Thursday, February 6, 2014

Dylan Farrow's "Father"

I believe her.  She's telling the truth.  The more Allen talks, the more he incriminates himself.  His New York Times rebuttal is all about himself and his needs and his anger and his accusations.  Dylan Farrow's straightforward remarks contrast starkly with Allen's Miss-Piggylike shoulder-shrugging denials.  Allen's romance with Soon-Yi Previn floodlights his narcissism.  Of all the young girls in the world, he chose his girlfriend's daughter.  Previn may not actually have been under the legal limit, but that's beside the point.  Allen's relationship to Previn's adoptive mother, the court's decision to remove him from Dylan's life, the fact that he is old enough to be Previn's great-grandfather all militate against the idea that he could be innocent. 
The details Ms. Farrow offers--the thumb stuck in her mouth, the face breathing into her naked lap, are convincing, but her symptoms convince even more:  Dylan Farrow's despair expresses itself in self-cutting and a desire to destroy Woody Allen.  Her unwillingness or inability to separate the bullying pedophile who took her up to the attic with the witty, brilliant filmmaker tends to confirm her story as well.  The private self is not the public self.  But how can you believe that when the public hero who seduces your seven-year-old self is the father who is supposed to be protecting you?  You don't know why you are with him in this dark upstairs place, but he's promising to give you things and take you to Paris.  All this--and seven years old is, in my experience, old enough to remember accurately--leaves you feeling guilty no matter how many times your therapists tell you it wasn't your fault.  It leaves you with the feeling that the last person you can trust is yourself--because somehow, none of this would have happened if you had only been good.  It leaves you with despair and with problems that seem too shameful to mention.  You must have done something. So you feel untrustworthy, and trust no one, even when you want to do so.   
Why did a roomful of psychiatrists at Yale insist that Dylan Farrow couldn't tell the difference between fantasy and reality because she said, "I like to cheat on my stories?"  
A child who has been molested wants to control what happens to her body, and at the very least what happens to her story, because the story has become the only thing in her life over which she can exercise control.  The last thing any seven-year-old--even one who has not been molested--needs in order to be able to tell the truth is an army of adults in white coats waving anatomically correct dolls.  
Who does her brother, Moses the family therapist, imagine he is, insisting that Woody Allen could not possibly have molested her? Moses Farrow's degree in family therapy gives him no authority to say or to know this.  Dylan Farrow is the only person in the world who knows what really happened.
But it's a failure of judgement to equate the artist with the man.  The man Woody Allen seems to believe that Farrow's revelations just don't work in the conversation right now and maybe even believes himself when he says she's lying.  His genius for lying seems just the quality that serves his art so well.*  
So it's not surprising that people are equating the man with the artist.  But they're different things.  Subtract art, subtract inspiration, subtract genius from Allen, and what would he be?  I think he'd be worse.  I'd bet that a talentless pedophile spends more time seeking out and molesting children than a pedophile whose art takes up some of his energies.   When I pick up the DSM--the diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association--it's got case studies of bus drivers and "semi-skilled" men who go after any child of either sex who crosses their path.  Of these types, maybe the Bible has it right--just tie a millstone around their neck and let them be dropped into the sea.  Artists are more complicated.  If I could throw out the bad father and keep the artist, I'd do it--that's a problem King Solomon couldn't solve.  
I went to the same school as Dylan Farrow, but never knew her--many years separate us.  I learned of her revelations through a message sent by an alumna who is a clinical psychologist and knew Farrow as a child.  The psychologist applauds Farrow's bravery, wondering what the school should do to protect girls better.  The classmate who sent the link on to me wrote, "I'm not sure how to respond to this.  Thoughts?"  To me, this question broadcasts an unwillingness to face Farrow's confession--we all want to blot it out.  Unfairly, I sent a detailed, enraged description of my own experiences, in essence the same, to my classmate, in a foolish attempt to jolt her into doing what I think everyone reading Farrow's story should do:  write to her and say:  "I believe you! Thank you for telling us! We support you!"

But that doesn't mean I'll never see another Woody Allen movie.  It means that I'd never let him walk into the same room as my daughter. 

*For further details, see Oscar Wilde's The Decay of Lying:


  1. I believe Woody. Though I suspect Dylan's telling the truth she believes, it is not "the truth." Too many are projecting their experiences onto Dylan's story, and no we see the consequence of trial by mob. Bottom line: The Farrows' campaign has done a tremendous disservice to the sexual abuse victims everywhere

  2. I just watched an interview with Woody Allen made at the time of the trial. When he's asked whether he did it, he does not do what I think an innocent man would do, namely look the interviewer in the eye and say, "No I did not." He says with a shrug, "look, is it likely that I would . . . ?" with that furtive look he so often has. Don't forget, he was forbidden to see these children again. And the choice of his girlfriend's adopted daughter is an extreme warning sign--as it would be if the girlfriend were 62 and the daughter 40.

  3. Who cares if you believe Dylan Farrow? There is a forum for addressing these issues--the courts. Dylan does not have to wait for a prosecutor to bring criminal charges--she can sue Woody in civil court. Until she does that and wins, the presumption of innocence has to favor the accused. We are all lost if people are considered guilty just on someone's say-so.

  4. I don't think the forum is the issue here--Woody Allen certainly won't be tried in any case; the time for doing that has expired. The issue is the exploitation of children who take longer than our legal system allows to summon the energy and the courage to talk about what happened to them. The point I'm trying to make is that she deserves to be listened to and believed, and Allen does not, because his remarks show his self-centered wish to go on denying that he's done anything wrong and go on doing whatever he is doing. I would so much have liked to believe him! I admire his work.