Woody Allen is one of my favorite directors. I studied his films in college, have seen Annie Hall more than 25 times as well as Manhattan and Crimes and Misdemeanors. Annie Hall and Crime and Misdemeanors are near-perfect films. I don’t think there is a Woody Allen film I haven’t seen several times. The name I gave my daughter came from one of the characters in one of his films.
These reasons aren’t why I have my doubts about the sexual abuse allegations against him.
At the time of the famous Allen v. Farrow custody battle in the early 1990s, I kind of paid attention to the accusations of child sexual abuse, but not really. I possibly read a People Magazine article at my dentist’s office once or skimmed a piece in a newspaper at one point.
Allen is accused of molesting his adoptive daughter, Dylan, at age seven, on one particular day in the 1990s at the actress’s Bridgewater, Connecticut home during a custody battle.
It never rang true to me.
I decided to watch the HBO docuseries, “Allen v. Farrow,” from directors Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, a four-hour investigation of the allegations of childhood sexual abuse that aired this past Sunday night. I wanted to hear it straight from Allen’s daughter, Dylan. Maybe I would change my opinion with new information or hearing a first-hand account of the entire story.
But the problem with the series is, it’s one-sided.
The Me Too movement has had an effect on every single person I know. People question their beliefs and look more closely at their own internal biases around how women are treated in the workforce and at home, how men treat us, and the women in our inner circles and beyond.
We now look with a more critical eye.
The movement sparked debate and thought. My perspective has changed, altered with more information and education from hearing women’s experiences I have not had personally. We are each looking at things through a different lens now. My teen has educated me on the expanded views her peers have on sex and gender. I’ve done a lot of listening and reading, and even though I went to a single-sex school and studied feminism, I had some things wrong and am more conscious of how I phrase things and what I teach my daughter.
I could be wrong about my opinion on Allen v. Farrow. So I watched the first episode of the series with an open mind that I might change my opinion with more facts.
Here is a brief timeline of the saga per the LA Times. It is kind of confusing with so many children.
1977: Farrow and her second husband, composer André Previn, adopt Soon-Yi, then about 7 years old, from South Korea. Farrow already had three biological sons (Matthew, Sascha, and Fletcher) and two adopted daughters (Lark and Daisy).
1979: Allen and Farrow meet for the first time. Farrow, divorced from Previn, and Allen, not far removed from winning multiple Oscars for “Annie Hall,” are introduced at Elaine’s restaurant in Manhattan after a performance of Bernard Slade’s play “Romantic Comedy,” in which Farrow was then starring with Anthony Perkins.
July 16, 1982: “A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy” is released in U.S. cinemas. It is the first of Allen and Farrow’s 13 films together, including “Broadway Danny Rose,” “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” “Hannah and Her Sisters,” “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” and “Husbands and Wives.”
1980: Farrow adopts Moses Farrow, 2, from South Korea. He is her seventh child and the first adopted after her divorce from Previn.
July 11, 1985: Farrow adopts infant daughter Dylan, who was born in Texas.
December 19, 1987: Farrow gives birth to son Ronan Farrow, then known as Satchel. Allen is presumed to be the father. Allen said in a statement at the time: “Mia’s fine. The baby is fine. The only problem is he looks like Edward G. Robinson.” (Through the years, there would be speculation that Ronan was fathered by Frank Sinatra, Mia’s first husband.) Farrow and Allen were not married.
December 1991: Allen adopts Dylan and Moses. According to subsequent court testimony it is around this time that Allen, then 56, begins a sexual relationship with Soon-Yi, 21.
January 13, 1992: Farrow finds out about the relationship when she discovers nude photographs of Soon-Yi in Allen’s apartment.
March 19, 1993: The custody trial in Allen vs. Farrow begins.
June 7, 1993: Mia Farrow wins custody of Ronan, Dylan and Moses. Allen is denied visitation rights with Dylan. In his ruling, New York State Supreme Court Justice Elliott Wilk describes Allen as “self-absorbed, untrustworthy and insensitive” and had “demonstrated no parenting skills that would qualify him as an adequate custodian” of the three children. By contrast, Wilk called Farrow “a caring and loving mother who has provided a home for both her biological and her adopted children.”
December 23, 1997: Allen marries Soon-Yi in Venice, Italy.
