Response to the open letter published in the New York Times by adopted daughter to Woody Allen, Dylan Farrow has been divided. The letter states that Allen was guilty of sexual abuse allegations against Farrow when she was in his care. Farrow chose to bring these allegations to light after the recent Golden Globes lifetime achievement award bestowed on Allen.
The case was originally made public in the 90s after the breakup of Allen’s relationship to Mia Farrow. Mum to Dylan, Mia was accused of encouraging the allegations as revenge on Allen who had taken up with her first adopted daughter, Soon-Yi. Dylan Farrow, who was seven at the time, was subject to numerous doctor’s visits and intense scrutiny surrounding her accusations. Eventually the intense situation took its toll, Allen was denied child custody and the lawsuit against him was dropped.
Allen’s cult status earned through such films as Annie Hall, Manhattan and more recently Match Point and Blue Jasmine has made the news hard to swallow for media types. Farrow addresses directly those Hollywood actors who have appeared in star roles in Allen’s projects over the years. She names Scarlett Johansson and Emma Stone, asking them to put themselves in her place and she invites Cate Blanchett, Diane Keaton and Alec Baldwin to think of their own children.
Several journalists have taken it upon themselves to answer in Allen’s defence. They claim that Farrow’s accusations were inconsistent at the time. Whilst Farrow does not raise this issue in her letter, she states that the insidious way that Allen went about his abuse was such that it seemed an integral part of her daily life. Although it made her uncomfortable, she believed that it was ordinary behaviour between a father and daughter. This would lead to confusion during a testimony. She states at the time she was unaware of what asking her mother if she had suffered the same instances at the hands of her own father would do. The issue of abuse that was raised between her mother and herself was independent to the affair Allen was having with his adopted teenage daughter.
A doctor’s report submitted at the trail stated that no evidence of abuse was found on Farrow. Yet those doctors also refused to testify in person at the trial. The allegations have also come under scrutiny due to the fact that they were dropped at the time. Allen never faced charges his defenders remind us. However, Maureen Orth who wrote a piece for Vanity Fair on the scandal allegedly had hours of interviews with sources (named and unnamed) who said Allen had been “obsessed” with his daughter, continually whispering in her ear and spending time with her away from the other children.
In response to the letter, some are asking if it is possible to divide the artist from the art. Allen is not the only Hollywood heavyweight to have a number of skeletons not so hidden in the closet. Chris Brown and Michael Fassbender have had allegations in the past over domestic violence, not to mention Roman Polanski. However to do nothing allows this sort of behaviour to keep happening. Others seem to have already come around to the idea of the truth behind the accusations and are now asking if it is possible to forgive Allen. Farrow pre-empt this in her letter, asking readers to read the story of her sexual abuse and then see if they feel the same about their “favorite” Woody Allen movie.
Farrow writes that after she escaped Allen she was wracked with guilt over the possibility that he could get his hands on other little girls. She has had to contend with that, as well as media posts of his accolades in a seemingly unending stream. Farrow also faced numerous mental anguish following the abuse, developing an eating disorder in her teens. As she is now stable, married and on her own career path, she felt able to deal with the backlash that her letter would incur. She wrote the letter not only for her own personal sanity, but to set an example to other young girls that the behaviour should not be tolerated. It is a brave move to take this stance and one she should be applauded for.
While divisions continue over sexual allegations that Allen abused his daughter, it seems that there is only one logical outcome. The scandal and media pressure that Dylan Farrow will be subjected to give no reason aside from a wish to reveal the truth for her to write the open letter. Dylan Farrow’s brother Ronan Farrow stood by her in support of her open letter. He tweeted after the salute to Woody Allen at the Golden Globes asking whether there was mention of her abuse during the tribute.
Opinion by Sara Watson