Secrets & Women Who Spill Them

My guess is that The New York Times doesn’t have a sly bone in its – er – body.

Yet someone on the paper’s Arts & Leisure editorial staff must have been winking when they chose to run not one but two articles this past Sunday on the subject of powerful men who keep their dirty laundry secret – and mange to remain on top even when the laundry hits the fan.

Anita Hill was the subject of one article, occasioned by a new documentary about her experience as a young attorney who dared to go public with sexual abuse allegations against then-nominee, now Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991. Hill faced down the dismissive, all-white, all-male Senate Judiciary Committee and lost – we all lost. All except Thomas, who was sworn in and took his place as biggest Supreme Court yawn.

The other article was a reexamination of Woody Allen’s 1987 film “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” in which a successful philandering doctor gets away with murder. That is, the murder of the mistress who risks spoiling his marriage and his lifestyle if she isn’t permanently silenced. (Interestingly, this is a subject that preoccupies Allen. As the article points out, it was also the plot of one of his more recent films, “Match Point.”)

What Clarence Thomas and Woody Allen have in common, obviously, is that they have both been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior, Thomas with a coworker he supervised, Allen with a child, his adopted daughter. Both deny the allegations, and both manage to remain successful, powerful public figures whose images are touched, but not fatally tarnished, by the things they are accused of having done in private.

Allen’s fictional doctor would probably have similarly survived a little sexual notoriety but he preferred to avoid it. Eliminating the woman who would have accused him, he evades his Anita Hill-Dylan Farrow moment in the sun. His acts are never discovered. He never even feels guilty. Because, as the film tells its viewers in a big, culminating shrug, that’s the way of the world. Men do as they like, and evil triumphs in the end.


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