I always was a bit of a movie snob, and as a teenager I liked the idea of Woody Allen movies because he’s Woody Allen. Sometimes he’s very funny. Sometimes he’s even very insightful about the human experience. Sometimes he’s just sort of artsy and weird. But he’s Woody Allen.
I believe I was in college when people started to talk about Allen’s problems. You remember, don’t you, that when he and Mia Farrow separated after over a decade together,* he married her adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn, right? Or has that little tidbit been lost to pop culture history like that time Brad Pitt was engaged to Gwyneth Paltrow? And during the ugly Farrow-Allen custody battle these allegations came to light, that Allen’s favor for his lover’s daughters didn’t stop with Soon-Yi, who was a bit older by then (she was 21 and he was 56 when it all came out). The allegations began to surface that Allen had molested and abused another adopted daughter, this time legally his own, a 7-year-old girl: Dylan Farrow.
Always being an Entertainment Tonight historian (that’s ET to you kids at home), I remember that the pushback then was that Mia Farrow was manipulating her daughter into these lies. That she was a woman scorned and that she would have done anything to discredit her powerful Hollywood ex. And then it never went to court and, as these things do, it all died down.
Enter the 2014 Golden Globes where Allen—who didn’t show up—was honored by ex-wife and perhaps his most famous muse Diane Keaton, with the Cecil B. Demille lifetime achievement award. And soon little Dylan Farrow, who is not so little 20 years later, opened her mouth to the press for the first time. If you can stomach the awfulness of her story (trigger warning: child abuse), read it here. If you prefer a lighter version, but one that still carries most of her feelings on the matter, read it here.
If you lack the time for such things, in short Dylan’s story is that she was abused. Regularly. Allen wasn’t prosecuted, in part, to protect her from the trauma of that legal process. She “moved on” and now she lives a good life complete with husband and children, but with the tension that many of the influential adults she loved as a child (namely Diane Keaton) have taken a “well, we can’t know for sure” attitude toward the allegations against Allen and that Hollywood has, essentially, forgotten all about them. (Well, if he’s guilty, he’d be in jail, right?—Oh, ye who know so little about how these things work …)
And when she found out her abuser was being given such a big award, Dylan Farrow fell to pieces. And found her voice. In other words … she’ll never move on. Not really. No one ever really does. And no one ever really gets over the Diane Keatons who were there and loving and wonderful in our childhoods and then crossed over into the “well, we can’t know for sure” territory out of denial and ego (he was her ex-husband too as well as friend, you know) and some self-preservation and probably that often misguided all-American sense of “innocent until proven guilty in a court of law” that doesn’t really allow for the reality that sometimes the guilty can’t be proven.
And God bless publications like the New York Times for publishing Dylan Farrow’s words and not hiding behind cowardly fears of libel and slander, because much lesser publications, publications that claim the name of Christ right on their covers, have shied away from covering much more substantiated allegations of abuse and even documented collusion on those grounds.