If it was discussing a subject worth laughing about, it would be funny to think that a single, 140-character Tweet caused quite so much trouble.
But since Ronan Farrow’s social-media missives reminded the public about accusations that Woody Allen molested his sister (and Mia Farrow’s daughter) Dylan, an increasingly aggressive war of words has erupted, rekindling a lot of bad feelings and forcing the filmmaker’s fans to reconsider their relationship with his work.
The kerfuffle began on Sunday, January 13, during the Golden Globes telecast. While Allen was being feted with a lifetime achievement award, Ronan reminded his Twitter followers of the molestation claims that Dylan made against the Blue Jasmine filmmaker in 1992:
Missed the Woody Allen tribute – did they put the part where a woman publicly confirmed he molested her at age 7 before or after Annie Hall?
— Ronan Farrow (@RonanFarrow) January 13, 2014
Perhaps appropriately surprised by Ronan’s boldness, the internet let out a collective “oh no he didn’t,” even as the molestation accusations once again found their way into the media.
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The next two weeks were filled with moralizing on both sides from media pundits about the incident, alternately blaming either the accused perpetrator or alleged victim. But on Jan. 27, filmmaker Robert B. Weide, who directed and produced the PBS special Woody Allen: A Documentary, came to Allen’s defense via the webite The Daily Beast, clarifying many details about that particular time in his life, and creating a context that undermined the credibility of Mia Farrow’s allegations.
Included in Weide’s article were details about the nature of Allen’s relationship with Mia Farrow, his wife and Farrow’s adopted daughter, Soon-Yi, and a description of the incident between Allen and Dylan. In addition to highlighting Mia’s culpability in breaking up the marriage of her ex-husband Andre Previn, which he notes “is said to have led to Dory Previn’s mental breakdown and institutionalization,” he questions why Allen would commit such an unspeakable act in the home of a “furious” ex-girlfriend who was no doubt watching his every move.
Perhaps more importantly, Weide also explained that the Connecticut State Police pursued the claims, and eventually concluded that Dylan was not molested. Despite medical examinations and videotaped conversations of Dylan, investigators found no evidence of molestation.
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Further, Dr. John M. Leventhal, who headed the team looking into the charges, made a sworn statement in 1993 that Dylan’s claims had “a rehearsed quality,” and eventually offered one of two hypotheses about the charges: “one, that these were statements made by an emotionally disturbed child and then became fixed in her mind,” he said. “And the other hypothesis was that she was coached or influenced by her mother.”
“We did not come to a firm conclusion. We think that it was probably a combination.”
Weide’s defense of Allen only underscored the complexity – and ambiguity – of many details of the case. But on February 1, Dylan Farrow herself wrote an open letter via The New York Times in which she described in detail what allegedly occurred between herself and Allen. Not only does she recount what she claims are years of inappropriate encounters between herself and Allen, but she questions how many of the actors and actresses he worked with over the years – including Diane Keaton, Alec Baldwin, Scarlett Johannson and Cate Blanchett – would feel if it was a member of their family, or them, who suffered in the way she claims she did.
Although Allen has always maintained his innocence, he did not respond publicly to either the back-and-forth of accusations and rebuttals, or to the wave of internet chatter that ensued since Farrow’s Golden Globes tweet. But in the wake of Dylan Farrow’s open letter, he issued a statement through his publicist Leslee Dart on Sunday, Feb. 2, saying, “Mr. Allen has read the article and found it untrue and disgraceful. He will be responding very soon.”
The statement continued, “In the meantime, it is essential that your coverage make the following FACTS clear:
“At the time, a thorough investigation was conducted by court appointed independent experts. The experts concluded there was no credible evidence of molestation; that Dylan Farrow had an inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality; and that Dylan Farrow had likely been coached by her mother Mia Farrow. No charges were ever filed.”
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Simultaneously, Allen sent a statement to Mother Jones via his attorney, stating, “It is tragic that after 20 years a story engineered by a vengeful lover resurfaces after it was fully vetted and rejected by independent authorities. The one to blame for Dylan’s distress is neither Dylan nor Woody Allen.”
It remains to be seen how all of this will shake out, but suffice it to say that there is too much history between the parties – too much unresolved enmity – to reach a resolution that will satisfy both parties, much less the public. But whether or not the accusations were true, or prove true, the victim in this incident will always be Dylan Farrow, who fell prey to at least one tragic situation – an incredibly hostile separation between her mother and her adoptive father.
In a way, whether or not Dylan was in fact molested is irrelevant, because she obviously believes that she was. And the emotional and physical trauma that has exerted over her, for now more than 20 years, has caused irreparable damage that cannot be undone. But most importantly, it has become an all-too-commonplace occurrence to not only judge the incident and take sides, but to blame the victim, and that undermines – and tragically dismisses – the very real pain they have endured as a result of their belief.
Meanwhile, the relevance of an artist’s personal life on their work – and more specifically, a fan or audience member’s appreciation for that work – continues to be too subjective to be determined by anyone but each individual. Allen’s work has entertained generations of audiences and influenced countless filmmakers, and yet many of his most famous, most acclaimed works feature relationships between older men and younger women.
How important is the relationship between art and life? Suffice it to say, it can’t be summed up in 140 characters.
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