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When I was a freshman in college, I took a history class that has forever influenced my thinking. During the first week of coursework, we watched the classic Akira Kurosawa film, Rashomon. Rashomon retells the story of a mysterious murder and a rape in 12th Century Japan. Four men, stuck in the middle of a violent rainstorm, tell their version of what happened three days prior.  

The account is masterfully presented through the perspectives of four different witnesses to the crimes. Each first-person account is plausible, though it frequently contradicts every other witness’s prior testimony. Personal bias factors in strongly to every retelling, at times overt, at times less so. The movie concludes by insisting that while objective truth may be impossible, the virtues of hope, love, and compassion never desert us. Our deeds are more important than our justifications.  

In a historical context, this was an important lesson for my classmates and me to learn. History is a study of the past, and since we are only well-versed in relatively recent history, we must place our trust in the records and accounts left by others. Historians like to believe that they write strictly non-fiction, but this is only partially true. With time, enough voices have muddied fact from fantasy that scholarship becomes something of a game of telephone.

Every writer of truth puts pen to paper with an automatic kind of bias. It is sometimes subliminal and sometimes not, much like when we relate an anecdote to a friend. Should I write about a particular event in history, I pick the commentators who agree with my own views. Today, in my own written discourse, I find I place less emphasis upon a strict account and more upon the concepts and analysis birthed by those who share my ideological views. When enough people ascribe to this same thinking, these same patterns, it’s called a narrative.

I wrote last week about the Woody Allen debate. Due to recent developments, I’d like to respond with a second post. Some feminists writers are contradicting Allen’s recent op-ed in The New York Times that ran over the weekend. As was the case in 1992, they’ve critiqued the dynamics of the director’s relationship with third wife Soon Yi-Previn, several years his junior. A nearly ten-year old interview in Vanity Fair has been dusted off and presented anew.

In it, Allen is quoted as saying:

The very inequality of me being older and much more accomplished, much more experienced, takes away any real meaningful conflict. So when there’s disagreement, it’s never an adversarial thing. I don’t ever feel that I’m with a hostile or threatening person. It’s got a more paternal feeling to it.
Here, my own bias in action. I do not understand intimate romantic relationships between two people that are described as paternal. Chalk me up as one of those hopeless romantics who, when it came his time, always dreamed of an egalitarian partnership. I’ve learned, with no small discomfort, that these parent-child pairings among consenting adults exist in numbers more than occasional. Much of the time, they take the form of an older man and a much younger woman. Other May-December romances have blossomed and showed sustaining power.

Returning to my college days, one of my former professors took a similar path. He married one of his students, a woman in her twenties who was more than half his age. I couldn’t help but notice that she was not much older than me. His wife was quietly deferential, shy, and reticent. I suppose that’s the way he’d always wanted it. He was always the one in charge and she knew when to get out of his way. They have remained married for several years.

A second example, for the sake of greater inclusion, involves a long-time partnership between two gay men. One of them is a psychologist. The other is severely mentally ill and disabled. If I had to wager a guess, I’d say that the therapist has some deep-seeded issues with dependency. Many people would not stay for over twenty years with someone that high maintenance unless they craved being wanted and needed.  At first glance, dysfunction within partnerships may be complementary and even seem to be strangely unifying, when in actuality they are far from stable or healthy.

I can’t vouch for the whole of Woody Allen’s baggage, but I do know that prior girlfriends and wives many times had more problems than he did. Allen’s shtick is that of the socially awkward neurotic, but who he really is off-stage has always been a mystery to me. According to at least one reputable biography, an examination of the details of Allen’s life show a challenging upbringing and lots of self-inflicted injury.

Allen was born to distant, uncaring parents. Some of the memories of those times found his way into his early standup. In one routine, he stated, fictionally, that he was kidnapped at a young age. Instead of having concern for his well-being, the first thing his parents did was rent out his room. Allen cracked cruel jokes about his first wife and divorced his second wife because of her incestuous desire for her father, drug addiction, and general emotional instability. As is the case with any famous person, one reads a series of biographies and media articles, then seeks to put together an account of him or her that best fits our preferences.

The charges against Woody Allen this go round are serious, far more serious than they were twenty-two years ago. I want to accept the account of the adopted daughter of his long-time partner on its face, but once again I am bringing my own bias into the matter. Broken marriages, bitter divorces, and their fallout often create bile and nastiness. Allen hasn’t helped himself by inserting jokes into film screenplays that involve the desirability and the sexuality of underage girls. The circumstantial evidence in this case is damaging, but it is not enough to separate guilt from innocence.

Though the two were never formally married, Allen isn’t the first ex-husband to be accused of a shocking crime by a spiteful former wife. Every new voice added to the debate adds a different layer of meaning. As long as this controversy stays in he said/she said form, our individual personal experiences will fill in the gaps. When we don’t know who committed the rape in the metaphorical Japanese wilderness, our emotions will lead the way. If we think Allen is a creepy child predator, we may well always. If we never really found his movies and life story that appealing, now is as good a time as any to say so.

