Out of The Woodwork

February 5, 2014

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Written by Mattie Kahn

I can’t remember how Central Park looked before I saw Manhattan.

At the time, I was sixteen and my commute to high school necessitated I cross the park twice each day. Had you asked whether I was familiar with those green acres, I would have claimed them as no less than my birthright. Like any born-and-bred New Yorker, I long ago deemed Central Park my personal backyard. And yet after that inaugural showing of the late-70s film, the once-familiar landscape remade itself for me. Suddenly, I could see Sheep’s Meadow and Central Park West and even the famed skyline only through the filter of Woody Allen’s distinctive, black frames. To me, it seemed a dreamy pair of lenses through which to gaze at a city I adored.

But last weekend — and on the heels of her brother’s much-circulated tweet during this year’s Golden Globes tribute to Woody Allen, Dylan Farrow published an open letter in which she reaffirmed allegations that her father sexually abused her as a child. In her account, Farrow describes the circumstances of the assault she endured at his hands and holds him accountable for the anxieties that have plagued her ever since.

The scene she depicts is wrenching and raw, but it is not new to the public. Farrow has already shared her story. Fifteen years before Woody Allen changed my view of Manhattan, seven-year-old Dylan Farrow stood before a judge and testified that her adoptive father had molested her in her family’s attic. Allen vehemently asserted his innocence.

Yesterday, a lawyer reiterated as much on his behalf. And in an appearance on the Today show, Elkan Abramowitz characterized Allen’s reaction to the renewed discussion as “one of overwhelming sadness because of what has happened to Dylan. She was a pawn in a huge fight between him and Mia Farrow yeas ago and the idea that she was molested was implanted in her by her mother.”

While they haven’t gone so far as to exonerate him, at least two of Allen’s frequent collaborators have issued statements regarding the controversy. This week, both Cate Blanchett and Alec Baldwin articulated versions of their hope that Allen and Farrow can find peace and resolve this painful issue in their own time. That is, both have implied that this dispute is too private to be subject to public scrutiny.

As I imagine Blanchett and Baldwin were, I’ll admit that I too was tempted to equivocate. At least for a few moments, I would have so liked to believe that Allen was wrongly accused. After all, I heralded Blue Jasmine. I exulted in Midnight in Paris and Annie Hall. I once laughed out loud at Sleeper. For those films and those memories, I almost wish I could defend him.

But I can’t. I have too much respect for the sufferers that I know to brush the allegations made by Farrow aside. I have too serious an obligation to listen — without qualification or apology — to the women and men who come forward as victims of sexual abuse. I think we all do.

It’s hard to cherish a body of work, but condemn its auteur. It’s hard to separate my affection for this mighty collection of films from my feelings about the man who made them. And though I know one ugly truth — it’s harder to be Dylan Farrow — is it ever fair to divorce a creative talent from the implications tethered to his personal life? Do the allegations affect how one should feel about his art? They don’t impinge on the quality of his art. Should we boycott Allen films out of necessity to appease our respective compasses of morality? Should you feel guilty if you don’t?

Of course, none of us can ever know “what really happened” two decades ago. For now, though, I think it’s time I learn to see Central Park on my own.

  • Quinn Halman

    It’s always been so hard to separate a person from their art but I think this might be the hardest. Chris Brown was just another singer, but a Woody Allen film is… a Woody Allen film. It’s entirely him especially in his older ones where he would act in them.
    I love Law and Order SVU as much as the next person so immediately I took Dylan’s word. However after doing more research the only conclusion I have is “I don’t know”. Yes, it’s weird that Woody married his girlfriend’s adopted daughter but that relationship is more stable than the one with Mia. I mean, at least they live together! Further, if you look a picture of Satchell/Ronan next to Woody and then Frank, it is so clear that he is Sinatra’s son. And yes, Mia Farrow does have an interesting history and she’s always been a little crazy. Regardless, I feel for Dylan.
    I don’t think I will be boycotting his art for this because as you said, this doesn’t change the quality of it. It’s sad that the stature of limitations has passed because I would like to find out the truth, for if it comes out that what Dylan is saying is true, I would then have a hard time stepping away from his art. I (and you) have taken the time to look into the issue and think about so watching one of his films wouldn’t be a scenario of “ignorance is bliss”.