I felt uncomfortable the whole time watching Allen v. Farrow. Not because of the subject matter, but because I felt manipulated by the filmmakers. The footage of Allen and Dylan as a toddler is completely normal under any other circumstances.
What makes the footage creepy is the dissonant chords and false crescendos the filmmakers strategically place behind the photos and videos handpicked for the film, making Dylan and Allen’s scenes seem salacious and untoward. Like all reality TV does — take out the “music” behind the footage, and a lot of the feeling dissipates because you aren’t being manipulated to “feel” one way or another when just looking at video and stills with no soundtrack behind them or voice-overs from the participants accusing a person of wrongdoing.
One photo the filmmakers used with voice-overs from Farrow and family acquaintances talking about how Allen would “hover” over his daughter was a picture of him standing next to Dylan at her birthday party, next to a cake. It isn’t strange a father stands next to his child during her birthday party in any other context.
Farrow claims she saw Allen in his underwear, in his bed with Dylan, cuddling, in Farrow’s house. The underwear scene is corroborated by a family friend, the girlfriend of one of Mia’s older kids from Farrow’s previous marriage with composer André Previn. The girlfriend tells the camera that she, too, saw Allen in his underwear upstairs in Farrow’s bedroom with Dylan.
What is swept under the rug is that this bedroom is also Allen’s bedroom with Mia, in her house in the country, where he lives when he’s not in the city.
By everyone’s account, Woody Allen is Dylan’s father and a few of the other kids. The family was fully integrated. Allen raised the kids for the most part. He adopted Dylan and Moses and is the biological father of Sasha Farrow (later renamed Ronan Farrow, The New Yorker journalist).
Allen was a permanent member and fixture in the Farrow household and supported Moses, Dylan, and Sasha emotionally and financially. Everyone is in agreement on this point — that Allen was an active member and participant. Allen was a stable fixture in Farrow’s and her children’s lives when Farrow adopted Dylan as a baby. Then the two conceived Sasha, the couple’s only biological child.
Allen in his underwear, cuddling with his child
I don’t think it is unusual that people wear underwear while they’re in bed.
I have a picture that my mom took of my six-year-old-self snuggled up closely while sleeping, wrapped around my dad on their bed while he’s dressed only in his tighty whities with his hand resting gently on my bottom. His other hand holds a Time magazine he is intently reading, engrossed in some article. It is one of my favorite photos of us. I was never molested.
He was a doting dad, just like Allen is in the film to Dylan.
Allen had been in Dylan’s life the moment she was adopted and brought home by Farrow.
In the docuseries, Farrow states that she walked into their bedroom and witnessed Allen with his head in Dylan’s lap. If this is true, that is not normal and would worry any mother, rightfully so, but it is still a “he said, she said” argument.
One that is impossible to know who is telling the truth.
He said, she said
What I found most strange during the first episode, more than anything newly revealed to the public, more unusual than Allen sleeping in his underwear, is what Farrow did after a conversation she had with Allen about him being a father. Apparently, Allen told Farrow (again, according to Farrow in the docuseriers and backed up by Allen in his memoir, Apropos of Nothing) that he had zero interest in children, raising them, or being a father.
In fact, Farrow had so many children (seven when the couple met), Allen and Farrow kept separate residences at the opposite ends of Central Park in New York City.
According to Farrow, Allen said if she adopted a blond little girl, he might be interested in raising a child with her.
Quote from Farrow in the docuseries: “he said if I wanted to adopt, it wouldn’t ruin the relationship, but he didn’t want anything to do with it.” Mia thought this was fair. “He said I might be more kindly disposed [to the idea of adoption] if it was a little blond girl.” So she went out and found a little blond girl to adopt, so maybe he would “love her.”
What I find infinitely odder than Allen saying he’d love to have a towhead daughter is Mia Farrow intentionally adopting a white baby girl from Texas (Dylan) with blond hair to entice Allen to raise a child with her.
This speaks volumes about Farrow and her need for love and attention from Allen, who had been honest with her by telling her he had zero interest in being a father because his career of filmmaking came first and would always be his first priority.
Mia ended up adopting Dylan. Allen was initially indifferent to the whole thing, but found baby Dylan, according to his memoir, “adorable” and completely fell in love with her, “delighted to be a father.”
People fall in love with their babies every day
Nature and anthropology make us fall in love with what we take care of.
