Tuesday, February 4, 2014

My thoughts on Woody Allen...

First off, let me say this about Woody Allen.  I am not a fan of his films.  I have only seen a couple of them and, while I don't remember hating the ones I've seen, I didn't come away from them totally awestruck.  I've always thought Woody Allen was kind of strange, though he's supposedly brilliant.  Brilliant people are often "strange" and eccentric.  I saw Midnight in Paris and enjoyed that film, especially its soundtrack.  But it didn't make me want to go home and see all of Allen's films.  I'm not really a fan, per se.  My opinions of him are not colored by his work.

Now in the past week, there's been a lot of talk about whether or not Woody Allen molested his adopted daughter Dylan/Malone Farrow (her name was Dylan, but it was later changed to Malone).  Dylan was adopted as an infant in 1985 by Allen and his then girlfriend, Mia Farrow.  Mia Farrow has fifteen children.  Unlike Michelle Duggar, Mia did not "deliver every one of them".  Eleven children were adopted and four are biological, including her son Satchel (whose name is now Ronan).  Ronan was supposedly Woody's biological son, but then it came out that Mia was messing around with her ex-husband Frank Sinatra around the time he was conceived.  Chances are, he's actually ol' blue eyes' son. Woody and Mia also adopted their son, Moses, who is apparently estranged from Mia because he's said he thinks he was a victim of "brainwashing" and the child abuse allegations levied against Allen are untrue.  He supposedly enjoys a relationship with Allen and Previn.

In 1991, Woody and Mia had an epic breakup when Woody began dating and later married Mia's adopted Korean daughter, Soon Yi Previn.  Soon Yi was born sometime between 1970 and 1972.  Apparently, her birth was never properly documented in Korea.  Her adoptive father was famed musician Andre Previn, to whom Mia was married from 1970-79.  Soon Yi Previn is not Woody Allen's daughter, nor was she ever his stepdaughter.  Woody and Mia were never married, though they did have a long relationship.  Indeed, Woody never even lived under the same roof as Soon Yi did, since Woody and Mia had separate residences.

I remember in the early 1990s when Woody's and Mia's breakup was daily news.  Woody and Mia were fighting over custody of their shared kids and some very ugly accusations came out that Allen allegedly touched his daughter, Dylan (Malone), in an inappropriate way when she was seven years old.  The case was investigated and the abuse allegations were eventually unfounded.  Later, after he had married Soon Yi Previn, Woody Allen was allowed to adopt two more daughters, a process that usually entails a thorough vetting by child protection services.  Although Allen's films have been described by some people as "misogynistic" and a lot of folks think his marriage to Soon Yi Previn is "inappropriate", to my knowledge, no one else has said he touched them inappropriately.

Twenty plus years after the initial blow up over the abuse allegations, Woody Allen is back in the news because his long, lost daughter penned a letter to the New York Times condemning Hollywood for celebrating the work of a "child molester".  Her letter resonated with many people and the allegations against Allen have begun anew.  My Facebook feed was flooded with people writing about what a "pig" Allen is and how they "know" he's guilty of what he was accused of doing.  A few other brave souls have said they believe in that quaint idea that people should be "innocent until proven guilty".  I notice those people, who seem the most rational and logical to me, are quickly drowned out by the emotional outbursts of those who insist that Allen must be guilty because "kids don't make up stories like that".  Sadly, there is evidence that sometimes they do...

To be honest, I have a hard time accepting all that has been said and written about Allen wholesale.  There are claims that he benefits from being a legendary filmmaker and that as a star, he is immune from the law.  While I'm sure that some stars do get special treatment in legal issues, it seems to me that they are also a lot more vulnerable to ruin than regular folks are.  If you live your life in the public eye, people know your business and your reputation is everything.  Moreover, during the investigation in the 90s, Allen was supposedly very cooperative and even submitted to a polygraph test, which he passed.  He was never found guilty of molesting his daughter, even though she insists that he did abuse her sexually.

Mia Farrow, by contrast, has had a pretty checkered past.  She's been married several times and admitted to being unfaithful to Allen.  She has said and done some things that suggest that she's not particularly stable.  In fact, casually looking at Mia, I see signs that she has some pretty serious Cluster B tendencies.  Not knowing Mia Farrow personally and not being a licensed mental health professional, I can't say for certain that Mia Farrow has personality disorders.  Given my personal experiences and based on all the informal and formal study I've done on Cluster B disorders coupled with what I've heard and read about Mia Farrow, I would guess that she suffers from at least a couple.  But I want to make it clear that I'm not saying she absolutely does-- only that it's quite possible she does.

