Why Woody Allen & Miley Cyrus' Relationship In 'Crisis In Six Scenes' Made Me Uncomfortable
When the critically acclaimed film director Woody Allen announced his new TV series, the cast list revealed that Miley Cyrus would star in Crisis in Six Scenes on Amazon. My first reaction should have been that it's great to see Cyrus have the opportunity to show viewers what her acting skills are like in a high-quality series — but, instead, I had a sinking feeling that she had been cast for the wrong reasons. Since she is a young, attractive woman, I dreaded the possibility that Cyrus and Allen's characters on Crisis in Six Scenes would engage in some sort of romantic relationship.
I wasn't the only person who felt this way, and these concerns came from Allen's history with younger women. For example, as most people know, when he was in his late 50s, Allen left his girlfriend Mia Farrow to be with her then 21-year-old adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn. He faced much criticism for the relationship at the time and in the decades since their 1997 marriage. Then, in a May 2016 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Allen gave an interview that appeared to be rather condescending about his relationship with Previn, in which he implied that he had rescued her from a life of poverty in Korea:
"She had a very, very difficult upbringing in Korea: She was an orphan on the streets, living out of trash cans and starving as a 6-year-old. And she was picked up and put in an orphanage. And so I've been able to really make her life better. I provided her with enormous opportunities, and she has sparked to them. She's educated herself and has tons of friends and children and got a college degree and went to graduate school, and she has traveled all over with me now. She's very sophisticated and has been to all the great capitals of Europe. She has just become a different person. So the contributions I've made to her life have given me more pleasure than all my films."
In reality, it was Farrow who adopted Previn prior to her relationship with Allen. Due to all of that history, I didn't exactly enjoy watching Crisis in Six Scenes, because, the entire time, I had a nagging feeling that Allen's character, Sidney, would cheat on his wife (Elaine May) with Cyrus' rebellious, young, attractive character, Lennie. The whole situation had alarming parallels to Allen's relationship with Farrow and Previn, because Lennie moves in with Sidney and his wife and, in many ways, behaves like their daughter — and those parallels were almost unbearable.
When the series concluded and the pair hadn't engaged in a romantic relationship, I breathed a huge sigh of relief, but it's frustrating that viewers like myself even felt that concern at all. I was uncomfortable throughout the show, especially when Allen's character's age was continually referenced by Lennie. She makes fun of everything from Sidney's poor hearing to his dietary habits and never misses an opportunity to refer to him as "an old man." I'll admit that the dialogue would have been hilarious if the underlying tension hadn't existed the entire time I watched the show. The fact that Lennie showed such contempt towards Sidney made me even more anxious that a hookup was on its way — because two characters who initially despise each other and then fall madly in love is one of the most common plot devices ever.
Allen also has a long history of significant age differences in his movies, so it wasn't unthinkable that his and Cyrus' characters would have shared an intimate scene. In Hollywood Ending, Allen was 66 and Debra Messing was 33. In Husbands and Wives, there was a 37-year difference between Allen and Juliette Lewis. Mighty Aphrodite saw Allen at 59 to Helena Bonham Carter's 29. And, in Manhattan, Allen was 43 to Mariel Hemingway's 17. Had Sidney and Lennie hooked up, that would have been a 57-year age difference. Yet, Lennie's relentless mocking of Sidney's age seemed like it could be a way for Allen to prove that he can resist writing in a plotline that allows him to act in physically intimate scenes with a pretty, young woman.
To be clear, age gaps in consensual relationships between two adults aren't inherently problematic. Plenty of couples with large differences in age have great relationships, and it's disrespectful to assume a woman would only be in a relationship with an older man because she's seeking some sort of father figure. However, Allen's recent comments about Previn imply that he sees himself as her savior of sorts, and, again, those father figure-daughter comparisons to Sidney and Lennie had me feeling uncomfortable throughout — especially since Allen's character helped her escape in the end, meaning he essentially wrote himself to become her savior, too.
Crisis in Six Scenes seemed funny enough, but I spent far too much time squirming in my seat with discomfort to actually enjoy it. I kept waiting for the moment when I could once again be comfortable, and that didn't come until the end of the series, when the story concluded without any romantic scenes between Allen and Cyrus. Unfortunately, that is a pretty low bar to hurdle for any series, so I certainly wouldn't call it a win for Allen.
Images: Amazon Studios (3)