  • Adrianna Grężak

    I always felt very uncomfortable watching Woody Allen movies, and quite frankly, never really enjoyed any I’ve seen. I suspected something like this happened in his household.

  • gia

    Oh no not you too! I just don’t believe it, and no its not because of the art I just don’t see it and cry bullshit on Dylan and Mia’s claims. If you look more into it and read all the facts, yeah its weird, he likes really young women but does that make him a pedophile? And why has there not been any other claims from others?! Let’s face it a sex offender doesn’t just commit a crime once. I feel for Dylan but more so because her mother seems to have brainwashed her, i can’t call Dylan a liar though as we just don’t know, but you can’t ignore the facts, all the details seemed so unstable at the time it first came up. Their oldest son who did not speak to Allen for years is now estranged from Mia and back in his father’s life as he was fed up with his mother’s brainwashing. I don’t know, I just can’t believe Mia and Dylan’s claims at this stage. And if it comes out that it’s lies (which I don’t know how that can ever be proved really..) then it should also be a crime to accuse a man of something so horrendous just to cause him harm. There is always a minority that are innocent and when women cry rape, child molestation and domestic violence just to harm a man that damage can never be undone, there will always be doubters and that stays with a man for the rest of his life, his life forever affected. I don’t know.

    • lw

      Is the “damage that can never be undone” to a man’s reputation really more important than recognizing/validating the potential emotional, psychological, and physical pain that could ripple through a survivor’s life ad nauseum? the damage to his or her psyche?

      Here’s an article covering Woody’s weird relations with young, young women….before the internet, even.

      http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/02/woody-allen-and-young-girls-a-history.html?test=true

      • http://www.injackiesshoes.com/ Alexandra

        Yikes. Thanks for sharing this. It does shed some light on this subject (especially for someone, like myself, who knows next to nothing about Woody Allen’s work). I am deeply troubled by Dylan’s accusations, and I am glad that they seem to be taken more seriously now.

    • kline, mara r.

      comments like this are the reason most victims of sexual abuse never report it.

    • cf
      • Mattie Kahn

        Thanks for sharing this. It was one of my favorite pieces on the painful subject.

    • Miranda Babbitt

      Dylan doesn’t seem to be on his father’s side any longer, considering the tweet referred to in this article.
      I think you’re being pretty dangerously forward with your claims that the “minority” is innocent, not to mention implying that a young girl is committing a crime by saying that her father abused her. What motive would she have? She couldn’t possibly be aware of the inflictions it would have upon his career. He was nothing more than her dad – correction, abuser. I would say his attraction to such young women, and his disturbingly lax perspective on boundaries (re: going after his girlfriend’s step-daughter – perhaps the brainwasher is him) is evidence of some slightly perverted tendencies.
      It’s clear my opinion on this controversy is on the other side of the spectrum from yours. Quite strongly, actually, because child abuse is perhaps one of the most crippling realities to me. It’s horrific and my heart aches for all those affected.
      That said, neither of us know what happened. I just think you should be wary of how you belittle these claims.

    • marie a

      This thought process terrifies me.. and is exactly why rape, molestation and the victimization of women continue to be such HUGE problems in our culture. You’re throwing around the word ‘brainwashed’ without even realizing the way you have been. I think you should do some research before you worry about ‘women crying rape’ – it really is the least of our worries.

  • https://www.etsy.com/shop/amatoriaclothing Amatoria Clothing

    I think sometimes the most talented artists have very real mental and emotional troubles. This doesn’t make their art any less powerful.
    If this abuse is true, I find it awful that the mother did not pursue criminal charges against the abuser. This is what has opened the opportunity for him to get all this praise over the years. Hopefully more people will find the strength to confront their abuser and decrease the occurrence of these terrible acts.

  • CarlotaLMorais

    That is a very good question, should we, and can we actually distinguish the genious and his movies from the man that abused a child? Hard one

  • LilyP

    i don’t think anyone would move away, live under an assumed name, and bring this kind of attention to themselves if there wasn’t at least SOME truth to these allegations. i think Dylan finally just could not take being silent anymore after seeing him up for the Oscar. sexual abuse is a complicated issue, but when someone brilliant and famous is thrown into the mix, it seems to get worse. a lot of survivors bury or intentionally try to forget these terrible memories. i believe, as a society, we have to treat Woody Allen as we would any alleged sex offender, regardless of his status or genius, and that means taking a stand, especially where his work is concerned. maybe my not seeing another Allen movie is a small protest, but on my part, it’s the least i could do to support a woman who is brave enough to step forward and into the limelight.