I will confess, part of the reason I am so reluctant to believe all of the allegations against Woody Allen is that I'm married to a man who was once married to someone with Cluster B tendencies.  I know for a fact that lies have been told about my husband to his kids.  I know his kids were coached to say bad things about their dad, although thankfully, the ex has never accused him of molesting them (at least not to our knowledge).  She has, however, accused him of abusing her.  Knowing my husband the way I do, I know there is no way that he abused her.  The man does not have a mean or abusive bone in his body.  This year, we will have been married for twelve years.  He's never even come close to abusing me.  He doesn't even raise his voice to me.  And yet, his ex wife initially managed to convince people who have known Bill longer than I have that he's an abusive monster.  She never involved the police, though.  For that, we can be very grateful… but her reluctance to involve the law also makes her story even less believable.  She would claim it was because she was "scared" and a victim.  Yet I witnessed her threats to Bill via emails and phone calls and I saw firsthand how she affected him.  When I met Bill, he was terrified of his ex wife.  He was not the abuser in their relationship; she was.  And from my experience, leopards don't change their spots without significant professional help.

I am sure that whatever happened to cause Dylan/Malone and Ronan Farrow so much pain is very real to them.  Whether Allen actually molested his daughter or she just believes he did because she was coached to, that pain must be very difficult for Dylan and Ronan to live with.  Either scenario is a betrayal by people they should have been able to trust unconditionally.  If Allen touched his daughter, he definitely violated her on many levels.  But if Farrow falsely led her daughter to believe that Allen touched her, in my book, that's an even bigger violation.  Because using your mutual children as weapons against a former partner is one of the cruelest, most selfish things you can do.  Forcing them to grow up "hating" their other parent is vile and despicable, particularly if the targeted parent shares DNA with the child.  Allowing your child to grow up falsely believing he or she is an abuse victim and/or the son or daughter of a deviant sets them, and everyone who has a relationship with them, up for trauma.  That kind of legacy creates baggage that affects other people, which in turn can have a ripple effect on future generations.  That's why a parent who deliberately lies about the other parent's abuse is especially wicked.

Those who think this isn't a big deal, think about how you would feel if one of your parents despised the other.  If your parent hates the person who helped create you, that is an insult that goes very deep and offends the child at their core.  The child can't help who their parents are.  DNA matters, if only because it determines what a person will look like, their personality, their talents, likes and dislikes, and so on.  Imagine how a child whose mother hates her father feels when mom says, "You act just like your father!"

A couple of weeks ago, I read a wrenching essay written by a woman whose mother let her know from an early age that her father had abused her.  This woman grew up believing that her dad had harmed her, her mother, and her sister.  Somehow, she found it in her heart to rekindle a relationship with her father, who divorced her mother when she was six months old.  Mom insists that the man was violent and had broken both of her arms.  Based on what she wrote in her essay, there was never any actual proof and dad was never violent after the divorce.  This woman still believes he was abusive, though, even though his behavior post divorce does not support her mother's claims.  To her credit, she has a relationship with her dad, which pisses off her mom.  Though she is now a grown woman, she still struggles with her identity and what it means to be the child of a "violent monster".

The author writes:

Abuse is shitty. That’s a massive understatement, but it’s true. It’s hard to overcome, and you find it informing so many elements of your personality and how you live your life. In my early life, abuse also set the tone. There were a handful of abuse "legends" that my mother used to tell me, and they occurred during a period of six months all up, as I was about that old when my mother upped and left. So I was lucky. You don’t have much of a memory of the very early part of your life and I had to experience only a fraction of what some people are unfortunate enough to be subjected to. But how can you come back from the start I’ve had?

The anonymous author of that piece believes she was abused when she was a baby, even though she has no memory of it.  Her mother has told her that she, along with her sister, was abused by the man her mother chose as their biological father.  So now, the author has to believe that half of her biology comes from a monster and she wonders if that colors her in a negative way.  Her mother also conveniently sets herself up as some kind of savior because she kept the author and her sister from growing up with a violent man… a man that mom apparently didn't know very well before she had kids with him.  Frankly, after reading that essay, I'm thinking that much of what the author was told either didn't happen or happened but was related in a way that uniformly casts her father in a bad light.  But since I don't know the people involved, I certainly can't say that for sure.  So, like the author, I have doubts and wonder where the truth lies.  It's disturbing to me and it's not even my life.  Imagine how this poor woman must feel.

