The tangled web of Dylan Farrow v. Woody Allen

Why the sexual assault allegations were never just a family issue

Mark Mainz/AP

Mark Mainz/AP

What’s your favourite Woody Allen movie? Safe to say this is the last question people are pondering amid the toxic debate surrounding resurfaced allegations that the famous director sexually violated his seven-year-old daughter in 1992. And that’s because it was the opening salvo of Dylan Farrow’s harrowing open letter posted on the New York Times website this weekend. Two decades after the alleged assault, which never resulted in criminal charges, Farrow, now 28, confronts her estranged father in a way calculated to be personally devastating to him: she made it professional. Her letter has been criticized for airing such a personal matter in such personal terms. But the opposite, in fact, is true: Farrow shared horrifying, graphic details about the assault, but made it all about business. She removed the line between Woody Allen, artist and Oscar-winning filmmaker, and Woody Allen, alleged pedophile, a man she claims took her up to an closet-like attic and sexually violated her.

Farrow also took on Hollywood for supporting and celebrating Allen’s work over the past two decades. In doing so, she named names—beginning with Cate Blanchett, currently nominated in the best actress Oscar category for her work in Allen’s critically acclaimed Blue Jasmine. Farrow writes: “What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett? Louis CK? Alec Baldwin? What if it had been you, Emma Stone? Or you, Scarlett Johansson?” She also called out Diane Keaton who paid tribute to Allen when he was given a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes in January: “You knew me when I was a little girl, Diane Keaton. Have you forgotten me?” The intent was clear: to render Allen an industry pariah—or at least a political hot potato—by invoking a 21st-century moral McCarthyism that suggests everyone who has worked with him since the allegations two decades and 24 movies ago is an accessory to his crime. It bristled with the potential threat of moral chill destined to dampen Allen’s box office and future casting calls.

As a way to pierce the mercantile heart of Hollywood, currently caught up in campaigning for the sanctimonious popularity contest known as the Oscars, it was a masterstroke. The company that distributes Woody Allen movies, Sony Pictures, quickly issued a press release to salve the damage and pacify Academy voters, who begin their final round of voting on Feb. 14. In addition to Blanchett’s nod, Blue Jasmine is up in the best supporting actress and best original screenplay categories. The statement referred to “a very complicated situation and a tragedy for everyone involved,” before noting Allen “has never been charged in relationship to any of this, and therefore deserves our presumption of innocence.” The film is a “major achievement” of Allen’s career, Sony’s release said, before pointing out the director didn’t make the movie alone: “Films are major efforts of collaboration. There are scores of artists and craftspeople behind Blue Jasmine.” (Read: even if you think he’s guilty, don’t take it out on everyone else.) Sony also has longer-term profits to protect: the Blue Jasmine DVD has just been released and it’s scheduled to handle distribution of Allen’s next movie, Magic in the Moonlight, starring the aforementioned Emma Stone and Colin Firth.

The fact that Allen’s guilt will never be tested in a court of law (the statute of limitations on the case ran out years ago) and that the truth will never known beyond a few people (Allen denies all claims and calls Dylan’s letter “untrue and disgraceful”) is immaterial in this showdown. Allen, and Dylan Farrow, are being tried in the more brutal court of online opinion, a forum designed to confirm cognitive bias. If you want to read a defence of Allen by a colleague, click here. If you want to read why that account is deeply flawed, read here. If you want to understand why what Dylan did was rare and brave, click here. If you want to hear Allen’s lawyer call Dylan a “pawn” who was coached by her vindictive mother during a bitter custody battle, click here. If you want to see Barbara Walters call her old pal Woody a great father, click here. If you want to see the Farrow family riven by conflict, click here. If you want to believe that we’re watching a calculated media campaign by the Farrow family to publicize Mia Farrow’s human rights work and Ronan Farrow’s career, click here. For an itemization of Allen’s creepy long-time obsession with young women and girls click here. And if you want insight into how celebrities routinely get away with sexual assault, click here.