  • tq

    I have boycotted Allen’s films since I heard the allegations years ago. It is unnerving that many are willing to ignore his egregious behavior simply because he is famous. My life has not suffered without Woody Allen. Talent in one area does not exonerate deviant behavior in another. To me, only a sick person could sexually abuse a child. I feel for Dylan and commend her for speaking out. Thank you for posting and addressing this issue of morality gone awry.

  • Rachel F.

    Dude, this article didn’t even come up on Bloglovin’! I was like, how come MR hasn’t posted anything today? I had to double check on your website, only to find out that you did indeed post something.

  • http://nicola-lynde.blogspot.dk/ nicola lynde

    Such a loaded issue. To what degree is the product we buy in laden with the creators personal values, or lack thereof? Susie Bubble posed a similar question a couple weeks ago, http://www.stylebubble.co.uk/style_bubble/2014/01/cultish-oddity.html, and I was forced to really think about the implicit role of the creator in the creation itself. It boils down to separation for me. Can I still appreciate the art, while simultaneously not supporting the person behind it? Or by seeing the film am I vicariously perpetuating the ‘it’s okay’ mentality? It’s a difficult question to ask, particularly when speaking of movies that for many of us have defined a period of our lives.

  • http://www.ourwonderlust.com/ Tina@OurWonderLust

    I’m not saying he did it or didn’t do it. But, I have to say that it is very strange. Yes he’s a movie star, but children don’t just go around accusing normal, happy, healthy, safe, trusting people of sexually abusing them. Out of all the lies Mia or Dylan could have come up with to sabotage Woody Allen, this is a very interesting one…if it were a lie. Even if it wasn’t true, it says a lot about him (them too), but him as well!

  • http://www.amusedblog.com/ Amber

    It’s a hard, dangerous subject to put into “quotes” (regarding the last paragraph), which I am not condemning you for.

    I read the Dylan Farrow letter. I too love Woody Allen films. Like, LOVE them. For years I had tried to push the Dylan Farrow story to the back of my mind. Like you, I’ve heard the rumors long before the open letter. I too tried to pretend that they weren’t “real”, rather just some sick rumor or falsehood. But…

    There’s always going to be that “but…” isn’t there?

  • b.sz.

    I have boycotted his films, too

  • G

    I’m a woman and I too have a lot of respect and sympathy for the sufferers. However. I do believe there’s always two sides to the story. I’ve heard the argument of those who want to crucify Woody Allen so let’s not repeat the same thing over and over again. Woody Allen was acquitted of this criminal accusation, not because he was rich and famous – that didn’t help Polanski, did it? – but because the court found the witnesses’ testimonies contradictory, and doctors didn’t find any evidence of sexual abuse, plain and simple. The fact that so many people take an unproven accusation and treat it as fact with which to attack Woody Allen is revolting. I wouldn’t dream of defending him if there was any proof or evidence of him being a child molester.
    Dylan Farrow’s brother Moses Farrow is speaking out to defend Allen—and accuse their mother, Mia Farrow, of poisoning the children against their father. “My mother drummed it into me to hate my father for tearing apart the family and sexually molesting my sister,” Moses tells PEOPLE in the magazine’s new issue. “And I hated him for her for years. I see now that this was a vengeful way to pay him back for falling in love with Soon-Yi.”

    So I’m just trying not to jump into conclusion and believe everything the media tells me to believe.

    • http://www.injackiesshoes.com/ Alexandra

      For what it’s worth, there’s almost never evidence of digital penetration, which I believe is what Dylan accused him of (i’m a former prosecutor, so unfortunately, this is something I know a fair amount about). And she was 7 at the time, which is a very hard age to put a child on the stand because they are still so young. The fact that he wasn’t criminally prosecuted doesn’t mean he didn’t do it. It’s so much more complicated than that, especially with such a young child.

