7 February, 2014

I read Dylan Farrow’s harrowing open letter on the NY Times’ Op Ed page about how Woody Allen sexually abused and assaulted her as a child.

It made me think back to seeing Manhattan when it first came out.  I don’t remember what friend I saw it with, but I do remember stopping whoever it was, who was going on and on about the breathtaking black and white cinematography and how New York had never looked better on film, and how romantic it was, to say, “It’s not romantic.  It’s about pedophilia!  I don’t care how beautifully it’s shot, it’s a disgusting movie that is glorifying child molestation and everyone involved in it should be called out on that.”

Years later, when news of Allen’s relationship with his step-daughter Soon-Yi Previn and the first reports of his abuse of Dylan Farrow broke, we learned that Manhattan wasn’t just a movie glorifying pedophilia…. it was Woody Allen unashamedly sharing his sexual fantasy (or was it even then a reality?) with the world.  I remember at the time, how, despite the fact that Allen had been a father figure to Farrow’s children, how despite the fact that there were nude photos he had taken of the teen-age Previn, Team Allen swamped the media with stories that portrayed Mia Farrow as a crazy woman, and Dylan as a pawn in her mother’s hands, and his relationship with Soon-Yi as a perfectly normal love affair (Hey, that’s how they sold Manhattan). And legions of Hollywood’s elite (friends and colleagues or wannabe friends and colleagues of Woody Allen) took to the media to proclaim their unquestioning support for Mr. Allen and their unwaivering belief in his innocence. (It might be interesting to track how many wound up with roles in subsequent projects or were granted major interviews with the reclusive Mr. Allen).

I remember a particularly disturbing scene in Bullets Over Broadway, made not all that long after the allegations of abuse of Dylan Farrow and the news of Allen’s relationship with his de-facto step-daughter, Soon-Yi broke, in which Rob Reiner’s character explains to John Cusack’s that artists are not to be judged by the same moral standards as ordinary people… that they are above the norm and deserve special treatment; that they should be allowed to follow their passion wherever it takes them.  I remember saying to a friend, “With all he’s been accused of, did he  really have the gall to put that scene in the movie?!“

Child welfare professionals tell us (and the Jerry Sandusky case and numerous Catholic priest cases of child molestations make clear) that child molesters are rarely evil strangers lurking in alleyways. They are nice, friendly men who insinuate themselves into families that have children (male or female) they can slowly, patiently groom to be their victims. When Allen began dating Mia Farrow she was a single mother with nine children living in her home…  a pedophile’s Disneyland… Charlie getting the golden ticket allowing him admittance to the chocolate factory.

Now that Dylan Farrow’s allegations against Allen have resurfaced, Team Allen and the Hollywood community have again rushed to defend him, and trash and blame the victim. Would they be so sure to believe the accused rather than the accuser if the case involved some “redneck” working stiff from the South or Midwest?  Or if the accuser was a boy and the accused was a priest? The choruses of “I know Woody Allen and he couldn’t have, wouldn’t have done this!” and “That girl and her mother are lying!” might ring more true if they didn’t so perfectly mimic the statements made by the friends, colleagues and hangers-on of Jerry Sandusky.

But this isn’t the first time Hollywood has closed ranks to sycophantically support one of its icons who’s been accused of pedophilia… Charlie Chaplin, Errol Flynn, Roman Polanski are the first three names that come to mind. And, speaking of Polanski, was there anything more surreal than seeing Woody Allen make the argument that the teenage rape case against Roman Polanski should be dropped and the director should be allowed to return to the United States? I remember saying to a friend that Polanski should tell Allen, that perhaps his was not the best face for the campaign.

I’m not saying Woody Allen is guilty of child molestation. He hasn’t been convicted. I have seen no proof. But Hollywood’s elite haven’t seen proof that he isn’t.  In movies and television programs, prosecutors of rape cases confronted by a defense attorney who attempts to blame the victim, question her motives for crying rape and trash her character regularly turn to the jury and passionately ask, “Why would a woman do that?  Why would a woman risk putting herself through this public humiliation if it wasn’t true?”  Perhaps the Hollywood elite who’ve been so quick to lend their names and support to Woody Allen (the same ones who socialize with and take jobs and awards from Mr. Allen and who make money off his movies and plays), should watch one of their own movies or TV shows, re-read the coverage of the Sandusky case, and question their own motivations.

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