Maybe We Shouldn’t Be So Quick to Condemn Woody Allen

Woody Allen and his wife Soon-Yi Previn out and about in New York CityAfter Dylan Farrow’s op-ed ran in The New York Times last week where she accused Woody Allen of sexually assaulting her when she was 7, many writers came to Allen’s defense (like Robert Weide in The Daily Beast), while others (like Babble’s own Monica Bielanko) announced a boycott of his movies. It was a polarizing topic, one that I stayed safely in the middle of. I couldn’t jump to conclusions. I couldn’t pull out a pitchfork and storm Woody’s castle (or more like his NYC co-op). I also couldn’t say Dylan Farrow was liar or believe that her accusations were merely a narrative planted in her mind by her mother, Mia Farrow. In the theater of public opinion, I was Switzerland.

Although the idea that Woody Allen would be capable of doing such awful things to his then 7-year-old adopted daughter made my stomach churn, I didn’t have the facts. And even though I felt that this family’s story wasn’t really any of my business, the amount of coverage it received somehow made it everyone’s business. Moms in particular, who tend to get all mama-bear when a child is abused, were outraged, vocalizing their disgust for Allen and burning their copies of Annie Hall.

Now, I’m going to play devil’s advocate for those who now see Woody Allen as said devil.

Allen came to his own defense on Friday in an op-ed for the New York Times, a counter-point to Dylan Farrow’s high-profile flogging. After reading Woody Allen’s rebuttal, here are some things I think we should consider, in the interest of being a fair public jury:

1) He didn’t have to defend himself
He could have easily jetted off to another country and lived his life out of the spotlight. Or he could have just ignored the whole thing. Woody Allen is a private man, not one to air details about his life, but he went there in this article. If someone were guilty of such an act, they would have to be pretty off their rocker to defend themselves in such a detailed and high-profile way, especially when only public opinion is at stake.

2) The timing
Woody Allen wrote of the timing of the original allegations:  “Now, suddenly, when I had driven up to her house in Connecticut one afternoon to visit the kids for a few hours, when I would be on my raging adversary’s home turf, with half a dozen people present, when I was in the blissful early stages of a happy new relationship with the woman I’d go on to marry — that I would pick this moment in time to embark on a career as a child molester should seem to the most skeptical mind highly unlikely. The sheer illogic of such a crazy scenario seemed to me dispositive.” At the time that  Dylan and Mia claim the abuse started, Woody Allen had started to date Soon-Yi, Mia’s adopted daughter. If what Dylan says is true, then he really was in the throws of some very devious behavior between shooting Husbands & Wives and Manhattan Murder Mystery. Also I should note that I am not condoning the relationship between Soon-Yi and Woody, it really is creepy.

3) Could Mia Farrow be  a “woman scorned” times 100?
Monica Bielanko’s article says that if Mia Farrow planted the molestaton ideas in Dylan’s head, that would make her “one of the most evil women on the planet,” something that Woody Allen seems to believe. He claims that Mia called his sister “in a rage” and said, “He took my daughter, now I’ll take his,” referring to Woody starting an affair her older daughter Soon-Yi which separated her from her mother, and his paternal relationship with Dylan. There is also the bizarre Valentine’s Day card that Mia allegedly gave to Woody that supports his theory that she was out to get him. False memories of abuse are not unheard of. (Please note, I am not belittling claims of abuse, because sadly it happens everyday, but there have been instances of memory manipulation.) Woody Allen claimed then and now that Dylan was manipulated by Mia, but in 1993 a court ruled that “there is no credible evidence to support Mr. Allen’s contention that Ms. Farrow coached Dylan.” But he continues to believe that was exactly what happened. And regardless of social status, a woman scorned can be a dangerous thing.

4) We should not discount the legal rulings from 21-years-ago
Woody Allen was not found guilty in a court of law. This is something he goes into detail about in his article. BUT the court did say that his “self-absorption” and “lack of judgment and his commitment to the continuation of his divisive assault…warrant a careful monitoring of his future contact with the children.” In the end, one of two things happened: He either got away with molesting a child or justice was served. We may well never know the which one happened.

It would be nice to have this all wrapped up in a neat package of facts and honesty, but until Woody says, “Yes, I’m a child molester,” or Dylan says, “These stories aren’t true,” we will never know what happened 21 years ago. This is a family saga worthy of a story line on Peyton Place — a soap opera Mia Farrow once starred in — or a really intense Woody Allen drama. But this is not fiction, it’s real life, we just don’t know what’s real anymore.

Soon after Woody Allen’s op-ed was posted denying the claims that he sexually assaulted her, Dylan Farrow issued a written response in The Hollywood Reporter:

“Once again, Woody Allen is attacking me and my family in an effort to discredit and silence me – but nothing he says or writes can change the truth. For 20 years, I have never wavered in describing what he did to me. I will carry the memories of surviving these experiences for the rest of my life.”

And while Woody Allen ended his article by saying “This piece will be my final word on this entire matter and no one will be responding on my behalf to any further comments on it by any party. Enough people have been hurt,” Dylan Farrow says she has gained strength by speaking out and telling her story:

“From the bottom of my heart, I will be forever grateful for the outpouring of support I have received from survivors and countless others. If speaking out about my experience can help others stand up to their tormentors, it will be worth the pain and suffering my father continues to inflict on me. Woody Allen has an arsenal of lawyers and publicists but the one thing he does not have on his side is the truth. I hope this is the end of his vicious attacks and of the media campaign by his lawyers and publicists, as he’s promised. I won’t let the truth be buried and I won’t be silenced.”

Monica Bielanko’s statement about Dylan’s initial letter rings true: “It has already ignited a broader conversation about how we treat children and adults who come forward to tell their stories of sexual assault. I want them all to know that we are listening.” That is the important thing that came out of all of this. Sexual abuse is a topic that is often swept under the rug, but these stories need to see the light of day so abuse can be identified, stopped and punished. One thing for sure, as mothers, fathers and humans living in this crazy world together, we should always make sure that truth prevails.

What do you think? Do you think that we are capable of taking sides? Should we?

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Article Posted 3 years Ago

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