Babies come into this world adorable and smelling good, nature ensuring we pick them up when they cry and scream to be nurtured, we love them despite this because they are so damn cute.
I’m guilty of this. I was wildly in love with my infant daughter when she was born, the smell of her, I’ve probably smelled her head as a child a thousand times. I gave her “intense” attention, which was a small part of the reason my then-husband and I drifted.
Do we have to “believe woman?”
Yes, we do. But that slogan was not a call to believe all women.
Do we have to believe Dylan and Farrow because they are women?
No, we do not.
The “Believe Women” slogan does not mean every single woman, everywhere, has always told the truth, on every occasion, about everything. Not a single feminist believes this. Author Sady Doyle wrote in Elle in November 2017, “Believe women” meant “don’t assume women as a gender are especially vindictive, and recognize that false allegations are less common than real ones.”
In other words, allow yourself to believe that women are just as trustworthy as men have been believed to be for decades.
In video and photos from her childhood, Dylan seems like a detached kid, to begin with (this can be the case with adopted children) even in video and stills before the accusation, again, cherry-picked by the filmmakers and the Farrow family.
For every sullen photo and video included of Dylan, there were twice as many of a laughing and smiling Dylan in videos before the adult Dylan talks in not much detail about the day in question when she says her father sexually molested her in the attic with a house full of people, during a very public and bitter custody battle (the first and only time she remembers).
Add those same “happy” videos after the accusation of molestation, and it’s not a “sullen, withdrawn” kid. I don’t know if the filmmakers intentionally left out the videos of a happy Dylan after the participants describe the alleged incident, but that’s what filmmakers do. They have an agenda, they are telling the story that they want to tell. We are shown the home videos in the order the storytellers want us to see them — the way they lay it out for us. We don’t have access to all the videos in the Farrow library. The filmmakers did. They weave a story the way they want to tell it.
Memory is a funny thing
Towards the end of the docuseries, Dylan says, “He was always hunting me.
At that point in the documentary, Ronan Farrow makes his second appearance and, in a voice-over with footage of Dylan and Ronan at ages five and two respectively, Ronan says he remembers his sister telling him, “I don’t want to be with Daddy. Can we keep playing? Can we do anything other than this?” Meaning anything other than playing with Daddy.
Ronan Farrow is now 33-years-old, and was maybe two at the time, possibly two and a half. He says he remembers this statement from his sister when he was two-years-old.
I find that hard to accept.
How does he remember what his sister said when he was a two-year-old? And what is wrong with a child saying they don’t want to play with their father. If that is indeed what was said, I don’t see anything suspicious about that.
Memories change over time through storytelling, especially the memory of a two-year-old.
What kind of therapist was Mia Farrow paying?
According to Dylan, Farrow tells her, as a six-year-old, that her father took nude pictures of her older sister and that is the reason why she will no longer see your father. One has to question Farrow’s judgment in how she talks to her children about their father after the big revelation of her adult adopted daughter’s affair with her boyfriend.
In the scene immediately before Dylan explains how she found out she wouldn’t see Allen again, Farrow says she memorized the exact words her therapist told her to use when explaining to her children — Ronan included — why they wouldn’t see Allen for a while.
Mia: “It was Dylan’s therapist who told me I had to tell her [Dylan], and also Ronan, and she gave me the words, and I memorized them. And I would rather cut off my arm than have to tell them that.”
The next scene cuts to Dylan talking and saying what her mother told her,
Dylan: “I remember my mom told me and Ronan, “Daddy took naked pictures of Soon-Yi.”
No qualified therapist in their right mind would tell a mother to tell their children the specifics of that kind of revelation. “Daddy took naked pictures of Soon-Yi,” would not be a healthy way of lowering the boom on your two children — ages six and three — for a reason they won’t be seeing Daddy for a while. A qualified therapist wouldn’t use that language to tell a child a huge life change is to come.
I’ve been through an ugly divorce. My child and I have been to many child therapists and mediators. An average therapist worth anything would never in a million years say to memorize, “Daddy took naked pictures of Soon-Yi” as an explanation as to why they won’t see their father for a bit.
A good therapist would suggest leaving that sordid information entirely out of the equation. It is simply too much for children, ages six and three, to comprehend. And not necessary information to include when considering the health and well-being of a child.
