There is much debate over whether Woody Allen should be judged on his personal choices or by his art alone. The ethical quam began with Allen’s decision to have a relationship with his step daughter, Soon Yi Previn, in 1991, eventually marrying her in 1997. Allen met Previn during her marriage to Mia Farrow, as Previn had been adopted by Farrow. Allen was 56 and Previn was 19 when their relationship supposedly began, and has received mix criticism.
Recently the Allen conundrum has reignited with renewed allegations that Allen molested his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow. The allegations resurfaced using only 140 characters, after the Golden Globes aired their tribute to Allen. Dylan’s brother Ronan Farrow tweeted sarcasm at the celebration of Allen, whom he believes molested his sister at the age of seven. The tweet was double-edged, poking at Diane Keaton who accepted the Golden Globe tribute in honor of Allen. The conflict became renewed with the tweet,”Missed the Woody Allen tribute — did they put the part where a woman publicly confirmed he molested her at age seven before or after Annie Hall?”
Shortly after Ronan’s tweet was released, Dylan issued an open letter to the public via Nicholas Kristof. In her letter, she opens by asking the reader to choose their favorite Woody Allen movie. She follows the question by detailing recollections of her sexual abuse and the scandal surrounding it. She refers to Previn as her sister, and explains how society has failed victims of sexual abuse by honoring Allen. The letter is heart-breaking in detail, and difficult to read.
Dylan plants the seed to the debate on whether it is unethical to watch Allen’s movies, in light of her accusations. Allen’s response to Dylan’s letter is complete denial of the accusations. Additionally Sony Pictures Classic, one of Allen’s film distributors, issued a statement in response to the letter as well. Sony took the position that they support Allen’s innocence. Allen has so far received public support from Barbara Walters and Sony.
Like in any dispute, teams are being picked. People are interested in proving or disproving Allen’s guilt over molestation accusations. However, the bigger issue is to decided whether Allen’s personal life is ethically tied to the appreciation of his art. Allen has been a celebrated actor, writer, and director for decades. He has created numerous award-winning cinematic experiences, and continues to do so. At present there has been a split in the film community over whether to take sides, or even acknowledge the aspect as relevant to Allen’s entertainment value.
The debate caused by Allen’s personal life is similar to the conflict raised during Roman Polanski’s trial. Polanksi was charged with several offences, all surrounding intercourse with a 13-year-old Samantha Geimer. Regardless of Polanski serving time for his offences against a minor, he received overwhelming support from the film community. He most recently was nominated at Cannes in 2013 for his film, Venus In Fur. While charges against Allen for the sexual abuse were dismissed, it seems him and Polanski share a spot in the media court. If Allen is guilty, it is doubtful ticket sales and production will slow down. In the ethical debate over Allen’s personal life, the consensus suggests that Allen’s movies are more important.
By Victoria Chuidian