The allegations, revived by a bombshell Vanity Fair article last fall that saw Dylan speak out publicly for the first time, have been given quantum velocity by the Internet, which wasn’t a factor 20 years ago when the alleged assault occurred. Now the murky, complex and contradictory details of the case have been recycled and itemized, with caustic editorializing—taking down not just Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, but colleagues, reporters, friends. Collateral damage mounts by the day, with social media, that id-impulse playground, the battlefield. Earlier this week, Stephen King made a snide comment about Dylan’s letter on Twitter: “Boy, I’m stumped on that one. I don’t like to think it’s true, and there’s an element of palpable bitchery there.” Within minutes, the hashtag #palpabledouchery was trending—and there was a call for a boycott of King’s novels. Even the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has been dragged into the mess. Already, reports are circulating that the scandal could scorch Blanchett’s front-runner status for an Oscars, which is absurd but how the Academy works. (Not that being a convicted sexual offender precludes winning the coveted gold statuette in Hollywood, a town that feasts on young female flesh. Roman Polanski, was nominated three times, winning once, after he pleaded guilty to “unlawful sexual intercourse” with a 13-year-old girl. She would who later write that Polanski drugged, raped and sodomized her.)

Actors dragged into the Farrow v. Allen fray have attempted, in vain, to push the scandal back into the personal realm. Cate Blanchett responded by saying it’s “a long and painful situation for the family,” adding: “I hope they find some resolution and peace.” On Twitter, Alec Baldwin rejected calls for him to comment: “You are mistaken if you think there is a place for me, or any outsider, in this family’s issue.”  But the Farrows v. Woody Allen has never just been a family issue, not 20 years ago and not now. It’s the new American Gothic, a human Rorschach test in a culture that, no matter which side it believes, will never watch a Woody Allen movie in the same way again.


The tangled web of Dylan Farrow v. Woody Allen

  1. Such a he said-she said is impossible to solve. What is indisputable is the fact that Allen left his common law wife/girlfriend, for his wife’s daughter. While he wasn’t legally the father, he was a de facto father, or at a minimum, a father figure. Switching from the father role to the husband role is morally reprehensible. Of course, Hollywood writes its own rules on social conduct so he’s more than welcome at the cocktail party circuit.

    • Celine Dion’s husband was assuredly also a father figure: is their marriage “morally reprehensible?” Truly, I am uncomfortable commenting on this at all, but since you like indisputable facts, it is also true that Mia Farrow’s brother was put in prison last year for molesting children. Are Peter Villier-Farrow’s crimes or Woody Allen’s original relationship to his wife, Soon Yi, really relevant to what is happening now? As much as I hate the public and vengeful aspect of publishing letters to the editor, I also understand why it needs to be public. And no matter what happened between father and daughter, or the mother and daughter, I feel very sad for Dylan Farrow.

      • This comment was deleted.

        • And this is why an online forum is really not the place for any reasoned discussion on this subject. Go troll someone else; I am not biting.

          • Ya, I know….it sucks when someone challenges your analogies.

          • Hey patchouli, I tuned into your “reasoned discussion” on the arrest of the drummer in Harper’s band for alleged sexual assault of a minor. “Stevie and Skeeves”…..funny one! Love it how you chastise people for their comments and then less 24 hours later titillate your friends with disgusting low brow humor, forgetting all about the horror of the subject matter and the fact that real people are involved. Apparently the rules you spout do not apply to you and yours.

      • Celine Dion’s husband was assuredly also a father figure: is their marriage “morally reprehensible?”

        In my eyes – yes.

        • Well, I know you aren’t a troll, Keith, so here goes: some might argue that since he waited until Dion was an adult before pursuing their mutual affection, he was following a commonly held code of morals and respecting her childhood. There is a creepy factor, I will grant you that.

          • As far as we know he followed the legal niceties, but way too creepy for me. He was in a position of authority over her; no different than, say, a teacher dating a former student the moment she turns 18. Not as bad as Allen marrying Soon Yi, and certainly not as bad as what he allegedly did to Dylan, but it certainly makes one question just what, exactly, went before.