  • http://adeliberateimagination.wordpress.com/ CDJ

    Where there’s smoke, there is usually fire, and accusing Dylan of lying, and putting Woody up on a pedestal only silences and pushes other abuse victims back into a hole. As far as boycotting his movies or not, I think that can be a personal choice, one that does not need to be overly publicized in the way that Chik-Fil-A enthusiasts bombarded the restaurants once that whole gay rights scandal hit. I thought that was disgusting and insensitive of people, and I think actively supporting him and his films creates similar vibes. If you want to eat your chicken and watch your movies, do so quietly, and not in a way that will only further hurt the victims around the world who have suffered enough. It is probably like a giant slap in the face to them on top of everything else they have endured.

  • Qchop

    This is the most level headed, useful thing I’ve seen on this topic since it reemerged a couple days ago. Thank you so much for your well-reasoned reflections, Mattie. They really resonate with my feelings.

  • Maura

    Whether or not the allegations against Woody Allen are true, I think as a society it would be shameful to dismiss a victim’s story of pain and abuse out-of-hand because she was unable to supply evidence to corroborate the claim at age 7. I understand the need to defend the artist if you enjoy the work, because let’s face it, by not separating the man from his work would be to condone his questionable behavior. As consumers of art, goods and services wouldn’t it benefit us as a society if we drew a hard line in the sand and decided to not support abuse of any kind? For me, liking Woody Allen films regardless of what he has done in his private life would be the same as liking how the product Roundup has made my lawn beautifully weed-less regardless of how Monsanto’s products have made others terminally ill. There is something very unsettling about lining the pockets of a man who (seemingly) has an inappropriate fascination with young girls. Having an affair with Soon Yi, the adoptive daughter of his long term significant other is abhorrent behavior regardless of whether she was his own adoptive daughter. In the movie Manhattan, Allen’s 42 yo Isaac dates a 17 yo high school girl played by Mariel Hemmingway. Perhaps it is a case of life imitating art or a perverse coincidence, but imagining Woody Allen to be capable of inappropriate behavior with a child is not much of a stretch. The adage, “like the art, hate the artist” seems to be a collective cop-out for those who want to continue to consume Woody Allen’s art. Silencing a victim is harmful, I think Woody’s character deserves further examination.

  • http://adeliberateimagination.wordpress.com/ CDJ

    P.S- Mattie, I think you did an excellent job in writing this. Very classy, and not easy to do with this subject matter.

  • http://style-delights.blogspot.com/ STYLE DELIGHTS

    Honestly, a man/woman’s character is much more important than their profession. He created good movies but there were probably many many more people involved who helped him ‘create’ that art, but he alone is responsible for the disgusting behaviour. BTW, his recent work has not been that impressive, specially the ‘fake Paris’ la la land he creates. I have family living in Paris and suburbs (Indian IT professionals) who really tell how dead that place is gonna be in few years!The cobble stone-Seine-croissant-pretty women-city of love’ is a fantasy! The dead economy and the crime on streets and growing poverty is never shown in his movies! For me, the conservative mud slinging in his movies always leave a bad taste in my mouth, so no regrets hating him or his ‘art’!

  • Paz
    • Carly Roye

      Thank you for sharing. I wish more people would take time to read this entire Daily Beat article before asserting their opinion. I know that Dylan Farrow believes she was molested, but whose fault that is—that’s still very unclear. Look at the evidence, guys.

    • hannah

      This is perhaps one of the most biased articles I have ever read. Why is it that men can immediately be trusted at their word (two prime examples being Allen himself and Weide), yet women have to prove why they should be listened to or taken seriously? Allen has taken advantage of that for years, constantly sledging Mia and Dylan as being “psychotic,” therefore they aren’t taken seriously by anyone, including the asshole writer of this article.

      • Carly Roye

        The article is not blaming the victim and I think it’s unfortunate that anyone who defends Allen is immediately deemed a supporter of “rape culture” and “white male privilege.” The article is saying that no one knows what happened and the timeline of events is not convincing enough to start burning Allen at the stake. I read Dylan Farrow’s article and was disgusted. Then, I read this Daily Beast article and was disgusted in a whole different way. Kids’ minds are completely shapeable, and that’s scary. Have you heard of the San Antonio 4?: http://www.texasmonthly.com/daily-post/san-antonio-4-are-finally-free

    • Ruth

      Thank you for sharing the article.
      This whole scenario is horrible. What is most troublesome to me, personally, is that if the allegations are false, if what she claims to be true, is false, then she has, with her open letter, done irreparably significant harm to (real) victims of abuse.
      Think about it, pedophiles typically leave a trail of victims behind. Sexual abuse is typically not a one time incident. Are there any other allegations against Mr. Allen? Is there anything substantiated? Any solid evidence, rather than hyperbole and hearsay?