Dylan doesn't share DNA with Mia Farrow or Woody Allen, so she doesn't have to worry about whether she's inherited any "monster deviant" genes from her adoptive father.  But she obviously believes that she was violated by her father and she's clearly in a lot of pain.  I can't imagine how she must feel as a 28 year old woman, having grown up believing these things happened to her, and yet not having the benefit of actual proof aside from the memories she claims she has of the incident.  Those memories are no doubt very real to Dylan, but without concrete evidence or a witness who can back up her claims, there's no proof that her accusations are valid.

The allegations against Woody Allen appear to be nothing but hearsay, so he has not been brought to justice for what she believes he did to her.  Why wouldn't she be furious?  Any sane person would be.  Most people don't enjoy being victims (though there are some notable exceptions to this rule).  Unfortunately, I'm not sure Dylan is going to get what she seeks by posting her open letter.  From what I've seen, all it's done is polarize people, many of whom are projecting their own opinions, attitudes, and experiences on a situation that doesn't involve them and they know nothing about.  Woody Allen hasn't commented publicly about it.  In fact, I read in an article last night that he doesn't even go online, so he may even be blissfully unaware of the hornet's nest his daughter's letter has stirred up.  

None of what I've written means I think Woody Allen is a paragon of virtue.  It's entirely likely that he did things that might be considered "inappropriate" or even "abusive" by many people.  However, I would venture to guess that most parents have been inappropriate at one time or another.  The bottom line is, I was not there when the supposed abuse happened.  I wasn't there when Allen or Dylan Farrow were interviewed, nor was I privy to all the facts collected in the case.  I don't know anyone involved in this situation except what I've read about them or heard on TV.  Given that, I find it difficult to jump on the Woody Allen bashing bandwagon.  I just don't know what happened and I'm guessing most other people don't either.  Moreover, it's none of my business.

Woody Allen is still a legend.  He's still free and making money.  He's not going to go to prison for what he allegedly did to Dylan.  And Dylan obviously still has that pain, even though she has reignited the court of public opinion against her adoptive father.  It's a tragic situation all around.  I truly hope those involved can eventually find some peace somehow.  


  1. I've always been skeptical about the allegations against Woody Allen, too. He's a bit of an odd duck, but the allegations themselves seemed somehow tainted.

    1. Alexis, if you read that whole thing, thank you! I hesitate to post it anywhere because I don't want to invite the kind of emotional debate this subject seems to bring on.

      I don't want to invalidate Dylan's pain by saying I don't believe her. I do believe that she thinks she's being honest. However, I also believe that her mother is a toxic person. I came to that conclusion after reading what her brother, Moses, had to say about Mia. It really rang true about what I know about women who have a Cluster B personality disorder. They generally have a "script" that is uncannily similar. Of course, I can't know if Moses is being entirely truthful either, but my gut tells me he is. And, like I said, it's not really my business, aside from the fact it's all over the news.

      I don't really feel sorry for Woody, except for the fact that he's a human being and other people are maligning his character without really knowing all the facts. It's not PC to disbelieve a person's claims of abuse, especially if the alleged victim is (or was) a female child. A lot of people immediately suspect men anyway. I see it all the time when I read about people in divorce situations where the father is being kept from visitations with his child. People will say, "If there is no abuse, of course the father should see the child." But they rarely say the same thing about mothers. People assume mothers don't abuse their kids. Most of them don't-- just as most fathers don't. Unfortunately, there are abusive women who take advantage of that perception and there are abusive men who make it seem accurate. So decent men end up being punished or even painted as guilty simply because they are the wrong gender. It kind of reminds me of how people blame pit bulls for all dog bite related deaths and punish all pit bulls and the people who own them.

      Anyway, there is no denying that Woody Allen is eccentric and "odd". Did he abuse Dylan the way she says he did? I don't think so. The evidence isn't there now and it wasn't there 20 years ago. But I do believe Dylan believes he abused her and I have a lot of compassion for her and everyone who cares about her. That belief that she was abused is bound to color her relationships with other people.


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