Wednesday, February 5, 2014

CRIMES: "These are serious allegations and they should absolutely be taken seriously."  Molly Lambert wrote that Tuesday about the horrific criminal actions Woody Allen is alleged to have committed against his seven-year-old daughter, and it's that seriousness which has both chilled me against writing about them—both because we tend to be profoundly anti-serious here and because I don't know that I can write as thoughtfully and completely as these allegations require—but also compel me, as a longtime Allen fan and as a father, not to stay silent.

My liberalism tugs at me here in opposite directions: a commitment to the presumption of innocence and due process rights of the accused, but also a recognition of the profound legal and psychological barriers which victims of sexual violence face in seeking justice. We see it in the viciousness of the attacks already being launched against the victim's mother, though the core theory of Allen's defense is plausible, and supported by one of her siblings. It's certainly possible that while Allen's behavior was (at a minimum) creepy as to his now-wife, it was never criminal towards his daughter, and that he has no way to ever prove his innocence.

But it's also certainly possible that he is factually and morally guilty, regardless of what the criminal justice system has (not) done. It's more than possible. It is indefensible to deny that possibility; indeed, Allen's own films have explored the lives of those who escape accountability for horrible crimes. I don't believe his staunchest defenders, or his supporters for that matter, can say anything stronger than "more likely than not."

What does this mean? I can only speak personally here; I have no moral authority or special insight on how anyone else should respond. But I think it's incumbent on Allen to speak publicly and completely, and for his supporters to speak with more compassion for his daughter and all potential victims of sexual violence. This is not a topic about which one can be glib, or handle in 140-character snippets, and I suspect there is little we will learn from here on out which can resolve our doubts satisfactorily. As far as the whole "can you separate the art from the artist?" stuff, I'm not inclined to make any broad pronouncements here other than that I can't envision letting Lucy see Take the Money and Run or any of his other films, though she's surely ready. It may be deeply unfair to Allen to take these renewed allegations seriously, but it's even more unfair to his daughter to not take them seriously, no matter how entertaining we find him to be. Some things matter more than laughter.


  1. The Pathetic Earthling1:05 PM

    I'm certainly not an Allen fan in any broad sense, although I always did like "Take the Money and Run" and "Sleeper" -- but if his movies are a commentary on his own life, I can't help to think of Max Von Sydow commenting that particular wise man, if he knew what was going on, "Would never stop throwing up."

  2. Genevieve1:49 PM

    Thanks, Adam.

  3. Genevieve1:51 PM

    Thank you, Adam.

  4. Jason Carlin1:53 PM

    Thanks for that, Adam. I've been running through the same thoughts since I read Dylan's account.

  5. Adam C.4:00 PM

    I'll join in the thanks for posting this, as it's been weighing on my mind too. And we may soon see just how completely he's willing to speak -- the NYT is considering printing a response from Allen as an op-ed:

  6. Christy in Philly4:18 PM

    I have never watched a Woody Allen film and I did not watch the tribute to him on the Golden Globes, as I found his marriage to Soon-Yi reprehensible. Dylan's accusations only add to my issues (I'm not sure I was aware of them before Ronan tweeted about them). I mentioned my "Woody Allen gap" in these comments at some point in the past and frankly, felt that people thought I was absurd. Someone responded, "Do you also boycott movies with Morgan Freeman?" and then linked me to the creepiness of the relationship with his granddaughter. I haven't seen a Morgan Freeman movie since. I'm not even sure I've watched Shawshank, which is one of my favorites. I'm fortunate enough not to be in the one/five women who have been sexually assaulted but I know enough women who have been and who feel powerless against their abusers/ attackers. My disgust with Woody Allen continues.

  7. Scott_DC6:23 PM

    This is not directed specifically at Adam, but more general based on what I've observed over the last week: where is the outrage and moral indignation about these accusations? Why has there been no rush to punish not only the accused, but all of the other people and institutions related to Woody Allen? I can't help but compare this to the Jerry Sandusky scandal, where because of his actions, multiple people were fired or prosecuted, a legendary coach had hundreds of wins removed from his record, and a football program was crippled by draconian sanctions on questionable authority (n.b. this blog said such sanctions were "not enough," leading to likely the most commented-upon thread ever). How come no one is calling for them to strip all of Woody's Academy Awards? Maybe MGM, who owns the rights to most of Allen's films, should pay an enormous fine and be ineligible for Oscars for two years? Shouldn't someone investigate whether anyone else in Hollywood knew about Allen's actions towards Dylan and covered it up? It can't be solely because of a lack of prosecution or due process, can it? Maybe I'm way off base here, but I just think that all of the arguments I read about how horrible Sandusky was and it was the "culture of college football" and the money-making machine that caused people to turn a blind eye to it would equally apply to Hollywood. Do we love movies so much that we will look the other way when accusations are made against the Allens, the Polanskis, the Freemans, the Cosbys of the world?

