudding, just look at what’s going on with Bill Cosby. Where there’s smoke there’s fire, and with this guy there’s obviously a freaking inferno blazing, which, to the industry’s credit, has already burned down his TV deals with Netflix and NBC. But then you see people like Phylicia Rashad defending him, unable to separate a cultural icon and friend from the heinous acts he’s accused of.
And you see the bafflingly polarizing reaction Amy Poehler and Tina Fey’s brilliant skewering of Cosby received in the room at Sunday night’s Golden Globes. There were way too many people in that room who sat uncomfortably, unamused, at Fey and Poehler’s comedic damnation of Cosby. Way too many members of the entertainment community unable to acknowledge the man as a creep. Unable to separate the artist from the art.
These are, of course, the same people who repeatedly work with Roman Polanski. Who quietly came to Allen’s defense last year. And who, with enthusiasm, team up with this horrifyingly long list of Hollywood’s male scumbags that The Daily Beast’s Asawin Suebsaeng curated late last year.
Like provocation, revolution, and glamour, hypocrisy has always been Hollywood’s thing, as has disappointment. Amazon’s Golden Globe wins for Transparent on Sunday night were especially cool not just because they represented the legitimacy of a young streaming service, but because the show itself stands for something noble and important. Transparent and the success of Amazon represents forward progress. Its partnership with Allen represents countless steps back. For all of us.