I want to do something, given the reactions, potentially stupid and talk about the Woody Allen case. I know, you have probably had enough. If you want, you can shut me off right now. There have been so many different people talking about this case—from Mia Farrow to Ronan Farrow to Dylan Farrow to Woody Allen’s publicist to Woody Allen himself (and then from Dylan Farrow to Woody Allen)—and, of course, from all the people who are not involved in either the Farrow or Allen household, yet still consider themselves an expert on the subject. I am not here to give my opinions on what did or did not happen. As far as I can tell, there are only three things that could have happened: Woody Allen did what he is accused of doing, Woody Allen did some of what he is accused of doing but did not do all of it, or Woody Allen did not do any of it. That’s it. I am also not here to defend any of the members, nor to denounce any members. In the end, only three people will know the truth: Woody Allen, Dylan Farrow, and, if you go with the idea that she somehow coached or manipulated her child into lying, Mia Farrow.
What is interesting to me is looking at how this has gotten to be such a large issue. Now, please understand me when I say that I am not asking why molestation, particularly from a stepfather to his daughter, would be considered a big deal. Of course it is. Sexual abuse of any kind can and has done so much damage to the victim. What I am looking at is why this case in particular seems to spark such outrage from the two sides—mainly, those who defend Woody and those who defend Dylan. As stated before, due to the celebrity status of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, this has become an issue brought to the attention of the public, even if it shouldn’t be. And, since Woody Allen has been a public figure for so long, many might be under the impression that they know him in a kind of way that makes this more shocking than if this was a news report about a father who allegedly molested his daughter.
However, that cannot be the full reason for all of the outrage. Many people who couldn’t care less for Woody’s films seem to be in on the issue. It seems that this case—if we can call it a case, even though no one is going on trial now—seems to bring up larger issues beyond “did he do it/did he not do it”.
The Dismissal of the Female Victim
The word “female” needs to be stressed here. While there are male victims of sexual abuse, the majority are female. Not only that, but the fact that the victims are female seems to frequently be the reason for the further injustices they are presented with. That is to say, many cases are dismissed simply because the victim is female. Girls and women who have been through the emotional and physical hardship of abuse have to go on to endure further hardship when others—sometimes those close to them, sometimes higher authorities, sometimes both—tell them that they don’t know what they are talking about, that they are delusional, that they are imagining things, or that they are simply lying. Those who want to come to Woody Allen’s defense must inevitably say that Dylan Farrow is lying about what went on. To some, this is just another example where the victim is told—by people who were not with the victim at the time of the abuse, nonetheless—that their true story is actually false. For some, this is a case of women being silenced once again by more powerful, male figures.
The Complexities of Uncertainty
On the other hand, if you work with the American legal system, then the victim is innocent until proven guilty. However, who is the victim in this case? For some, it is Dylan. For others, it is Woody. For right now, no one can know the truth, which might make the case that much more infuriating. Things that are uncertain are uncomfortable. If this case came with a confession from one of the members in question, then perhaps it would not peak curiosities as much as it has. This case does seem to ask the question of how it is possible to support the victim if there are potentially two victims faced against each other in a case.
The Corruption of Power
Going back with the idea of the victim’s voice being silenced, this case may be seen as another example where power wins over truth and honesty. Some have looked at cases like Roman Polanski and have determined that, even if found guilty, nothing will be done for Woody Allen. Of course, it should be clarified that Roman Polanski accepted a plea bargain that he did have sex with a minor (though the issue of whether or not it was consensual or not is still up for debate). However, Roman Polanski has since gone on to direct critically-acclaimed films. Some fear that the same could be true for Woody (although, realistically, age is a factor). From this perspective, if Woody was not well-respected in his field, he would not be allowed the privilege of continued work.
Now, of course, Woody Allen has not been charged, and not only has he not confessed to any of the accusations, but he has completely denied molesting Dylan. However, It seems that some people—many people, actually—point to Woody Allen’s affair with Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter as proof that he is guilty of this crime. For some, it makes it that much painful to see an “obviously guilty” man being allowed to go free without any consequences, and it points even more to the idea that power rules over innocence.
The Messiness of Heartbreak
For others, Mia Farrow is seen as the guilty one. Some find it a little too convenient that the claims of molestation came right around the time that Woody Allen had begun an affair with Mia’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi (which is a whole other matter). 1992 was not only the year that Mia Farrow and Woody Allen ended their relationship (they were never married), but also the year that Woody Allen was fighting for custody of his children with Mia Farrow. Some see Mia as perhaps the one who partially or totally helped Dylan tell a fictional story about the abuse. Supporters of this theory argue that it would have made a very damning portrait of Woody, and a very good reason for the judge to not grant Woody custody of his children (in the end, Mia won custody). Those who have had to fight for custody over their children, and perhaps have even been accused of false acts in the process, might know and relate to the pain that such a trial gave to both Mia and Woody. Even those who have not been in custody battles have surely had their heart broken at one point or another, and when a relationship ends with the discovery of your step-daughter in a relationship with your partner, it can become, if not right, then understandable why one would be furious enough to want to get back at their ex-lover.
The Tragedy of Lies
No matter what revelations come to light, if any come at all, perhaps the worst thing about this case, and hence a reason for outrage, is that it is a tragedy any way you look at it. If Dylan Farrow is lying, that means that the reputation of an otherwise-innocent man is being tarnished for no good reason. If Woody Allen is lying, that means a woman (and her mother) have had to grow up with the haunting memories of abuse from someone that they were supposed to trust and love. And if, as Woody seems to claim, Dylan is telling the truth as she sees it, but the incident is a product of Mia’s imagination, then not only has a man been charged with something he never did, but a daughter has had to bear traumatic scenes while passing up on a relationship with a father who could have loved her the right way. Perhaps what can be learned from this case is that, just like all others before and after it, when sexual abuse is involved (real or otherwise), no one walks away a winner.
Feel free to add your thoughts on the matter down below.