  8. Melissa R.7:02 PM

    I would say there are some big differences between the Woody Allen scandal and the Penn St. scandal. For one, we hold our universities to a higher standard than we do Hollywood. As well we should. For better or worse, we are used to scandals and what many would consider reprehensible immoral behavior from celebrities (exhibit A: Michael Jackson). Also, Penn State has an uncomfortable worship-like culture for football that contributed to the problem there and children were assaulted on their property. I don't think anyone's saying Allen assaulted her on set while the prop guy ran away.

    The reason there is not a call to action against Woody Allen associates, MGM, etc. has nothing to do with due process. When has the court of public opinion EVER waited for that?

    -Melissa R

  9. Jim Bell12:23 PM

    I hope whoever is right in this gets fair treatment and justice whether they be a sexually victimized seven year old or a falsely accused daughter marrier, or some other combination or possibility.

    I am not a fan of Allen's later work, with limited exceptions, but I will not censor them from myself or others (read Amelia) on the basis of what did or did not happen. And as those of you who know me also know, I never would, and find it difficult to comprehend, why you all seem to feel so differently about boycotting art or even pop culture (where they differ, if they differ) because of the actions, crimes or point of view of the artist. Off the Wall is still a spectacular Album, ditto Thriller. Billie Jean makes my feet move. And, Braveheart is an awesome movie "He thinks she see's him". And Led Zeppelin IV, Black Dog stirs my soul, and that horrible excuse for a human being on 30 Rock, the Baldwin, he's freaking hilarious. I'll keep watching all the scandalized artists for all of you. Heck, I may sit down and watch Shawshank for Christy tonight, I feel so bad for her and the Morgan Freeman boycott. Poor Christy will never again be able to hear the narration voice of God, see penguins, watch that ("beloved" in Gaelic) boxer chick get paralyzed, etc.

    I think we better not even talk about classical music or sculpture or painting or there'd be a whole lot of art treasures lost to the world, or fiction writers, we'd lose major hunks of the western canon, that is if we were to boycott people who don't agree with us, or who are crazy, or who commit unspeakable acts.

    We might boycott all foods made with petrochemical fertilizers because the inventor of synthesized ammonia (Fritz Haber) also invented a series of powerful wartime and peacetime poison gases that the Germans used in the first and second world wars, and one of which became the gas used in the death camps. Some count him the "father of chemical warfare", Count me out on the boycott, I like eating strawberries in the winter.

    I think you're all wonderful. Every one of you that I know I either love and respect or like and respect, you can sort yourselves out. I just think you're all off base on this boycott/censorship thing -- Innocent or Guilty, I don't care.

  10. Scott_DC1:08 PM

    These are good points, thanks. I am still working out how I feel about all of this; it's obviously very complicated. I understand that universities (i.e., the actual institution of higher learning) should be held to a higher standard, but I think college football - the entertainment business - is closer to Hollywood than you think. And in fact, I think Michael Jackson is a good example, too - I STILL see people on the streets of my city wearing "R.I.P. Jacko" t-shirts, etc. The hero worship there far exceeds PSU football fandom and yes, I think Jackson's status as King of Pop helped him get away with a lot of things. (And as noted here and everywhere, Allen's celebrity may have allowed him to do the same, but we don't know for sure.) What I'm trying to get at and work through is whether there's something about Woody Allen or his art or alleged genius or whatever that is causing a ton of people to immediately either assume the accusations are wrong or downplay them where they were quick to condemn a Sandusky or whoever else (even at the accusation stage).

  11. Adam B.2:22 PM

    Sure: there's an emotional connection to Allen that non-PSUers lacked as to Sandusky/Paterno. And Allen fans now are folks who were able to accept the Soon-Yi thing by categorizing it as "creepy"; to admit the possible truth of the molestation allegations requires one to rethink that assessment and accept the possibility that he's been depraved and inappropriate for years right in front of our faces.

  12. Adam C.2:22 PM

    I should add that last weekend, we saw THE HUNT, which is nominated for a best foreign film Oscar this year, and coincidentally deals with (from one perspective) a very similar premise. It was searing and unrelenting and powerful and unforgettable, with outstanding performances (including Mads Mikkelsen in the lead), and in many respects I hope I never see it again because of how discomfiting it is.