Woody Allen indicted in the court of public opinion
I can’t imagine watching a Woody Allen movie these days.
Everywhere you look, there are fingerprints of a finely-hidden monster, scrawled like graffiti tags, pulsing in the background of every film.
Barely ten minutes into his old comedy, Bananas, he makes a joke about “advanced child molesting.” And that’s not the only instance, not by a longshot. His scripts are peppered with disturbing and obsessive jokes about abuse, sexual and familial. It’s a real red flag.
I can’t watch his movies anymore, but I did watch Allen v. Farrow – the new HBO docuseries that takes a much-needed critical eye to the story of Woody Allen’s abuse of Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow.
Now, many of you may not remember, but news of Woody Allen’s abuse hit the press back in 1992. At the time, this was a strange and salacious case, filled with “he said’s,” and “she said’s,” and “oh, she’s been coaching her,” and “this is blown out of proportion,” until the whole thing became a weird, unresolved footnote.
Woody Allen kept making movies and winning Oscars. Mia Farrow dropped out of the public eye. Then, in 2014, Dylan Farrow published a letter in The New York Times, pressing her case that Woody Allen had abused her. Again in 2018, she went public, detailing Allen’s abuse and asking, “Why hadn’t #MeToo come for Woody Allen?”
Now, three years later, here we are, with a withering documentary that strips away all of the “he said’s” and “she said’s” to reveal a stark and unflinching view of Woody Allen as a predator and a master manipulator. This is a chilling story of much more than rapacious pedophilia; it’s the story of the unbridled abuse of power.
It starts with Mia.
As I watched the documentary, I was struck by how insidiously Woody Allen dismantled Mia Farrow’s agency over their relationship. Over their thirteen years together, Woody cast Mia in thirteen of his movies. At first glance, that sounds innocuous. But then you realize that Woody Allen was Mia Farrow’s boss. He was writing and directing these movies, which meant he could nix her at any time. He changed her working arrangement so that his agent represented her. Think about that: her husband was now her boss, and she was required to use his agent.
He effectively had her under his thumb. Any money Mia Farrow made was through a Woody Allen project. This is a classic tactic of an abuser: cutting off independence.
Of course, as we know, it doesn’t stop with Mia Farrow. Through the documentary, it is clearly shown how Woody abused Dylan and then orchestrated a clever and forceful PR campaign to hamstring the investigation. To pre-empt the story of child abuse, Woody went public with his relationship with Soon-Yi Previn – Farrow’s other adopted daughter. This PR coup allowed Woody to reframe the abuse allegation as a form of retribution by Mia Farrow: the “spurned woman” who was trying to get revenge against Woody. For having sex with his other daughter. Seriously.
Look at that: Woody Allen turned an abuse allegation against himself into a weapon to hurl back at Mia Farrow. This is abuse of power on steroids.
It is difficult to parse out all of the wrinkles and turns in the investigation, but it becomes quite clear that the vaunted Yale-New Haven Hospital report, which proclaimed that Dylan Farrow was not a credible witness, was a sham. Nine times, a seven-year-old girl was forced to be interviewed by investigators about Woody Allen’s abuse to determine if her story had “any inconsistencies.”
If the story matches nine times out of nine, they cry “coaching.” If anything is inconsistent, they cry “she made the whole thing up.”
Tellingly, all the notes from each of these interviews were destroyed – something very much out of the ordinary. As this part of the documentary aired, it became quite clear that there were serious missteps in the execution of this report. While the documentary hints at potential cover-ups and potential political pressures by the Dinkins mayoral administration in New York City to quash the Allen inquiry, we don’t have the evidence . . . yet.
Woody Allen weaponized this Yale-New Haven Hospital report. He wielded it like a cudgel, suing Farrow for full custody of their children, and suggesting Farrow had coached Dylan and was an unfit mother. The judge, thank God, would have none of it; the court confirmed Mia as a fit parent and said Woody was a threat to Dylan Farrow’s safety.