I’ll always have a fondness for Woody Allen’s films. I discovered them at a young age. I believe I saw Bananas first. I’m a fan of wit and satire and so I appreciated his cerebral, but very silly sense of humor as found in the first few cinematic releases. My favorite Woody Allen movie is probably Love and Death, the last of the slapstick, one-liner movies before the emergence of the new seriousness and art house pretensions of Annie Hall and beyond. In the meantime, I’ve observed once more that Allen films, like their creator, are either beloved or disliked. Now audience are split again, but for a very different reason.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (9+ / 0-)

    I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I lead you in, some one else would lead you out. - Eugene Debs.

    by cabaretic on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 07:12:58 AM PST

  •  Your professor reminds me of several of my own (0+ / 0-)

    In another of the WA diaries, I spoke of a pair of my professors who got married when the male professor was roughly twice the age of the female.  Of course, in that relationship, he was the shy and retiring one and the female prof was the bold and brash one (and quite the vocal feminist, as well...)

  •  "Love & Death" and "Crimes & Misdemeanors" (0+ / 0-)

    are my two faves, closely followed by "Zelig."

    Find out about my next big thing by reading my blog. Link is here: http://bettysrants.wordpress.com

    by Kimball Cross on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 07:20:39 AM PST

  •  You keep referring to Mia Farrow as his (0+ / 0-)

    ex-wife.  They weren't married.

  •  Intimate human relationships are not (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    4kedtongue

    primarily a rational business contract. Over a long period of time there is always some dependency involved. I am distrustful of any paradigm that all relationships are expected to conform to. We are still struggling to shed the traditional view that they must always be heterosexual in which wives play a submissive role.

    As a society we have to set some outer bounds that define legally acceptable limits on human behavior. Consent and the legal capacity to give it is the basic standard. Where two adults voluntarily enter into a marriage and appear to both find it functional, it seems unreasonable to me to compare that to an abusive exploitative situation such as that of which Allen is being accused.

  •  "because of her incestuous desire for her father" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    True North, BlueDragon
    divorced his second wife because of her incestuous desire for her father, drug addiction, and general emotional instability.
    You are referring to Louise Lasser of Mary Hartman fame. But where does your information come from as to her incestuous desire and the drug addiction?

    ...wispy longings for a time before Elvis and the Beatles, back when "a girl could cook and still would". You know before the troubles.~Hunter.

    by denig on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 08:15:57 AM PST

  •  I'm with the judge of the custody case based upon (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe

    what I've seen of the claims.

    There's not enough evidence to conclude beyond reasonable doubt that he is guilty of sexual assault/child molestation. And there's certainly not enough evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he's innocent of that.

    The judge's finding that some of Allen's actions towards Dylan were "grossly inappropriate" also seems to be a reasonable conclusion.

    From what I've seen of the debates on this matter, they tend to get circular because we're unlikely to ever know the truth.

    •  Judge's decision suggests otherwise (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      denig, NonEuclidian, BlueDragon

      Woody Allen sued for custody of their three children.

      Not only did he not get custody of Dylan, but the judge ruled that Allen was not allowed to see her.

      He didn't get custody of Ronan, either. The judge allowed Allen to see him only under supervision.

      The third child refused to see Allen.

      The judge may not have made a finding on allegations of abuse, but the judge clearly thought that it was in the children's best interests to prohibit, or limit, Allen's access to two of them.

      •  Third Child (0+ / 0-)

        That seems to be Moses Farrow who has recently written that he believed Mia Farrow was abusive and his sister Dylan was probably coerced/manipulated into her accusations of abuse at the hands of Woody Allen.  Moses Farrow seems to have initiated a relationship with Woody Allen as an adult.

        This whole family is a hot mess of long-standing, from Mia Farrow's child-bride (Sinatra) to home wrecker (Previn) career to Woody Allen's possible child abuse and child-bride relationship of his own.

        Allen is an entertaining writer and director and Farrow is an accomplished actress.  However, I don't want to get embroiled in their own family hysteria.  They's cr-a-a-azy peepul.

        PS:  Ronan Farrow is about to begin a TV show and I have some suspicions that his recent loud behavior may be somewhat related to that fact.

  •  A Vanity Fair article was NOT dusted off (4+ / 0-)

    it was from November 2013, barely months prior to the Feb. 1 Open Letter by Dylan Farrow. There wasn't much dust on it.

    Here's an updated article by Maureen Orth in Vanity Fair with the facts in the case:

    Ten Undeniable Facts about the Woody Allen Sex-Abuse Case

    "Some feminist writers" is that meant to be dismissive of the facts?

    The judge in the custody case was not a "feminist writer" and he denied custody of the child to Woody Allen.

    To thine ownself be true

    by Agathena on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 08:55:18 AM PST

    •  Good lord (0+ / 0-)

      The Vanity Fair piece referred to was from 2005. Did you read the diary?

