not in our stars, but in ourselves
I am probably going to regret throwing my $0.02 into the active volcano that is public opinion on the latest developments in the Woody Allen/Mia Farrow/Mia’s children saga. But I’ve been fixated by Dylan Farrow’s letter, by the pieces that sprung up in its wake and in the wake of Allen’s Cecil B. DeMille award, and by my own friends’ reactions to what is really just one family’s tragedy. (Farrows, if you read this, please forgive me.)
In case you’ve been living under a rock, here’s what’s happened: Allen and Farrow were partners for over a decade. She already had quite a few children, and they had children together as well. In the early ’90s, she found out that Allen had been having a sexual relationship with one of her daughters, Soon-Yi Previn. Farrow and Allen split up, and it was extremely ugly. Around that time, Dylan – another of Farrow’s daughters – said that Allen had molested her. He denied it vehemently, and he was never charged. He is not allowed near Dylan anymore, however.
Things were pretty quiet for a couple of decades, but then Farrow began to kick up dust again when she told Vanity Fair that her son Ronan might actually be Frank Sinatra’s son. The interview mentioned a lot of the old ugliness as well, and neither Farrow nor Ronan has been shy about expressing their continued disgust and anger relating to Allen. Last month, Allen received the Cecil B. DeMille award at the Golden Globes. There was more uproar about Allen’s sordid past (with Soon-Yi) and his alleged sordid past (with Dylan). A genuinely disgusting apolgia for Allen appeared in The Daily Beast. Much ink was spilled, many tweets were tapped.
Then, this weekend, Dylan Farrow herself – after trying to live the past two decades as anonymously as possible, under a different name and without any fanfare – blew the lid off everything. She wrote an open letter to Allen, full of horrifying and heartbreaking details of his abuse. People freaked out. Because we apparently live in a post-nuance world, the reactions were either – and please forgive me for using hashtags; it’s to make a point, I promise – #teamdylan or #teamwoody. If you’re #teamdylan, you believe her, and you believe that Allen is a child molester. If you’re #teamwoody, you believe that Dylan is an emotionally disturbed child who was coached by her crazy mother in order to bring down A Great Artist.
You can imagine which team I’m on, probably. But I’ll explain.
Yes, I like a lot of Woody Allen’s movies. As a writer, director, actor, and producer, he is in a rare class: for decades, he’s put out mostly pretty good work, year after year. Some of them are forgettable, and some of them are classics. No one can take that away from him, nor is anyone attempting to do so.
But this piece, I feel, summarizes everything I would hope to say on the subject. Allen’s talent as a filmmaker is not the issue. His reprehensible behavior, and his reliance on his status as a great filmmaker, IS the issue. (And of course, it’s not even him, necessarily. He has been mostly silent and dismissive of the whole thing. His fans, however, seem to imply that he’s a Great Man because he’s a Great Artist – unlike that lying slut, Mia Farrow.) I mean, how could someone so famous and beloved have done something so heinous? Surely, the girl was confused, or lying, or coached by someone else.
Why would she lie about this, though? What could she possibly hope to gain, except closure?
And even if the whole thing were fabricated, made up, misremembered, whatever – Allen is a predator. When he was 55, he seduced his girlfriend’s 19-year-old daughter. That is not an equal partnership. That is not a case of two consenting adults. That is a case of a much more powerful man taking what he wants from a much younger woman in an extremely vulnerable position. Good for them, I guess, for living happily ever after or something. Not everyone fares so well. Some women, after being preyed upon by a powerful older man, find themselves left with absolutely nothing – a torn apart carcass of a life, nowhere to go, nothing to do – while their attacker goes on with his life, happy as can be, keeping everything he had in the first place.
I don’t think Dylan Farrow is making anything up. I think it’s natural that a 7-year-old telling investigators about a traumatic event (or several traumatic events) would get some of the details confused. I think it’s miserably predictable that, due to her attacker’s status and to the world’s prejudice against women’s and girls’ words against men’s, all charges were dismissed – thus proving, as far as the world is concerned, her lies and his innocence. And I think she is remarkably brave for standing up and ensuring that someone listens to the victim, rather than ignoring her and trusting her to keep her mouth shut.
Overall, though, I think it’s all pretty sad. As Professor Farnsworth put it, I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.