  • http://jessjoycej.wordpress.com/ Jessica Joyce

    That’s what they say, to separate the art from the artist. But we can’t exactly do that with Woody Allen, can we? His art is himself. Everything in his films is all him.

    His films have had such a profound effect on my (our) life, but if we can continue to applaud him, we are consciously ignoring Dylan and the many other women who keep quiet.

  • http://Naomipicks.blogspot.com/ naomi martin

    This is such a heavy and loaded subject of which most of us know not very much about. Whether or not it is true or not – the fact is that this is a sad – truly tragic state of affairs.
    The more one delves – the more questions arise. But it is a saga of Greek tragedy proportions. The NY Times letter was genuinely felt regardless of whether one believes her or not.
    Personal freedom is such that one can follow whichever philosophy regarding art and the artist. But those who boycott such said art should then also choose to never read Dickens – he was not the nicest character, Charlie Chaplin married a 13 year old girl and always went for the tweenies, Caravaggio was a murderer…

    PS There was also this article which made also for uncomfortable reading.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/01/27/the-woody-allen-allegations-not-so-fast.html

    I just wish the best for Dylan and hope she can somehow get internal peace and hope this saga comes to an end for this family that must be torn apart in every which way.

  • Angela_E

    I am not an apologist for Woody Allen, but I do think it’s important to remember that an independent medical counsel did determine at the time that Dylan Farrow did not exhibit any physical signs of sexual abuse and the case was not pursued by either Mia or by the State. Simply said: Woody Allen has not been tried or convicted of a crime. (I also find it interesting that Hollywood generally doesn’t want to touch this issue with a ten-foot pole, while Roman Polansky (a tried and convicted rapist) is consistently defended by the Hollywood elite.) While I do think that Dylan Farrow truly believes she was abused (whether she was or not) and is suffering horrible emotional ramifications on account of that, I also think that the public condemnation of Woody Allen is inevitably connected to a general judgment about his relationship with Soon-Yi rather than any investment in Dylan’s well-being. Personally, I think it’s a failure of parenting on both sides (to whatever extent), which has led to incredible loss and suffering of many of the children involved (Dylan, Soon-Yi, Ronan, Moses, et al.).

  • Ernest Schmatolla

    Being against child abuse is as American as saluting the flag and apple pie. Accusations are accusations -regardless of who makes them – an nothing has been proven. They are a fucked up family with two biggest ones being Mia Farrow and Woody Allen. It is easy to blame Allen if you want to believe he abused the daughter. Did not the other step son come forward and say it was not true? Anything is possible with this group of dysfunctional people.

  • ELM

    As it appears folks responding to this post rely heavily on media outlets to form their thoughts on this particular subject, perhaps said folks should add the movie “The Hunt” to their vast repertoire of knowledge and keep their seemingly-useless opinions to themselves. It truly is a shame that this group of society cannot attempt to continue to enjoy what this man has given to American culture and prefers to focus on flawed accusations on a very private and painful matter (for all parties involved). While America thankfully does allow for freedom of speech, its citizens are also innocent until proven guilty. Thus, my abounding love for Mr. Allen remains unaltered. Lastly, if you’ve never seen one of his films or worse yet, have seen multiple and liked none – oh, gag – spare us. Evidence suggests your criticism is as far from relevant as it comes. Idiocy coupled with bad taste does not belong in a public forum. Save some face.

  • laritza

    not decided yet but still on the Allen’s side. this super long text has made my mind

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/01/27/the-woody-allen-allegations-not-so-fast.html

  • Guest

    This is incredibly well written. Thank you, Mattie, for approaching such a difficult subject with sensitivity and class. As a survivor of rape, it is often difficult to read articles and online commentary without cringing, but you handled this beautifully. Bravo.