The Horrible and the Miserable: Why Woody Allen’s Take on Humanity is Astoundingly Accurate

Woody Allen is famed for many quotes, including “80% of success is showing up.” But perhaps his most salient one comes from Annie Hall, in which, in the character of Alvy Singer, he tells Annie (Diane Keaton), “I feel that life is divided into the horrible and the miserable. That’s the two categories. The horrible are like, I don’t know, terminal cases, you know, and blind people, crippled. I don’t know how they get through life. It’s amazing to me. And the miserable is everyone else. So you should be thankful that you’re miserable, because that’s very lucky, to be miserable.”

Woody Allen as the jaded, neurotic Alvy Singer in Annie Hall
Woody Allen as the jaded, neurotic Alvy Singer in Annie Hall
This assessment of existence (particularly existence in New York City) is so accurate, so bitingly tongue in cheek that it’s difficult to argue with his point. No matter what your station in life–rich, poor or that rare social class, the middle–you’re probably miserable or lacking in some fashion or other. Whether that misery stems from a financial standpoint or is related to love (or lack thereof), there’s no denying that human suffering is unavoidable. It’s just an issue of to what degree your stance in life allows you to languish in your own pain and melancholy.

While some will maintain that The Smiths were the progenitors of what it means to be a modern emo, it was really Woody Allen who broke it down for us most succinctly in 1977. And sure, his films before and after that point continued to fortify his thesis on the shittiness of life, but it was this brief statement to Annie Hall that established his guru status as an all-knowing alma mater of pensive lugubriousness.