      And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County Down by the Green River where Paradise lay. Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away. John Prine

      by high uintas on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 10:06:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  She thinks only Maureen Orth writes for VF n/t (0+ / 0-)

        If it's
        Not your body,
        Then it's
        Not your choice
        And it's
        None of your damn business!

        by TheOtherMaven on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 02:13:19 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  The Vanity Fair article in November 2013 (0+ / 0-)

        is more relevant to the Feb. 1, 2014 accusation by Dylan Farrow. I am aware this writer referred to the earlier one and I am saying it is not relevant.

        To thine ownself be true

        by Agathena on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 08:59:54 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Let me put you wise to something (0+ / 0-)

          Maureen Orth has been grinding a pro-Mia Farrow, anti-Woody Allen axe since 1992. According to her, Farrow is the Earth Mother and the Virgin of Guadelupe rolled into one, much too good for this sinful earth (and much too good to be true) - and Allen is the spawn of Satan.

          If you  will not read anything that provides any perspective that differs at all from that extreme assessment, you're no better than a Dittohead.

          Disclosure: I started out thinking there might be something to Dylan Farrow's accusations, even though they rubbed me the wrong way (trying to guilt people into supporting you is very likely to backfire). But the deeper I dug into the whole mess, and the farther back I went, the more inconsistencies and reasons for doubt I found.

          Well, let's put it this way: I have no doubt that Dylan Farrow is an abuse victim. But I don't think it's her father who is the culprit in any way other than contributing to a toxic and stressful family atmosphere by selfishly getting involved with her older (adult) sister.

          If it's
          Not your body,
          Then it's
          Not your choice
          And it's
          None of your damn business!

          by TheOtherMaven on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 09:48:25 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I've read a lot of the material, pro-Woody, pro- (0+ / 0-)

            Dylan. Your comments are among the most stridently anti-Mia Farrow that I have read so far and you actually think you are objective. The numbers are against you because made up stories of sexual abuse of children are extremely rare.

            I've read enough to be satisfied that Dylan Farrow has been heard and that the majority of the people paying close attention believe her. Case closed.

            Good bye

            To thine ownself be true

            by Agathena on Wed Feb 12, 2014 at 12:00:51 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  I think he's a psychological mess, but (0+ / 0-)

    I also think he didn't molest Dylan Farrow.

    I think Mia Farrow had "child molester" on the brain long before she started charging that he had done so. I think she initially saw Soon-Yi Previn as a molestation victim - and had to change her mind when the young woman stood up for herself and talked back to her. (According to Woody Allen, as far back as a "60 Minutes" interview in late 1992, when he visited the Farrows for Dylan's birthday in July, a month before the alleged event, Mia Farrow pinned the following note to his bathroom door: "Child molester at birthday party! Molded, then abused one sister; now focused on youngest sister.  Family disgusted.")

    I think she, either unintentionally or - worse - intentionally, made her daughter believe that Allen had molested her - made her believe it so completely that it has become reality to her. I think Mia Farrow herself was and is so totally invested in this "child molester" scenario that she was incapable of accepting any evidence to the contrary - and the Yale-New Haven findings, which should have been a profound relief to any normally sane woman, only drove her deeper into this obsession.

    To put it bluntly, I think she went batshit insane for much of 1992 and 1993 - it's the only explanation that really fits so much of her bizarre behavior during that time (like, for instance, after bringing the allegations, after the police were called in, still trying to talk to Allen about her role in his new movie(!!!!!!!!!) - he sacked her, of course, and replaced her.)

    If it's
    Not your body,
    Then it's
    Not your choice
    And it's
    None of your damn business!

    by TheOtherMaven on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 02:59:19 PM PST

  •  Full disclosure: I don't like Mia Farrow (0+ / 0-)

    I don't like parents who beat their children - not just the occasional smack on the fanny, but slaps to the face, or battering (with a telephone, according to one eyewitness) until they are black and blue and crying pitifully, "I'm a bad girl, I'm a  bad girl".

    I don't like parents who play favorites with their children, treating their biological (or cute blonde white) children like precious jewels while making the adopted (Asian) ones do all the household scutwork.

    I don't like parents who go all fanatical about how nobody is to allow their ex to be alone with their child - and then go out shopping on a day when the ex is scheduled to visit, as if the shopping were more important than the thing they were so fearful of.

    I don't like parents who tell one story about a child's paternity, in court, under oath, and then tease the gossip columnists with a different story that the child may have been fathered by a different Famous Celebrity.

    I don't like parents who run around the world crying about the starving children in Africa, while back at home one of their own children wastes away and dies in grim poverty. This "wonderful" mother only returned in time to weep publicly at the funeral. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/...

    Current scorecard, accuracy uncertain, of "All Mia's Children": http://jezebel.com/...

    If it's
    Not your body,
    Then it's
    Not your choice
    And it's
    None of your damn business!

    by TheOtherMaven on Wed Feb 12, 2014 at 06:51:58 PM PST

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