The Dilemma Of Woody Allen: The Artist As An Accused Man

Let me start off by saying that I am a big fan of Woody Allen’s work. I think he is an extremely talented person, and it seems like my “must watch” list of his movies is just never ending, considering he’s produced a film every year for the last 45 years. So I was, to say the least, pretty disappointed to hear about Dylan Farrow’s letter asserting he sexually assaulted her at age seven. For those who aren’t up to date with this chaotic back and forth — Dylan Farrow is Mia Farrow and Woody Allen’s adopted daughter. She issued an open letter in The New York Times recently revealing that she was sexually assaulted by Woody in the attic of her mother’s home, during the time when Mia and Woody were getting divorced in 1992. This is not the first time this allegation has surfaced: it was investigated at the time but, lacking evidence, was subsequently found untrue. There are so many sides to this story —many of her siblings have chosen to support her, while her brother Moses has issued comments in defense of Woody, and most recently Woody himself has writtena response letter in The Times. He fervently denies her claims, and points to Mia as the malicious brainwasher behind Dylan’s accusations. Woody’s affair with Soon-Yi Previn, Mia’s adopted daughter, was the controversial reason causing their divorce (Woody and Soon-Yi have been married for 16 years now and have two adopted children together.)

Woody Allen famously said in defense of his relationship with Mia’s adopted daughter: “The heart wants what it wants.”

Dylan recently shared her views on the situation in a Vanity Fair interview. Many people are asking why she’s coming forth now and discussing it in more detail, over 20 years later. Well, Woody has gained a certain amount of attention lately for the nominations of his movie “Blue Jasmine,” and he was awarded the Cecil B. Demille Lifetime Achievement Award at the Golden Globes which can be difficult to swallow, for someone who has felt victimized by him.

The whole thing has turned into a “he-said,” “she-said” rooted in very few facts. But the media has gone into frenzy, over who is in the right and how we should feel about his work in the “court of public opinion.”

I think there are several things we can take away from this. First and most importantly, it’s incredibly brave to publicly tell your story, especially in regard to sexual abuse and the shame that often surrounds it. And I think it’s very concerning that some knee-jerk reactions to Dylan’s story come from a place of doubt and disbelief. There are far more people who have suffered through sexual assault and remained silent than people who have manufactured false abuse stories.

Secondly, celebrities have messy personal lives. So do normal people. The difference is that celebrities either get unfairly bashed or privileged in some way. Which category is Woody Allen in? Probably both, but at the end of the day, the burning question remains: can we separate the person from his work? And I have to say no … because there are foolish people, particularly young people, who idolize celebrities for all that they are, and look to embody them despite their questionable moral compasses. This goes beyond Hollywood, but to athletes and politicians (i.e. Kobe Bryant, Bill Clinton).

They have the choice to remain completely anonymous or live respectably under the public eye, in order to avoid total scrutiny. All in all, I won’t go boycotting Woody Allen’s films, but I can’t say that I necessarily view him in the same way, not necessarily because I believe he’s guilty but because of the choices he’s made that have brought him to this point.

 

Natasha Afshar is a fourth-year English major. She can be reached at natashaa@uci.edu.