I'm a very big fan of Woody Allen. There are no two ways about that. I think he's a genius as a filmmaker and writer and in many ways I owe my absurdist sense of humor to an early exposure to books like Without Feathers and movies like Sleeper, Love & Death, Bananas and Annie Hall. I have a Manhattan movie poster hanging in my living room and make it a point to watch Stardust Memories and Crimes and Misdemeanors at least twice a year. I get that Woody is a giant pile of New York City-centric neuroticism and that it's manifested itself not only in his work but in his real life; he's a prime example of an artist who couldn't make the kind of art he does were he not the kind of man he is: complex, arrogant, inscrutable, occasionally difficult, and capable of some truly questionable behavior. But while I think he's an incredible talent and I accept that that talent comes at a price, make no mistake: I wouldn't give him a pass if it was shown that he really did molest a child.
By now you've probably seen the tweets that were fired off on Sunday night by Mia and Ronan Farrow during the Golden Globes. While Diane Keaton was honoring Woody, accepting the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award on his behalf, here's what Mia Farrow sent out to her followers online:
Meanwhile, Mia Farrow's son with Woody -- at least as far as we know -- had an even more acidic reaction to his father being honored:
Then yesterday morning, Mia Farrow launched another bomb at her former lover, this one along the lines of Ronan's the night before:
What Mia and Ronan are talking about is another child who was a part of the Farrow-Allen family, their adopted daughter Dylan, who claimed in 1992 that Woody Allen molested her at the age of seven. This allegation came not long after Woody had left Mia Farrow to be with her 19-year-old adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn, whom he married and is still with today. Woody's always denied the molestation accusation and a judge who handled the aftermath of Woody and Farrow's split said that the case against him was inconclusive. To this day Dylan stands by her story, Woody stands by his, and there's no proof one way or the other. Ronan and Mia Farrow, who still loathe Woody for taking a sledgehammer to their family by running off with Soon-Yi, are making it clear whose side they're on.
When Roman Polanski was arrested back in 2009, I spent a lot of time writing about it for my own site and over at the Huffington Post. I did this because the facts of the case were crystal clear and it was infuriating to watch some try to cloud the issue of whether Roman Polanski deserved to be arrested and brought back to the United States to face punishment for drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977. Of course he deserved to. He deserved to because he intentionally ran out on the justice system of the country in which he committed his crime and had never been held accountable for what he did by standards that weren't his own. As far as I was concerned, Polanski had no wiggle room. He was already guilty. What separates Polanski from Woody Allen is that Polanski was actually convicted of a crime, and bailed before he could be punished for it; Woody Allen hasn't been convicted of anything, merely accused. Is it possible Woody sexually assaulted Dylan? Of course. But we'll likely never know what really happened and therefore we have little choice but to give him the benefit of the doubt, particularly considering the hostile family politics at play in the wake of the implosion of Woody and Mia's relationship.
Here's what bothers me most about the Farrow tweets: they happened at all. While no one should argue that Ronan and Mia Farrow be required by law to take the high road, there's something undeniably tawdry about using what they claim is a serious and destructive act committed against a young girl -- what's at the very least a nasty accusation on their part -- as some kind of petty and snarky shot across social media. Twitter may now be the primary method of reflexive communication in our culture, but it shouldn't be used to turn an allegation of child sexual abuse into a quick, bitter joke; the format lacks the means for reflection and context and to use it to convey a point like that simply diminishes the seriousness of the subject matter.
It's obvious how strongly and negatively Mia and Ronan Farrow feel about Woody Allen after all these years, which is sad and tragic for all concerned on so many levels. But Sunday night, in using Twitter in an attempt to bring attention to the alleged sins of the man they once loved, it was them who wound up looking bad, even if the voyeuristic and easily titillated masses may have delighted in every second of it. I may be a fan of Woody Allen, but if it's ever shown that he really did harm a child, then he should pay dearly. I'm not sure that Mia and Ronan Farrow's snide 140-character commentary did much to strengthen their family's case against him, though.
Photo: AP/Frank Ziths