            Don’t listen to her music and don’t watch Woody Allen movies… though if I’m being honest, it’s simply because I don’t like what little I know of either her music or his movies – not because of the creep factor. If I actually liked their product, I might find myself in a moral dilemma.

      • Soon Yi Previn was not Woody Allen’s first young girlfriend. When he was 42, he dated a 17 year old.

    • Woody Allen was not Soon-Yi’s father figure. Her father is Andre Previn. Woody Allen never married Mia Farrow, and never lived in the same house as her. His contact with Soon-Yi was minimal till very late in the marriage. Yes, the age gap is kinda creepy, but not unheard of.

      And for what it’s worth, Soon-Yi and Woody appear to be pretty happily married (and have been so for 17 years). Moreover, there is a big difference both legally and biologically between being attracted to an 18 year old (as most men are) and being attracted to a 7 year old (as almost no men are).

      • He dated her mother when she was 10. He impregnated her mother and adopted her little sister but he was hardly around Soon Yi as a kid…right! Just because he lived across the street doesn’t mean Woody and Mia didn’t have a family unit. You think Soon Yi didn’t join the family on outings on for dinner when she was growing up? Also, there is nothing normal about a guy being attracted to his lover’s 18 year old daughter when he is in his mid 50’s.

      • “Woody Allen was not Soon-Yi’s father figure.” No, he was not. He was Soon-Yi’s step-father.

        • No he wasn’t. He and Farrow were never married and were not a common-law couple.

          • He was her step father in all but title.

  2. @anon Common law marriage is not recognized in New York. So he left his girl friend for another woman. They lived in separate apartments. Your assumption that he was a defacto father, or father figure is purely that, an assumption.

    • Yes, he did leave his girlfriend for her barely legal daughter whom he had met and been in very, very close proximity to since she was the age of 10 and he started sleeping her mother. Any way you try to spin this, it is creepy.

  3. Only two people know for sure whether Dylan Farrow was sexually abused by Woody Allen and they are Farrow and Allen. If she was abused, she has every right to have her justice at his personal and professional cost. If she was not, he is getting a raw deal. However, his own actions in seducing her older sister and taking naked pictures of a girl who was his long-time lovers’ very young daughter have made his credibility suspect. He did not behave with the maturity and good sense expected of a father (he actually had children with Farrow) and man of his age. Those in Hollywood are people first. Surely they must see that.

    • He wanted out if relationship. Mia was desperate to keep him. Kid was franks. I know he is not a ped by doing research. He likes girls at peak of fertility not seven yr ild. Case closed.

  4. If this was a Priest or Teacher everybody would be calling for his head and if found not guilty they would still have to suffer the stigma of being accused of such an act. in todays world if a child accuses an elder of sexual misconduct they are to be believed. I think Woody’s supporters are turning a blind eye because he’s an entertainment icon. I say somebody should follow up these allegations again and put the issue to bed one way or the other.

    • Kids lie. Especially in custody cases. There is overwhelming evidence that mia lief

  5. *Triggering*

    I was a kid – you were a man

    My pain is palpable – but only to me.
    I can’t seem to move, to act, to breathe.
    In searching for answers I only find pain
    As old, familiar questions arise again.

    An empty vessel – that’s all I’ve been –
    An empty vessel you stuck your d*** in
    Did you know that you killed me that day?
    Did you know you took everything away?

    That hole you ripped apart inside of me
    Filled up with anger, disgust, self-loathing
    Years I’ve spent abusing myself
    Illicit sex, alcohol, my own personal hell

    You put me there – I was just a kid
    Do you even know what you did?
    How can I make people understand
    I was a kid – you were a man

    You took your time to gain my trust
    Told me I was special, pretty, loved
    You told me it was our little secret
    You told me it was something I’d never forget

    You were right in one respect, I never forgot
    In fact, for me, the abuse never stopped
    I’ve been raped time and time again
    By your memory, my family, other men

    Their refusal to hold you accountable, to make you pay
    Is just like you raping me every day
    When I am here, when I let you in
    I can feel you putting your mouth on me again

    Taking from me everything that was good
    Leaving me shattered, broken, misunderstood
    How can I make people understand
    I was a kid – you were a man

    How did this become my fault, my shame?
    Why do they look at me like I’m to blame?
    No I didn’t stop you or say anything
    How could I, Why would I, I was just a kid

    And you told me you’d kill her, you’d kill me too
    Tell me, please tell me – what was I to do?
    Even now, 30 years later, the price is too high
    It has cost me my family to ask the question “Why?”

