I have to admit I was deeply disturbed after reading Ronan Farrow's essay rekindling his sister Dylan's accusations against their father, Woody Allen. If you haven't read the piece, you should check it out, it's pretty insightful and asks some very poignant questions about how the media and Hollywood have handled the scandal. Farrow's points are well taken: Woody Allen has spent a small fortune creating a self perpetuating spin machine to discredit Mia Farrow and his daughter. There is a culture of kowtowing in Hollywood that prevents any one from challenging Woody's version of events. Farrow likened what Woody Allen is doing to attempts by Bill Cosby to cover up his misdeeds for years through similar tactics.
Farrow may be onto something here, but he's also overlooking one interesting facet of this comparison. Bill Cosby, unlike his dad, has suffered real damage as a result of his sex scandal. He's been hit with a virtual tsunami of public scorn and outrage over his abuse of women, while Allen has more or less been given a free pass - even though his misconduct is equally, if not more, disturbing.
Cosby has been vilified nearly universally by all of Hollywood. Iconic comedic writer/ director Judd Apatow has made it his personal mission to loudly and consistently call Cosby out for his criminal behavior. Cosby's career is over. His legacy will forever live in infamy.
When it comes to Woody Allen, however, the public and the film industry is largely silent. Celebrities still line up to star in his films. Amazon just signed a multi-million dollar development deal with him, and his new film Cafe Society just opened Cannes.
All this begs the question: how much does race play into all of this? Of course, many will say that this is absurd - they'll say they hate Bill Cosby because there's dozens of women making accusations against him. While the case against Allen on the other hand, is much less conclusive. There's just one accuser, and she might have been coached into making false accusations during a bitter divorce battle. You're fine to think that.
However, is the evidence against Woody Allen really that murky?
The authorities at the time certainly took Dylan's testimony very seriously. In fact, a legal judgement was made against Allen that he acted "in a manner that was completely inappropriate" with his child. The family court ruled that he was not allowed any unsupervised visitation with her. He lost all legal custody of her. The investigators viewed him as a threat to his daughter's well-being.
The authorities were ready to pursue a criminal case against him had his daughter been willing to testify. In fact, Allen was not found innocent of the charges against him, they were simply not pursued because the family felt exposing young Dylan Farrow to further interrogation by lawyers would be devastating.
In regard to race and this issue, one might also consider the "pass" that has been given to director Roman Polanski, a powerful Hollywood icon who also committed a sexual assault on a minor in a manner that's just as repulsive and disturbing as anything done by Bill Cosby. In case you don't recall, Polanski drugged and raped a teenage girl and then fled the country so he could continue his film career.
And yet, there was little to no public outcry then or now about his crimes. In fact, many in Hollywood have gone to great lengths to support Polanski, going so far as to make him into a victim of overzealous wrathful prosecutors who won't just leave the "poor man alone."
Of course, there are some mitigating circumstances in Polanski's case. He paid a large sum of money to his victim, and she has forgiven him and wants to move on. Still, one wonders what the reaction would be if Bill Cosby was convicted for one of his numerous assaults and then decided to hop on a plane to France. Would Hollywood still be willing to bankroll his next television series? Would the public simply go "meh" and invite him to open Cannes?
You can believe what you want about Woody, but personally, I'm more inclined to believe his daughter Dylan's testimony. I believe this because the victim has been consistent in her account and has maintained that a crime has occurred for many years.
The notion that kids simply make these things up and that "false memories" are easy to implant by vindictive parents seems a bit of a stretch. Sure, it probably does happen, but not that often, and it's very rare for a "false victim" to maintain the false story line into adulthood. The children who testified in the McMartin pre-school case, for example, all came forward and admitted they had no real memories of being molested as time wore on.
From another more personal perspective, I experienced an incredibly bitter divorce between my own parents. My mother was very angry and devastated by her separation and did try to turn me against my father. However, as I grew older, I was clearly able to distinguish fact from my mother's fact opinions about my father. More importantly, I knew the truth of my own experience.
Although, I sided with my mother often when I was young, I knew that my dad wasn't the monster she made him out to be, because that was never my experience with him. The notion that I would agree to participate in a lie that would ruin his life and possibly land him in prison wasn't something I could ever be talked into just to get my mom's approval.
But hey, maybe Woody's right. Maybe Mia is batshit crazy and able to hypnotize people. But this case isn't about Mia Farrow, at all is it? It's about a young girl, now an adult, who doesn't seem to be crazy at all. She just seems like a really angry and hurt victim who wants to be heard.
I think it's time more people listened. And instead of celebrating one alleged sexual predator and condemning another beyond redemption we should apply our critical judgement with equal measure.
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