Did you happen to catch David Bianculli’s review of the upcoming PBS Masters documentary on Woody Allen?
It was an impressive review.
By that, I do not mean that it was a positive review, although it was. Impressive in that Bianculli convinced me, in a mere seven minutes, five seconds, that my life will, in fact, be enhanced by spending four hours with Woody Allen this Sunday and Monday nights (check your local PBS stations for times).
There was, however, one part of the review that jumped out at me. In introducing a 1986 clip of Woody Allen interviewing his mother, Nettie Konigsberg, Bianculli describes the encounter as “almost uncomfortably revealing.” She tells Allen that he was very bright as a child, but that he was a very active child. More active than she was prepared to handle which, in turn, caused her to be incredibly strict with him, which she later regretted.
“Because if I hadn’t been that strict, you might have been a more, a not so impatient … you might have been a — what should I say? Not ‘better.’ You’re a good person. But maybe softer, maybe warmer,” she says.
“Yikes,” remarks Bianculli.
It must be a cultural thing. Because I didn’t find the conversation uncomfortable whatsoever. In fact, his mother sounded a whole lot like my TanteZ and the rest of the Brooklyn crew from that era. Both the accent and speech pattern were familiar. And what she actually said would not be considered anything other than a reflective observation. Which was familiar as well.
As we learned with the release of Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother — a book that I enjoyed, by the way — there are significant cultural differences in the ways different ethnic groups child-rear, communicate within a familial structure, and perceive success. What sounds harsh or, as in this case, uncomfortable to one person might not be heard the same way by someone else coming from another ethnic group.
The part that I found more shocking was that Allen’s Jewish mother took partial responsibility for the way in which she reared him.
After she blamed him, of course.