    Why they did nothing, why they sided with you
    Why it didn’t matter that I was abused
    It was your reputation we had to protect
    You were the adult, I was just a kid

    An empty vessel with no self-worth
    Left to fend for myself in this hell-on-earth
    This hell you created and left me to
    Please tell me now what am I to do

    In searching for answers, I only find pain
    As old, familiar questions arise again
    How can I make people understand
    I was a kid – you were a man

    Roxine © 2012

    • Sorry this happened! To whatever degree I can empathize, I hear you! I imagine a race of subhumans disguised as men, living among us!

      • Thank you Roxine … my sister died far too young (54) after a life of alcohol and drug abuse caused by a decade of sexual abuse from age 4-14 by her high-profile evangelical Christian uncle. Your poem captures both my sister’s and our family’s situation perfectly! One man’s selfish deviant sexual actions destroyed a child utterly and completely … yet his family, friends and church rallied in the face of perversion because when his victim finally spoke the truth she was already a ‘drunk, slut and liar’ that couldn’t be trusted. Fortunately a supreme court judge believed her testimony and convicted the pedophile (despite spending $500,000 on his legal defence). Sadly, this judicial affirmation of her truthfulness was far too little far too late to save her from a lifetime of destructive behaviours set in motion by being (as you so eloquently said) “An empty vessel with no self-worth …”
        Being the older brother of a sexual abuse victim, I feel your pain, anger, frustration, disbelief and every other emotion you’ve expressed at the blind ignorance of family, friends and church leaders who choose to spurn the victim in order to protect the pervert?!?! I can only wish you the best … shedding the same tears I shed on my sister as the anger and frustration well up inside me at another life ‘killed’ by another f’cking monster. I hope you’ve found people who love and support you now so you can celebrate who you are instead of simply enduring your hell-on-earth. Please live well … you are worth it!!

        • Thank you deBare for your well wishes and for sharing such a painful family history. There are far too many of us out there.

          I am doing well and have a huge support system in my husband and two sons. I broke my silence in 2011 when the Jerry Sandusky case broke and have since started a charity – Tree Climbers – for victims and survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

          TREE stands for Tell, Recover, Educate and Empower

          Our Vision

          A world that relieves victims of the stigma of child sexual abuse, and equips adults with the courage, knowledge and tools necessary to identify and report suspected child sexual abuse without fear of repercussion.

          Our Mission

          To support victims and survivors of child sexual abuse (CSA) and child sexual exploitation (CSE) in their recovery and empower them to use their voices to help other survivors. Tree Climbers is a 501(c)(3) national organization that focuses on both preventative and restorative education.

          Preventative – educating youth organizations, parents, administrators and children on what grooming looks like, the signs and symptoms that a child is being abused, and pedophiliac behaviors to look for in adults

          Restorative – educational scholarships for survivors empowering them to give back to other victims, break their silence and further the dialogue on how pedophiles operate
          You can find out more at our website tree-climbers (dot) org

    • First, studies show that there are no long lasting effect from pedophilia. Having your goo goo touched is not the end of the world. Life is difficult. Period. Get over and stop making excuses. You are a drunk because you lack impulse contol. Stop the witchhunt and you are likely lying

  6. Just another ped.

  7. If there ever was a man more obsessed with his penis, or more neurotic? None come to mind! Guilty or not guilty, his work is obsessive, self involved. Some would argue, his genius!! Sorry to criticize, but I’ve enjoyed hundreds of movies, none were his! I can’t think of any other film maker who has turned me off so completely! That doesn’t prove anything, obviously, but it makes imagining him innocent difficult.

    • Woody is not neurotic. That was his comedy act.
      He was on tv and doing standup. It takes exceptional confidence. His persona in movies was also an act. I don’t know any normal men who would prefer a 30 yr ild women to a 17 yr old.
      Normal guys like young females. Peds and his faggots like hags as beards
      As it is easier to fake.