What makes Woody guilty — his affair with Soon-Yi
Let’s address what Farrow was furious about (and what upsets people) and in Farrow’s retelling seems to still traumatize her, her partner having an affair with her adopted adult daughter. Yes. While going after your girlfriend’s adoptive daughter is wrong in so many ways, it doesn’t make you a child molester.
A man who has a thing for younger women, Soon-Yi was a freshman in college at the time, doesn’t usually have a perversion for pre-pubescent children. Psychiatrists rarely see the two perversions in a single person. While one has a creepy factor, the other is illegal.
In 1990 Allen began seeing a clinical psychologist about his behavior towards Dylan at Farrow’s suggestion. Farrow thought it odd that Allen paid so much attention to Dylan as a toddler. The psychologist said she thought Allen was “inappropriately intense, that it wasn’t’ sexual, but it could be perceived as sexual by others.” The therapist explained, “he had never been around children, it was his way of expressing affection, and he must learn how to behave with a child,” according to Farrow in the docuseries, this “relieved her anxiety.”
According to Allen, “for years he had assumed full responsibility for Dylan and Ronan as their father” and wanted to adopt them. Mia agreed, and she thought, “it would be great if Dylan had Allen as her dad.” And since he had seen a therapist she was OK with it.
Allen adopted Moses and Dylan on December 17, 1991.
Farrow accepted the explanation from the therapist and Allen’s agreement to seek help and change. She felt so OK with it, she continued her relationship with Allen. Let me say that again, Farrow felt OK with it; she continued her relationship with Allen, Allen continued living with them as their father, and Farrow even agreed to Allen legally adopting Moses and Dylan.
It was only after she discovered that nude pictures Allen took of Soon Yi, that the couple became embroiled in a public war for custody of their three children.
I would be upset, too, if I found out my partner was fooling around with my adult adoptive daughter and took nude photos of her. In fact, I would be devasted.
That is a betrayal no woman should or have to go through or forgive. It is a horrible betrayal of trust by Allen.
Even though Soon-Yi was an adult and Allen was never considered or acted as her father, Allen was a father figure to at least three children in the family. It is wildly unacceptable, what he did is inappropriate. According to other sources, what is to come in the docuseries is more allegations that their relationship started when Soon-Yi was only in high school.
Which is illegal, if true.
I can’t wrap my brain around it or imagine the hurt Farrow suffered from finding nude photos of her daughter taken by her then-boyfriend she considered a life partner. The pain and anguish it caused Farrow, and her entire family are irreversible.
But it doesn’t make Allen a child molester. The one thing doesn’t make the other true.
I’m still reserving final judgment until I watch the other episodes in the docuseries and hear more from Dylan herself.
How Dylan describes what she accuses Allen of in the first episode did nothing to change my mind. In fact, how she retells her story — from an emotional distance and reserve, like an actor remembering lines — makes me question her memory and the truth of what she is accusing her father of.
Right now, I think she is retelling it through the memory of Farrow’s words and prompting. I still think Allen is innocent of what he is being accused of by Dylan and Farrow.
In real-life, divorce is really messy
People lie when they are hurt and angry.
I’ve been lied about by my ex. I was called an unfit mother in court documents. He was mad, so he lied. He was angry because I asked the court to move out of state with my child. As a stay-at-home mother, I couldn’t afford to stay in one of the most expensive cities in the country as a single mom — he wanted out of the marriage to pursue a relationship with another woman. So he lied.
I won the right to move away.
But I had a hard time forgiving my husband for lying on record instead of working with me to find a way for our daughter and me to stay in the state.
I’ve first-hand experience with the depths some will stoop to, to hurt the other party during a bitter divorce and keep the child in their custody. I was on the receiving end of unmerited attacks on my character, and once a lie is said, it takes on a life of its own.
Farrow is clearly angry, and justifiably so.
Would you want an ex-partner to have custody of your child when he is living with and in love with another one of your adoptive children? I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t make up that kind of a lie, but it isn’t unreasonable to think another woman would.
It isn’t unreasonable that Farrow thinks Woody Allen is a monster for marrying her adoptive daughter.
Not unreasonable at all.
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Jessica is a writer, an online entrepreneur, and a recovering type-A personality. She lives in Los Angeles with her extrovert daughter, two dogs, and two cats.