Woody Allen must be presumed innocent

Those were the days, when it was about the art…

The Mia Farrow-Woody Allen fight has become unseemly. Actually, it reached the unseemly point a while ago.

I put Farrow’s name first because she appears to be the one who wants this fight the most, and because she seems to be using her children, natural and adopted, as her weapons in her long-running family feud with Allen. My understanding is that she has been doing this for many years now.

I was sexually abused by a family member, so I don’t need to be told that I am minimizing sexual abuse. I am not.

My central problem with the Farrow-Allen fight is that if you peel away its layers, at its core appears to be Farrow’s hatred of Allen, which probably is mutual. The core of the fight does not seem to be any real, good-faith intention to educate the public about the problem of sexual abuse.

The core intention of Farrow and her surrogates, such as her son Ronan and now her daughter Dylan, seems to be to tell the world, “You think that Woody Allen is so fucking great? Ha! No, he’s a child molester!”

And maybe Allen did sexually abuse adopted daughter Dylan Farrow when she was 7 years old in 1992, as alleged. (While Mia Farrow and Woody Allen never married in the more than 10 years that they were together, they did adopt two children together, including Dylan.) But as Allen was never even criminally tried for such an act, we have to presume him innocent until and unless a criminal court deems him otherwise.

It’s possible that Allen is guilty as charged, but it seems to me that it also is possible that, as Allen’s attorney has posited, Mia Farrow, in the throes of a messy breakup, planted the idea in the young Dylan Farrow’s mind that Allen had sexually abused her. (“In my view she’s not lying; I think she truly believes this happened,” Allen’s attorney is quoted as having said of Dylan, adding, “When you implant a story in a fragile 7-year old’s mind, it stays there forever; it never goes away.”)

Indeed, if it’s true that a home video that Mia Farrow shot of the young Dylan asking her (grilling her? I don’t know; I haven’t seen the video) about the alleged incident is full of in-camera edits (starts and stops), it certainly indicates that some off-camera coaching by mama went on.

In any case, absent a court conviction, the Mia Farrow-Woody Allen fight, in my book, remains unresolved, and because we just don’t know what did or did not actually happen, because we were not there, it’s pointless to take a firm side in the fight, and it seems to me that male-phobic women of course are going to knee-jerkedly side with Mia Farrow and that female-phobic men of course are going to knee-jerkedly side with Woody Allen; it’s yet another Rorschach test, in which the individual sees what she or he is predisposed to see.

I don’t side with either Farrow or Allen, although I do find it unfortunate that Farrow probably will be remembered more for her messy breakup and post-breakup fight with Allen than for her acting — and she turned in some great performances. She might be remembered as the actress who was bitter because her ex found much more post-breakup fame and success than she did, and it’s too bad that that casts a pall over the art that she created.

And yes, I do tend to believe that art and intra-family squabbles and other interpersonal and intrapersonal problems should be kept separate. Art is beautiful and intra-family squabbles and interpersonal and intrapersonal problems are ugly. Art belongs in public for all to see; intra-family squabbles usually belong within the family.

No, I’m not suggesting that the actual victims of sexual abuse at the hands of a family member keep quiet about it. Of course they should not; and the sexual abuse of minors always should be reported to law enforcement authorities. And Dylan, now 28, certainly has not been silent about the allegations against Allen; she recently penned a piece about them for the New York Times, which she began thusly:

What’s your favorite Woody Allen movie? Before you answer, you should know: when I was seven years old, Woody Allen took me by the hand and led me into a dim, closet-like attic on the second floor of our house. He told me to lay on my stomach and play with my brother’s electric train set. Then he sexually assaulted me. He talked to me while he did it, whispering that I was a good girl, that this was our secret, promising that we’d go to Paris and I’d be a star in his movies. I remember staring at that toy train, focusing on it as it traveled in its circle around the attic. To this day, I find it difficult to look at toy trains.

Dylan concludes her piece like this:

What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett? Louis CK? Alec Baldwin? What if it had been you, Emma Stone? Or you, Scarlett Johansson? You knew me when I was a little girl, Diane Keaton. Have you forgotten me?

Woody Allen is a living testament to the way our society fails the survivors of sexual assault and abuse.

So imagine your seven-year-old daughter being led into an attic by Woody Allen. Imagine she spends a lifetime stricken with nausea at the mention of his name. Imagine a world that celebrates her tormenter.

Are you imagining that? Now, what’s your favorite Woody Allen movie?

The slam against actors and actresses who have worked with Allen, as though they were firm advocates of the sexual abuse of children, is gratuitous and unfair and ultimately sadly pathetic, and Dylan’s piece still seems more aimed at undercutting Allen’s stature and fame than anything else — giving her the appearance of being her mother’s long-standing pawn — and, having read Dylan’s piece, I still cannot say with confidence whether Allen actually sexually abused her those years ago or whether Mia Farrow, in the throes of a rampage over a messy breakup, really fucked up the young Dylan’s mind.

And you cannot either.

Because you were not there, either.

Until and unless something were to happen, such as Allen issuing a videotaped deathbed confession (without in-camera edits…), the only fair, logical answer to the question “Did Woody Allen sexually abuse his daughter Dylan?” that I could have as I type this sentence is: I do not know. I was not there.

I hope that he did not, but I just don’t know whether he did or not.

In the meantime, I do, to at least some degree, separate a work of art (or attempted work of art) from the personal life of its creator. For instance, to my recollection I haven’t read any of Ernest Hemingway’s novels (I know — I’m bad…), but if I did read one of his novels, I wouldn’t be thinking the whole time, “This guy was a drunk who killed himself; he was a real fucking mess, so all of his writing is trash.”

No, I would judge a Hemingway novel by its own merits, and I do that with Woody Allen’s films.

Some of Allen’s films are pretty good; some of them are pretty bad, especially compared to his better films.*

The Mia Farrow-Woody Allen breakup and post-breakup warring (very apparently instigated mostly if not entirely by Farrow) is, to me, outside of that fact.  

*I will answer, seriously, Dylan Farrow’s snarky concluding question, “Now, what’s your favorite Woody Allen movie?”, which very apparently is supposed to make me feel incredibly guilty for ever having enjoyed any of Allen’s cinematic work — because of her alleged sexual abuse at his hands.

It is hard to pick just one Woody Allen film as my favorite, but I suppose that if I had to whittle it down, “Alice” would be my favorite.

In my top 10 also probably would be “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” “Zelig,” “Husbands and Wives,” “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and “Midnight in Paris.” (While I loved Cate Blanchett’s performance in “Blue Jasmine,” I found the screenplay lacking. Indeed, in my book, Blanchett’s acting is all that gave that film any real value.)

Indeed, Mia Farrow and Woody Allen had, I think, a great run together; it’s too bad that it has come to the airing of their filthy family laundry in public.

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