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Woody Allen and the violation of a social contract: Part 1 of 3

Woody Allen
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Much has been written about Woody Allen in the last week both in support and in vilification. Many have plucked down their two cents about false memories, technical incest, and even Mia Farrow’s affair with Dory Previn’s husband when she was 24. Heavens, if you read Robert Weide’s article you would have thought that Andre Previn, born in 1929, in the late sixties had no say who was charmed into his bed.

I add a lyric to the opera; I believe Dylan Farrow. With that said, I feel there was little chance of Allen being successfully prosecuted back when the event was initially reported. Sexual abuse cases are hard to prosecute under the best of circumstances. Add in factors such as the age of the accuser, along with the ability of the accused to hire lawyers and defense experts, chances are great that a victim could feel further traumatized with little to show for it. (Under the then Connecticut law, the state where the abuse allegation originated, Farrow had until the age of twenty to file a criminal claim – the Connecticut law was changed in 2002 to allow victims until the age of forty-eight but did not grandfather events prior to the modification.) And let’s face it, even those of us who believe Farrow probably could not convict Allen if using the jurisprudence ideal of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” However in the court of public opinion that does not mean we have to give him the benefit of the doubt.

When it comes to perversion Allen’s personal and cinematic records (referring to the film Manhattan in particular) show a man who has not let social mores get in the way of “the heart wants what it wants” (quote from a 1992 Time interview Allen used to justify his relationship with Soon-Yi Previn). In many ways “what the heart wants” could describe many of Allen’s apologists. After all, any Michael Jackson fan could testify that they prefer the one gloved, fedora wearing, sharp moving, musical genius Jackson to the one who came to his own sexual abuse trial sporting pajamas. If we like someone’s work in the entertainment field most of us generally want to believe they are decent folks…or at least not monsters. When grooving to tunes or watching a flick most of us don’t want to think about the singer/director/writer/actor doing horrible things to others in their down time. We just want to go to our happy places, but happy places are hard to travel to if one can no longer separate the art from the actions of the artist.

There is a social contract of acceptable behavior for all segments of daily life. The price of violating said social contract for someone in the entertainment field could be the loss of fans (ergo revenue) or for an overzealous fan a protection order. After reading Allen’s lamentations about his daughter’s recent open letter he attempted to convince interested parties that Mia Farrow brainwashed Dylan Farrow into believing that he molested her in retaliation for breaking off his romance with Mama Mia in favor of dating, and later marrying, her daughter Soon-Yi Previn (the silent Sphinx in the family drama). His relationship with Previn is important because it is public record that Allen was fifty-six when he started an affair with the teenaged Previn (her actual birthdate is unknown but has been estimated by bone scans) while still technically dating her mother. At no point does Allen admit that he crossed an ethical line, i.e. social contract, and did something that was shocking to the senses of everyday people if not downright illegal. He offers a plethora of excuses, along with tons of blame lain at Mia Farrow’s feet, but no acceptance of personal responsibility. He is a New York City version of Warren Jeffs. It is the hubris of “the heart wants what the heart wants,” accompanied by the fact he took nude photos of a then, legally defined, seventeen year old Soon-Yi, along with a lengthy film catalogue of sexual obsessed characters, which makes it feel as if he is indeed capable of child molestation. Allen does not address Dylan Farrow’s testimony as much as use a bait and switch blame game which for many, myself included, subjects himself to further condemnation.

Simply, the real reason people are quick to judge Woody Allen as guilty is because of Woody Allen.

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