For those who are feeling guilty and conflicted because they know that memory is unreliable but they don’t want to blame victims, it may help to read the Vanity Fair article from November 1992 – yes, so long ago that a baby born the day it was published would now be an adult of 21.
There was an unwritten rule in Mia Farrow’s house that Woody Allen was never supposed to be left alone with their seven-year-old adopted daughter, Dylan. Over the last two years, sources close to Farrow say, he has been discussing alleged “inappropriate” fatherly behavior toward Dylan in sessions with Dr. Susan Coates, a child psychologist. In more than two dozen interviews conducted for this article, most of them with individuals who are on intimate terms with the Mia Farrow household, Allen was described over and over as being completely obsessed with the bright little blonde girl. He could not seem to keep his hands off her. He would monopolize her totally, to the exclusion of her brothers and sisters, and spend hours whispering to her. She was fond of her daddy, but if she tried to go off and play, he would follow her from room to room, or he would sit and stare at her.
Ok? That’s creepy. That’s beyond creepy. It’s bad for the child and bad for the other children. The interlude in the attic-like closet room isn’t even necessary for that to be the case. And it doesn’t depend on one person’s memory or experience – it’s behavior reported by people who saw it.
Dr. Coates, who just happened to be in Mia’s apartment to work with one of her other children, had only to witness a brief greeting between Woody and Dylan before she began a discussion with Mia that resulted in Woody’s agreeing to address the issue through counseling. At that point Coates didn’t know that, according to several sources, Woody, wearing just underwear, would take Dylan to bed with him and entwine his body around hers; or that he would have her suck his thumb; or that often when Dylan went over to his apartment he would head straight for the bedroom with her so that they could get into bed and play. He called Mia a “spoilsport” when she objected to what she referred to as “wooing.” Mia has told people that he said that her concerns were her own sickness, and that he was just being warm. For a long time, Mia backed down. Her love for Woody had always been mixed with fear. He could reduce her to a pulp when he gave vent to his temper, but she was also in awe of him, because he always presented himself as “a morally superior person.”
And that is why it’s galling that he got a lifetime achievement award, and that he still a cultural hero to so many people. He has for years – ever since he dropped the nebbish persona – presented himself as a morally superior person. He isn’t one.
You know what he reminds me of? Salinger. Salinger was the same damn thing – a cultural hero who presented himself as a morally superior person, while in fact treating real people – women and very young girls, to be exact – like shit. The PBS series American Masters did an episode on him a couple of weeks ago. It was riveting, and creepy, both.
By speaking out now, Ronan Farrow and the former Dylan Farrow have put Allen’s alleged actions under a harsh spotlight for the first time in a generation. But while their statements may have shaken the live-and-let-live consensus that formed around Allen not long after the scandal broke, they’ve hardly shattered it. That consensus is especially robust in Hollywood, where Allen is likely Western society’s most prominent beneficiary of compartmentalization. A-list actors never stopped clamoring to work with him, not even in the 1990s, and never will. At times during the Golden Globes tribute to Allen, it seemed hard to spot anyone toward the front of the room who hadn’t been in one of his movies.
Well, you know, who is more important – some woman nobody’s ever heard of or the great Woody Allen? Who matters more for the career, Mia Farrow’s daughter or the great Woody Allen? Who you gonna believe, some chick or the great Woody Allen?