Is Woody Allen Innocent?
Innocent? Or guilty as not charged? There are two basic scenarios and both are horrendous. The long road that has brought us to the current situation is torturous and completely fraught with confusion. The current situation is there may never be charges or a civil trial against Woody. It is equally unlikely that Woody will ever bring defamation charges against his daughter, Dylan. Could it be more ugly? Yes, it could but we’ll probably never know. What we do know so far is pretty ugly.
Let’s go way back to a highly praised movie called Manhattan released in 1979. I love that movie. It may be my favorite Woody Allen movie. What is the main plot of the movie? Allen’s character is struggling to put a relationship with a 17 year-old girl behind him. The movie is fiction and a comedy but a crucial one in Allen’s development as an artist. It perfectly mixed all kinds of elements, comedic and dramatic and black and white (literally) into a satisfying whole. Allen’s career is nearly unparallelled in it’s level of critical praise, artistic variety and industrious consistency. He has had his ups and downs but he keeps going and continues to be at the height of his powers intellectually. It would also be safe to say that he has had sexual obsession as a theme running all the way back to the early days of his development as a writer. Who else would adapt Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask? (It was in that film that Gene Wilder has a romantic relationship with a sheep. Eew!)
Do we know who Woody Allen is? Could he be a vile molester of his 7-year-old daughter? I don’t know. Many people think they do know.
Mia Farrow starred in many movies made by her husband. They had a long and fruitful relationship but like many relationships it ran out of steam. So says Soon-Yi Previn who asserts she hardly ever saw Allen until she was 20 and started having a relationship with him. Soon-yi finds the scandal of their relationship laughable in interviews she has given in the past. If anything Soon-Yi found Allen remote until their relationship. That relationship did cause a titanic rift between Woody and Mia. And from that rift many things have flowed. Their split was official in 1992. Woody married Soon-Yi in 1997. In August of 1992, a number of things occurred. Woody was going to sign an agreement that would give almost sole custody of Dylan, Moses and Ronan to Mia. Two weeks later Woody sued for custody about the time he learned of Dylan’s abuse allegations. There was an investigation conducted by the New York State Supreme Court. There was another investigation by the Connecticut state attorney which did not lead to criminal charges. There were inconsistencies in Dylan’s testimony and that of nannies in charge of Dylan but it certainly was hard to say what was going on. Soon-Yi’s story always got more play than Dylan in the media circus over the years.
Now we have the court of public opinion weighing in led by an angry and bitter 28-year-old Dylan Farrow publishing an open letter in The New York Times. She obviously hates her father and accuses him of horrible things. He counters calling her accusations “untrue and disgraceful. Who do we believe?
Writer/director/actress Lena Dunham weighed in on Marc Maron’s podcast after urging her Twitter followers to read Dylan’s account. (It should be noted that Dunham’s characters are almost exclusively full of crazy impulses and unchecked demons.) Many people were moved by Dylan’s account. Dylan talks specifically of not liking being in bed with him in his underwear or when he would lay his head in her naked lap or when he would stick his thumb in her mouth. That all sounds creepy but I tend to be remote and inaccessible. I don’t know what the normal level of intimacy should be between a father and daughter. I would probably err on the side of being angry and standoffish. I don’t even know what appropriate behavior between consenting adults is. I think most adults are vile and disgusting but most consenting adults like that behavior. (Don’t get me started on FDR and JFK and their antics.) The infamous incident in the attic that Dylan describes is left vague. It is clear Dylan despises her father about her relationship up until the time she was seven years old. She has had no relationship with him since. The tone of the letter has a flippant and sarcastic tone at times accusing anyone who has associated with Allen or anyone who watches his movies as being involved in a kind of conspiratorial condoning of pedophilia. We have dealt with public figures with highly publicized incidents before. Michael Jackson used to like to sleep with kids but it was never determined if it was innocent behavior of a regressed mind (Jackson was indicted twice, charged once on numerous incidents but found not guilty). Roman Polanski survived Nazi Germany and the brutal murder of his wife by the Manson family to become an ex-patriot accused rapist of a 13-year-old. Polanski pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual relations and then got spooked and fled the U.S. Before being sentenced. The Elmo puppeteer, Kevin Clash, was indicted but never charged. One of the most interesting supporters of Allen is Wallace Shawn. He has defended Allen saying, “ Like so many of those who have worked with him repeatedly over the decades, I’ve found him to be not merely thoughtful, serious and honest, but extraordinary and even inspiring in his thoughtfulness, seriousness and honesty. Of the people I’ve known, he’s one of those I’ve respected most.” That is the main problem. He has such a monumental resume of work which is brimming with introspection and self-examination. Could he have compartmentalized some evil part of himself? Dylan doesn’t show the slightest sign of love for her father but then she was caught up in a maelstrom of hatred at that impressionable age. God knows what the whole thing was actually like. (Let’s not even mention that Ronan looks like a dead ringer for Mia’s ex, Frank Sinatra and Mia seems to have admitted as much.) I’ve tried to assimilate all the information to pass judgment and I can’t.
So the question is, what is the truth? Do we have enough information to know what happened? Can we possibly understand the complex possibilities and permutations of the mind that might have occurred? Can we pass judgment without all the facts? Did Allen do something awful to his daughter that she is suffering from years later? Is Dylan manipulative and vindictive and in collusion with her mother in mutual hatred for their respective ex-father and ex-husband? Both possibilities are horrendous. Yet this wound has been festering for over 20 years. Why hasn’t this been resolved? Without going into the labyrinthine details, it is unlikely this will ever be brought to a courtroom and if it isn’t the intense scrutiny to resolve this will likely never take place.
I’ve watched the Phil Spector movie starring Al Pacino and Helen Mirren a number of times and it would suggest that Spector is sitting in jail because he was a freak, not because he committed the crime. They spent millions on that trial and they probably got it wrong because Spector was already tried in the court of public opinion. The evidence in that trial indicated he could not have possibly pulled the trigger yet he sits in jail due to a second prosecution after the first trial ended in a hung jury.
Molesting your daughter who is seven years old is horrible. It is an emotional issue that makes people see red. But is it true? Being accused of that crime , falsely, is a horrible thing. Allen has certainly been very clear that he is saddened and has denied everything in clear terms.
Many people have made up their mind and many people clearly don’t care or don’t want to say.
Does this negate all of Allen’s artistic achievements? Does this put the final nail in the coffin of his career? Who is lying? What will be the outcome?
Allen will probably be dead soon and that will be the end of that. It remains to be seen whether he’ll go to hell, although, I’m not sure you can go to hell if you don’t believe in it.