An obscured narrative: the case of Woody Allen


Director Woody Allen attends a special screening of “Wonder Wheel. (Evan Agostini/AP)

Ross Greer, Contributing Writer

Allegations and rumors of child abuse have followed Woody Allen since 1993, when actress Mia Farrow, alleged that he had abused adopted daughter Dylan the year prior. In the years following the original case, the fallout seemed to have subsided, as Allen racked up seven Academy Award nominations and one win. That is, until the recent revelations of widespread sexual abuse in Hollywood began, starting with movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

In December of 2017, the LA Times published an op-ed written by Dylan Farrow that observed how the #MeToo movement seemed to have overlooked Allen. This prompted tons more response pieces. In her piece, Farrow recounts the original claims of assault and the lack of effect the claims have had on Allen’s career.

Farrow notes how, even in the current whirlwind of sexual assault claims, Allen’s seem to have received little attention. Some actors, like Blake Lively and Justin Timberlake have even publicly defended the director. But not all those who have worked with him sympathize. Other actors have denounced him, with Susan Sarandon refusing to work with him, and actress Ellen Page, who starred in Allen’s 2012 film “To Rome with Love,” openly stating her regret at working with him.

One particular op-ed published on Feb. 9 by New York Times columnist Bret Stephens approached the topic much differently. Stephens argues that the accusations against Allen are unfounded and have been handled through the proper legal procedures while the current handful of sexual assault claims remain unresolved.

Together these two pieces create a confusing narrative surrounding the allegations against Allen, raising the question of how they should be connected or compared to those against Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and the broader #MeToo movement as a whole.

At the most basic level, Allen’s accusations are difficult to compare to the many currently occurring in the entertainment industry because Allen has already dealt with authorities while current accusations are still being investigated or compiled.

Both the New York State Department of Social Services and the Connecticut State Police investigated accusations of child abuse and neither decided to pursue charges. Neither the doctor who examined Dylan Farrow nor an independent investigation by the New Haven Hospital found evidence of sexual abuse. Despite this, the findings of the latter were mysteriously destroyed, leading to commentators disputing their veracity.

In Allen and Farrow’s subsequent court battles, Allen lost custody of the children, and the judge decided that there was no significant evidence to suggest Farrow coached their daughter in the accusations, as Allen accused her of doing. On the other hand, one of their adopted sons, Moses, was allowed to choose which parent he wanted to live with (after what he claims to be psychological abuse from Mia Farrow, he chose her); he has since come out in support of his father’s innocence. Moses’ siding with Allen calls into question some of the accusations. Allen’s marriage to Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn certainly doesn’t help his cause, but since their marriage, there have been no further allegations and both remain married todayWhile the #MeToo movement has allowed Dylan Farrow to bring more attention to her mother’s allegations, further investigations should still be conducted to evaluate the strength of the evidence against Woody Allen. The choice to attach this to the movement at this time doesn’t seem to help advance the current narrative on serial abusers. Allen has not been involved any other incidents and authorities passed on the chance to investigate. The wave of predators being exposed now is immense, and many serial assaults are just now beginning to be investigated.

Time’s website maintains a running list of public figures who have been accused of sexual misconduct; it now sits at 122 with the most recent inductee being casino mogul Steve Wynn. Most of the public figures on the list have been hit with multiple allegations against them. Woody Allen should not be on this list—at least, not yet.

The more people that come forward to speak out on sexual assault, the more other people will feel encouraged to do so as well. Still, it seems as though Farrow’s piece was untimely considering how the conversation around sexual assault is currently unfolding. Further pieces such as Farrow’s could potentially end up harming the movement as a whole by not only advocating for but also perpetuating a mob justice system with shifting priorities like protecting children and refusing service.