Last Friday, the New York Times published an editorial by Woody Allen (“Woody Allen Speaks Out“), in which the director addresses the long-standing accusations against him that were given renewed media attention following his estranged daughter Dylan Farrow’s open letter in the Times from the previous week. Allen had yet to speak on the matter before his editorial, but his lawyers had released a statement earlier in the week which said that Allen found the accusations to be “untrue and disgraceful” and promised that Allen would “be responding very soon.” In the meantime, Allen’s defenders trotted out documentarian Robert Weide’s article on the Daily Beast, in which Weide not only attempted to vindicate Allen, but also sought to discredit Mia Farrow by bringing up her past relationships and making a variety of insinuations about her sex life. Slut shaming! So classy. And so completely relevant to the topic of whether or not a man sexually abused his daughter, right? Wrong. But that was Weide. And maybe Allen would have something different to say? Maybe Allen would have some new bit of information to reveal that would ameliorate the situation? Well, as it turned out, no. But even worse than that, when Woody Allen decided to speak out, the overriding message he released was just that Mia Farrow was—and is—a crazy bitch. Oh, Woody.
Allen’s editorial hits many of the same points that Weide’s Daily Beast argument did, namely that Allen is claustrophobic so he never would have gone in the attic with Dylan; that Allen willingly took—and passed—a lie detector test, but Farrow refused; that “Allen did not abuse Dylan; most likely a vulnerable, stressed-out 7-year-old was coached by Mia Farrow”; and that Farrow was so outraged by the fact that the then 56-year-old Allen was dating her then 20-year-old daughter, she must have decided to “brainwash” Dylan and the rest of the Farrow children. Each of these arguments has a counter-argument (many of which can be found here), and many of Allen’s points wouldn’t have withstood the most basic factcheck, but the Times doesn’t factcheck editorials (or, it seems, edit them very carefully), but as it stands, Allen’s editorial would come off as the self-righteous defense of a wrongly accused man, if he didn’t also let his true feelings toward Mia shine through.
Beyond the fact that many of Allen’s arguments are misleading if not flat-out wrong (for example, it wasn’t Mia who went to the police, but Dylan’s pediatrician), the whole tone of the piece, and the way that Allen has spoken about Mia in the past is one that is depressingly familiar when a man publicly trues to take down a woman. Basically, Woody Allen is attempting to discredit Mia Farrow by saying that she is a crazy bitch, and that he is her innocent victim. Specifically, Allen seems flabbergasted that—in the middle of a bitter breakup and custody battle—Mia would accuse him of a crime for which he’d never been accused before—”the sheer illogic of such a crazy scenario seemed to me dispositive.” Allen also recounts a time when Farrow “called [his] sister in a rage,” and also denies that “any rational person” would ever do what Farrow had done, decrying the “self-serving transparency of her malevolence.” Allen finds no problem in bringing up Farrow’s past, including her relationship with Frank Sinatra (that might have resulted in the birth of son Ronan) and her marriage to André Previn, whom Allen describes as having been “insidiously” stolen by Farrow. All of this adds up to Allen’s defense being less about what he did or didn’t do, and more about Farrow’s character and her culpability, not just in the matter at hand, but also in the general deterioration of Allen and Farrow’s relationship. To be crystal clear, it’s not just that Farrow is fully responsible for the sexual abuse charges, but she’s also so crazy that she is responsible for Allen’s decision to start a relationship with her teenage daughter. Whoa. She must be really crazy!
There’s a long-standing tradition of men calling women crazy as a means to automatically invalidate any of the women’s complaints or accusations as being irrational. Calling a woman crazy also serves the purpose of allowing the man to assume the role as the rational, logical being who could do no wrong. Allen has employed this device before in his public battles with Farrow, perhaps most notably when he released a Valentine’s Day card sent to him by Farrow in 1992, as proof that she was imbalanced. The card (pictured below) has the words “loss” and “betrayal” written on it, and also features these lines: “Once my heart was one and it was yours to keep/ My child you used and pierced my heart a hundred times and deep.” While it’s clearly the work of a woman experiencing a great deal of anger and, well, “loss” and “betrayal,” maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing to remember that Farrow had just found the nude photos of her teenage daughter that her boyfriend of twelve years (and father to three of her other children) had taken. Allen seems to think that simply because he and Soon-Yi Previn married and are still involved in a relationship that the initial betrayal should be easily dismissed. And yet he calls Farrow the crazy one?
Leaving aside the issue of whether or not Allen is a child molester, the fact is that Allen treated Mia Farrow in such a terrible way that the only rational response from Farrow would have been incredible anger. Who among us wouldn’t want to separate the rest of our children from a partner who lied to us for months on end while conducting an affair with our teenage daughter? In a must-read essay on the subject, Lili Loofbourow contends that Allen has lied so much and so often about his own behavior toward Farrow that it is impossible to now believe his story that Farrow is the one who lies and is crazy. Loofbourow writes that what “we absolutely cannot do, as a culture, is unthinkingly accept Allen’s premise that only Mia is capable of being manipulative, that only Mia uses powerful magic to make all her children (including Satchel when he was a subverbal infant) hate the other side. What we can’t do as a culture is scrutinize the testimony of a seven-year-old for minor inconsistencies while a rich and powerful man who admits to an organized pattern of lying over a period of six months and routinely contradicts himself—on the record, no less—goes unexamined.” The myth of the crazy bitch is a powerful one in our society. We want to believe one person is right and one is wrong, and historically, we’ve usually believed the man. However, in this scenario, there is no simple right or wrong, and there is no “crazy bitch.” There is only a lot of self-righteous behavior and a lot of public mud-slinging and a young woman who is still coming to terms with her very troubled past.
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