“What’s your favorite Woody Allen movie?” asks Dylan Farrow in an open letter to her father, Woody Allen. I thought the internet would collapse and this was going to be a major story on Sunday. Maybe it will be, since televised news always seems to be two or three days behind what you read on the internet. But I read it and, even though I still regard myself as a fan of Woody Allen movies, I’ve got to say that I lean more toward Dylan’s account. And, to answer her question, the only movies I’m comfortable being a fan of right now are Crimes and Misdemeanors and Match Point, since both of them deal with otherwise ‘good’ men who commit crimes (in this case: murder), get away with it, and, in order to preserve family and prosperity, must silently live with the consequences of their actions.
The most embarrassing Woody Allen movie to watch right now would be Deconstructing Harry, which has him hiring a hooker to accompany him to a reunion. Well, let’s let imdb describe the plot:
Harry Block has written a best seller… bout his best friends… he revealed their deepest secrets… and they’re not pleased… now Harry Block is going to Hell…
Dylan Farrow is only 28 years old. Born in 1985. It’s conceivable she could sue him. A number of states, like Pennsylvania and Louisiana, are opening a window allowing child abuse victims up to the age of 30 to bring civil claims against their abuser. It’s also possible he could get prison time considering how child abuse laws have a ‘make it up as you go along’ quality written all over them.
Will he ever get another movie deal after this? If so, I wonder if child molestation, or even being accused of molestation, will play a role in the plot? Most of his movies usually reflect on the issues that have accompanied his life and this should not be an exception. Either way, I think he most likely will go into exile in Europe where most of his current movies have been shot.
People who were never Woody Allen fans are going to love rubbing their hatred of his movies (which they would dislike, even without a criminal charge) in the comment sections of articles. There is the double standard: those who demand justice for those abused by conservative politicians or fundamentalist preachers, but suddenly are champions for Allen. Demanding proof, which obviously cannot be found. Most 7-9 year olds being abused aren’t savvy enough to collect evidence and hire lawyers.
From Dylan’s open letter: “He told me to lay on my stomach and play with my brother’s electric train set. Then he sexually assaulted me. He talked to me while he did it, whispering that I was a good girl, that this was our secret, promising that we’d go to Paris and I’d be a star in his movies. I remember staring at that toy train, focusing on it as it traveled in its circle around the attic. To this day, I find it difficult to look at toy trains.”
The devil is in the details. Toy trains. Hot dogs. A revulsion of things you used to love as a child suddenly become anathema to you.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been in this position. When Bob Gray, my former pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, was arrested for multiple counts of child abuse, forums were filled with people who had been raised by sermons from Bob Gray. Now everything that was taught to them had to be second guessed.
“When Bob Gray said it was a shame to speak of those things done in secret, was he revealing a biblical principal or trying to tell me to shut up about what happened in the office?”
I was not molested by Bob Gray. It’s ridiculous I have to put that in print, but I have been asked. The reason I’m asked, I believe, is because Christians can’t fathom why anyone would become an Atheist if they hadn’t been molested. We were raised to think that if something didn’t directly affect you, why comment? Be quiet! Shut up! Quit spreading stories!
When I started blogging about the Gray scandals, I received emails apologizing for the abuse I experienced at Trinity Baptist Church/TCA. I had to write back, “I was never abused by Bob Gray or by anyone at Trinity Christian Academy. I’m blogging because no one else is and someone needs to get this stuff documented!”
But these were people in a crises. Everything they knew about right and wrong, good and evil, and child raising, came from Bob Gray! I remember a Trinity Baptist College student expressing amazement at Bob Gray when the former pastor revealed, “A good parent can walk into the room of a crying infant and say, ‘Be quiet!’, and they will hush up!”
The college student couldn’t figure out why his voice didn’t have the same effect on his infant! Again, it took decades, and the internet, to alert people to the fundamentalist mode of child raising which basically had you hitting the infant to shut it up (see any book by Michael Pearl).
Did those people leave fundamentalism? Absolutely not! Some are still there trying to pretend the problem wasn’t what they were taught, it was all in the man. As long as that man is out of the way, we can keep our heads in the sand until the next child abuse scandal.
It’s tough, but when someone who has influenced you has been credibly accused of molestation, one either becomes introspective or puts their head in the sand. I’ve never been the type to put my head in the sand.
Boycott Woody Allen movies? No. It’s not that kind of an issue. It’s more of an issue of support. I support the right of Dylan Farrow to come to terms with her abuse by any legal means necessary. And I will support the victim.
If she does take it to court, then things could get nasty. Then more dirty secrets get out, bad blood gets spilled, and a delicate issue becomes an ‘us vs them’ scenario. That never solves anything.
If we boycotted every artist and politician who molested a child, we would be living in a state of artless anarchy. By our current standards, we would have to boycott the Declaration of Independence. All the Merchant-Ivory movies aside, Thomas Jefferson, a slave owner in his 40s, groomed a 14 year old Sally Hemmings to be his sex slave for his trip to Paris. Same could be said for Edgar Allen Poe, Governor George Wallace, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
It’s too easy to condemn people from an industry we already hate who get caught molesting a child. When it happens to someone within our circles, we make excuses. Even the loud talking organization, SNAP (Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests), came to the defense of Dr. Steve Taylor, an organizer for SNAP in New Orleans, when he was on trial for child pornography. A letter written by Barbara Blaine encourages us to give Dr. Taylor the benefit of a doubt. That sentiment is never offered to a Catholic priest who is on trial. Don’t they deserve a benefit of a doubt?
That’s one reason you never see me writing too harsh. Mainly because I’m preparing for moments like this.
Will I boycott Woody Allen movies? No. No more than child advocacy groups will boycott SNAP! Or no more than advocates for victims of Bob Gray and fundamentalist group homes will boycott the Republican politicians who keep those dens of legalized child abuse open and available.
Will I watch Woody Allen movies? That’s another question.
The matter of ‘taste’ should be considered. At the moment, I have no taste for Woody Allen films unless they’re the dark, brooding, introspective movies. Last night, I was going through my Netflix que and saw that I had ‘Play It Again, Sam’ and ‘Manhattan’. I removed them. Not because of any boycott. I just don’t have the taste for it right now.
UPDATE: Woody Allen speaks out in this op-ed.