  8. This is not just a “he said, she said” story. Moses Farrow has attested to the fact that Mia sought to poison the family against Woody after they broke up. He was also present on the day when Dylan was supposedly raped, and indicated that it would have been impossible for Woody to have gotten Dylan alone.

    When police investigators talked to Dylan, they found huge inconsistencies in her story, and strongly believed she had been coached. That is precisely why they dropped the story.

    Some people say “there are only two people who know what happened”. I agree – the sad truth is that those people are Woody and Mia. Dylan probably now believes the fantasy that her mother wove into her then-7 year old brain. It is understandable that Mia was bitter in 1992. Nonetheless, I suspect her entire family would be better off today, had she not waged this pointless vendetta.

    Let’s save our ire for the real predators in Hollywood, like Roman Polanski.

    • Moses Farrow has changed his stories. He is not credible.

      A family court judge believed Dylan was abused, exonerated Mia, and Allen lost custody. That speaks more than anything Woody’s lawyers can say.

      • A mother getting custody of children – yeah that never happens. Also Moses changing his story is entirely relevant, since MIA’S INFLUENCE WAS THE REASON FOR HIS ORIGINAL STORY. That tells us everything about how Mia poisoned her kids against Woody.

  9. Allen’s guilt WAS tested in a court of law – family court. He lost. He had to pay over $1 million in Farrow’s legal fees and lost custody of Dylan. When he appealed to the Supreme Court, he lost that, too.

    • Michael Ignatieff also lost custody of his kids in his divorce (women win sole custody 60% of the time, and that was probably higher in 1992). Does that mean any negative claim against him during the divorce is true – no. Woody Allen probably wasn’t a good candidate for father of the year ca. 1992.

      If there was a serious criminal case against Woody Allen, it would have gone to trial. Is he a powerful guy? Sure. But so is Mia. Look up the net worth of Allen and Farrow – it’s about the same. And Mia could call upon friends like Ol’ Blue Eyes. The idea that Woody’s influence prevented a trial is ridiculous.

      • Why throw the red herring of Michael Ignatieff in this discussion? We’re discussing Woody Allen and Dylan Farrow The judge believed there was probable cause that Dylan was abused, and also stated that Woody Allen was inappropriate with the child.

        • And he also complained that Woody didn’t personally bathe the children.

  10. For goodness sake people – this is a man who thinks it is ok to sleep with his daughters. There are no shades of grey here. Shame on anyone who thinks otherwise.

    • Huh? Allen has never slept with his daughters. If you’re referring to Soon-Yi, she is NOT his daughter and he was never a father figure to her.

    • She was not his daughter. He had no nterest in
      Her until mia told him to take her to basketball games.
      Btw, paedophilia does not equal incest

  11. I personally believe Woody Allen should be treated like a pedaphile and should be on a sexual offenders list. He should be shunned by Hollywood, not enamoured.
    He as sick and twisted as Roman Polanski. Scarlett Johansen et al should be ashamed of promoting the career of such a man but hey it’s all about the money isn’t cate, isn’t it Alec. Would you be so quick to praise or work next to someone in your neighborhood with such a past.

  12. Do the actual details of the accusations — that he put his finger on her vagina in the attic and touched her bottom while lifting her up a bunk bed ladder — matter here?

    • From a seven yr old who changed her story 9 times.
      Woody has been in therapy all his life and allowed the police to look at the therspists notes.
      Its ridiculous to believe her. Mia was homicidal and telling the nannies to support her version.
      Deeper you look the more obvious his innocense is. Dylan knows he did not
      Molest her. She is a loser who wants fame and a scapegoat for being a failure.

  13. Woody likes girls at the peak of their fertility ie17.
    He risked his family and career for adult love. He is the opposite of a pedophile.
    There is zero chance he molested dylan. She is lying for fame and money.
    Mia tried to get 8 million for allowing woody access to dylan.
    Woody should sue mia and anyone else who suggests he is ped

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