Trigger Warning: Sexual abuse and rape culture discussion follows.
The last Woody Allen movie I saw in the theater was 2008’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” which I will readily admit I watched to see Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz kiss. Before that the last one I saw was 2005’s “Match Point.” I don’t know, maybe – like its creator – I was going through a Scar-Jo phase.
Throughout my life I have seen many, many Woody Allen films. My father, a Brooklyn native with the accent to match, was an enormous fan of his when we were growing up. We sat and laughed through rented copies of “Annie Hall,” “Sleeper,” “Love and Death” (pretty much the entire Diane Keaton era) in our living room.
But then, after the ugly end of his Mia Farrow period, it all changed. I haven’t felt good about seeing a Woody Allen movie since 1992. And I believe, once and for all, I am through. The separation between artist and art is something I’ve discussed, at length, before. I don’t necessarily have to like or agree with a person’s ideology and actions to like his/her art. But if a person’s character is so repugnant, it is also my prerogative to not support his or her work. I feel the same way about Roman Polanski.
And I find Woody Allen repugnant. While some have long rooted for the way his nebbish, neurotic nerd persona has always gotten the girl, I have continually found it jarring. I’m all for nerds getting the girl. Hello, story of my life. But I have never found Woody’s brand of nerdom particularly endearing. I find it narcissistic, whiny and continually obsessed with bedding young women. “Manhattan” is considered one of his enduring classics. It’s about a 42-year-old comedy writer who starts dating a 17-year-old girl.
But then the sexual assault allegations on his then 7-year-old daughter and fact that he began a sexual relationship with his longtime girlfriend’s adopted daughter happened. Let me address the latter first. I know, I know those into technicalities like to say that Soon-Yi was not his adopted daughter. And he never married her mother, Mia. But the two were in a relationship for 12 years. And the relationship only ended when Mia found nude pictures the then 57-year-old Woody had taken of the then 19- or 20-year-old (her adoption records are incomplete) Soon-Yi. I am adopted and I can tell you 100 percent, flat-out, without reservation, that shit is weird and gross and wrong. End of story.
Then there is the separate issue of the alleged sexual assault on his daughter, Dylan Farrow. The allegations, which were first made in 1992 and then became part of the bitter custody dispute though never prosecuted criminally, resurfaced a few days ago with an open letter from the now 28-year-old Dylan Farrow. Her letter recounts – for the first time publicly in her own words – what happened and how it has affected her life. It isn’t pretty. As mentioned earlier, trigger warning if you click this link.
There has been a lot made about the ambiguities and fact that Allen has never been charged or convicted of the crime. The “Who can know what really happened?”-attitude is pervasive. But its implication could not be clear. “I the absence of clear facts, I’m going to assume this girl has been lying for 21-years and keep supporting Woody Allen and seeing his movies.” Indeed, we have a presumption of innocence in this country, and it is a good thing. But it shouldn’t automatically equate to a presumption of guilt on the behalf of the accuser – especially in cases of sexual assault and abuse. Rape culture is everywhere and is real. It’s that toxic atmosphere which allows everything from casual rape jokes to actual rape because such violations are totally the same as your favorite football team getting blown out of the big game and a girl is totally asking for it because she is drunk/wearing a short skirt/what was she doing there in the first place anyway, etc. etc. Blame the victim, blame the victim, slut shame and repeat.
So let’s go to the numbers. In the Unites States, every two minutes someone is sexually assaulted, according to the U.S. Department of Justice's National Crime Victimization Survey. Nationally, 60 percent of sexual assaults go unreported, also according to the U.S. Justice Department. And nationally 97 percent of rapists never spend a day in jail, again according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Meanwhile, an average of methodical international studies on sexual assault claims finds they are only between 2-8 percent of all reports to police are false, according to The National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women. So, statistically speaking: Rapes getting reported? Rare. Rapists going to jail? Rarer. Rape reports being false? Possibly rarest.
Allen, by the way, has vehemently denied the claims through his lawyer and lays basically all the blame at Mia Farrow’s feet.
You don’t necessarily have to take a side in this debate. You can continue seeing Woody Allen movies and appreciating his work. Your conscience is yours and yours alone. I just known mine feels a whole lot better believing a 7-year-old girl. I can live with giving up on some movies. In the scope of things, it’s really the least I can do.
p.s. Yesterday New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum unearthed this gem from a one-act play Allen wrote and had produced three years ago. Yes, it’s a child molestation joke. Ladies and gentlemen, a comedy genius.
Triggerish, FWIW. Here's a graphic WA joke about child molestation from Honeymoon Motel, a 1-act produced 3 yrs ago: pic.twitter.com/at1Z7DrXxd— emilynussbaum (@emilynussbaum) February 4, 2014