Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona and Me
It’s hard to love a Woody Allen film once you’ve become “woke”.
As a self-described cinephile, I became infatuated with modern filmmaking upon exposing myself to some of the greats that still create today. I remember there was Aronfsky’s “Black Swan” and Wes Anderson’s “Life Aquatic”, Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette” sparked an adoration with a royal unlike any other, even my own namesake. Judd Apatow’s “Knocked Up” was the first “R-Rated” movie I saw (awkwardly seated between my two parents, yes my eyes were covered 90% of the time).
Before I get into the Woody Allen aspect of this, I admit that, yes, I just listed a bunch of white privileged Hollywood elites who have their own problematic behaviors and past instances.
The first time I watched “Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona” I’m going to be honest, I didn’t really understand it, all I really understood was that Penelope Cruz was, and is still, a queen, Javier Bardem gave me weird vibes, Vicky was a lot like the girls I went to high school with, and Cristina reminded me of the theater kids obsessed with old hollywood glamour.
Honestly, I really didn’t get it and I lost interest about thirty minutes in. But I was 13, so sex and polyamory and romanticized mental illness seemed like Hollywood exaggerations.
But time has passed, I’ve grown up and experienced love in various forms and relationships, I’ve experienced heartbreak and pain, I’ve come face to face with my own personal mental health demons. And I have become socially aware and I boldly stand as a student of feminism.
So when I watched “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” last month I had a swirl of emotional conflicts. There’s no doubt the cinephile in me who loves brilliant cinematography, screenwriting, and acting was pleased. The Anxiety/Depression part of me was moved so much by Penelope Cruz’s brilliant performance as a manic-depressive Latina woman. But the feminist part of me was conflicted because of Woody Allen’s past history of child sex abuse has completely compromised any true enjoyment of art.
How does one like problematic people? Is it possible to separate the creative art from the person?
There are people screaming the obvious “Yes, duh! By supporting their work with financial or public praise, you’re giving them more power and overseeing how they abused their stature you gave them. You’re putting works above human victim’s experience.”
And see, I’ve used this exact logic against people like Lena Dunham and Chris Brown. So it’s unfair to be selective and pick and choose who deserves this punishment and who doesn’t.
In writing this piece I’ve come to reflect on this and realized that this is a thing we come across in everyday life. Whether it be with family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, celebrities and artists….people have problematic behaviors. Whether we acknowledge it or not, it’s up to us to choose.
It’s going to be heartbreaking to leave behind a portrayal of a character by an actress that I admire with my heart and soul. But I can’t stand by and hold the work of a person above the experience of the victims and victims of similar crimes.
I’ll always find myself bouncing between admiring Penelope’s brilliant performance that speaks to my soul as a heartbroken, depressive, creative latina woman, and incriminating the person who put this character on screen.