End of the 'Me' Era

JOYCE GABRIEL

August 27, 1992|By JOYCE GABRIEL

We may have finally killed the age of self-indulgence. Woody Allen, one of the icons of the Me Generation, has shown us what can happen when all we understand is that we want what we want when we want it, regardless of the consequences.

Did he begin an affair with his longtime lover's adopted child, a child he helped raise? Did he keep this from his longtime lover, Mia Farrow, until she discovered nude pictures of her daughter, taken at his apartment?

Yes, he did all this, but he doesn't see what's wrong with it. He doesn't see why Ms. Farrow is upset. No doubt, he won't be able to understand why his new love's father, pianist-conductor Andre Previn, expressed sadness when he heard that his daughter, college sophomore Soon-Yi, was in love with Mr. Allen. ''I would have wished for better for her,'' Mr. Previn was quoted as saying.

In the permissive era in which many of us came of age, we were told that anything goes, that it's all right if it feels good.

Mr. Allen may have once read Kafka and has pretensions to intellectualism, but that only means he may call himself a solipsist, rather than a self-centered middle-aged man.

The world does not begin and end with him, although he may think so. So much for the notion of ''free love,'' free of honor, free of responsibility, free of caring and decency. Instead of spending so much time figuring out what he always wanted to know about sex, he should have spent more time analyzing what constitutes love, the kind of love that doesn't find its roots in hurting others.

And what about choosing to have biological children or adopt children without bothering to marry the other parent, even when one could?

It is, indeed, as we have all been told by the politically correct, our right to choose a ''valid'' alternative lifestyle. But who pays the price? In the Farrow-Allen case, it seems a lot of children, one of them little more than a toddler, will pay for their parents' right to live their lives to suit themselves. And Ms. Farrow will get to pick up the pieces of her children's lives, long after Mr. Allen uses his latest romance as grist for the movie mill.

In all the many stories I've read so far, every expert and non-expert has been quoted and a whole forest's worth of pages have been written about what happened here and what it all means. But the only official moral outrage came from Ms. Farrow's mother, Maureen O'Sullivan, who first leaked the story of Mr. Allen's affair with her granddaughter.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. These days, moral outrage is considered passe. One man's stepchild is another man's girlfriend.

But I think it's time for those of us who are outraged to say so. To say that we need to think less about ourselves and more about the people we love. Otherwise, we'll end up emotional cannibals, feeding off our own out-of-control desires.

What we can learn from all this is that there are limits on how we live our lives, on our choices. No one of us lives in a vacuum, free to choose whatever we please just because we can. There are boundaries even for falling in love, lines we shouldn't cross, things we shouldn't do. If you're religious, those things are classified as sin. If you're a secular moralist, they are classified as wrong. Either way, they are to be avoided.

Maybe it's time for the Me Generation to grow up, to stop taking its pulse to see how it feels, and start listening to heartbeats that aren't its own.

Maybe we should start asking why, instead of why not. Maybe we should begin to worry about what will happen the day after tomorrow if we truly have to deal with the consequences of our actions.

It would be ironic that Woody Allen going bananas could actually be a catalyst for a second look at what's really important.

Joyce Gabriel is assistant manager editor of the Stamford, Conn., Advocate.

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