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The idiotic mistreatment of Woody Allen The director's critics don't seem to realise that when you replace law with rage, you destroy your own protections

Woody Allen. Credit: Francois Guillot / AFP via Getty

Woody Allen. Credit: Francois Guillot / AFP via Getty


March 9, 2020   4 mins

Who remembers that Woody Allen was a stand-up comic? He told the moose joke. It was a good one. Now he is involved in something unfunny: his memoir A Propos of Nothing, which the US publisher Hachette announced they would publish next month, has been cancelled after staff walked out.

“We take our relationships with authors very seriously” said a spokeswoman, “and do not cancel books lightly. We have published and will continue to publish many challenging books. As publishers, we make sure every day in our work that different voices and conflicting points of views can be heard.”

She did not address the true cause of the drama: in 1992 Allen was accused of sexually assaulting his seven-year-old daughter Dylan at her mother Mia Farrow’s house in Connecticut. And Dylan’s brother Ronan, a Hachette author who has written on #MeToo, led the protests against A Propos of Nothing. The accusation was a grave one, but there were two investigations, and Allen was neither charged nor convicted. I will not detail the claims and counter claims because this column — like Twitter, like the Hachette offices — is not a court of law.

“Everybody has a right to respond to allegations against them,” said a Hachette employee, “but do we have to pay them God knows how much to do that? Everybody should take responsibility for their actions.”

That is true. I would ask Hachette staff to take responsibility for eroding the presumption of innocence, which is more precious than any empathy, however deeply imagined, because it is the active instrument of empathy. I am surprised presumption of innocence is something these obviously progressive people – they work in publishing, in New York City, after all — would wish away, and so glibly, but there you are. The law is slow to give justice, and often it fails. Twitter, of course, is not.

Allen’s critics say they do not seek to erode the presumption of innocence. They are merely seeking to deny him “a platform”. They probably think that eroding liberal institutions is something for the Trump supporters they despise. They say rather that Allen left his former partner Mia Farrow for her adopted daughter Soon-Yi, to whom he is now married, and so he should not be published, even though this behaviour, though very cruel, was not illegal.  Or they say that his films — Manhattan, Husbands and Wives — sexually objectify very young women, although they seem able to tolerate this in the rest of cinema, which is no stranger to it.

But if you read Allen by his films alone, you could argue that Crimes and Misdemeanours is a call to murder your mistress and Play It Again Sam is a manifesto for only having relationships in which you consult a Humphrey Bogart impersonator for advice. You could say he wants to fill the world with giant walking breasts, as he did in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask).

I do not extend this presumption of innocence to Roman Polanski, because he was convicted of having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977 in America and fled to Europe. He should be in prison, not making films about the Dreyfus Affair (An Officer and a Spy) or demonic books (The Ninth Gate).

Allen’s critics also say that not publishing a book does not amount to censorship, as Allen could run off a few dozen copies of A Propos of Nothing on his printer and distribute them on the streets of Manhattan. I agree it is not censorship, but something as bad: conviction by rumour.

These Hachette employees believe he is guilty of assaulting his daughter. They said so: “We stand in solidarity with Ronan Farrow, Dylan Farrow, and survivors of sexual abuse.” It is interesting that they put the celebrity journalist before the alleged victim. It is insensitive. But they believe it and they seem to believe that they have the right to punish him by destroying what remains of his reputation. Of what this illiberal tendency might do to their own future security they seem not to have considered. The best way to stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual abuse is not to debase the law which is the instrument of that solidarity. Without it, we are left with screaming.

At times like this, I like to quote a passage from Robert Bolt’s play A Man for All Seasons. It was published in 1960, so I doubt the Hachette staff have read it, but it is the best defence of law in the face of insufferable people I have read. It is an imagined conversation between the lawyer Sir Thomas More and his son-in-law William Roper, who, in his idealism and stupidity, could easily work for Hachette in 2020. Here, Woody Allen stands in for the Devil.

Roper: So now you’d give the Devil [Woody Allen] benefit of law?
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil [Woody Allen]?
Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And, when the last law was down, and the Devil [Woody Allen] turned round on you – where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast – man’s laws, not God’s – and, if you cut them down – and you’re just the man to do it – d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil [Woody Allen] benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

This neatly states the problem that arises when you replace law with rage. You destroy your own protections. Your intentions may be noble, but your actions are not. I am less interested in the arguments that bad people make great art, but it’s true, and Hachette staff should remember it, being publishers. Freud likely fucked his sister-in-law. Marx definitely fucked the maid. Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, the greatest painter of the Baroque period, was convicted of murder. But they go on, illiberal liberals, summoning, in their foolishness, everything they should fear.


Tanya Gold is a freelance journalist.

TanyaGold1

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Pip Terry
Pip Terry
4 years ago

I never understand why the evidence of Moses Farrow is never presented or referenced in these articles.
His is a very powerful, moving, plausible and to me at least, convincing testimony that should be every bit as valid as the claims made by Ronan Farrow.

richard steele
richard steele
4 years ago

I am in complete agreement; Mr. Allen has been investigated and has never been arrested or prosecuted for this alleged crime. And, in a further rebuke to the ‘virtual mob’ and their acolytes, I simply can’t fathom why the persecution of Mr. Allen persists. Without a presumption of innocence, we need not bother with trials. We can simply count all the ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ emanating from the vox populi, and destroy a person’s livelihood and reputation. I would like to announce that a ‘platform’ is called a trial, and through that platform, one may determine guilt or innocence. Mr. Allen doesn’t need to demonstrate his innocence; ihe has not been charged with a crime.

Antonia Tejeda Barros
Antonia Tejeda Barros
3 years ago

Why are people in the US so afraid to say out loud that Woody has been falsely accused? People never mention clearly that Woody is a victim of a false accusation. And that’s a crime. To falsely accuse an innocent man is a crime!
Woody’s “case” is more clear that water: he was cleared in 1993 by two investigation teams, Mia Farrow is a crazy woman who abused her (non-White) adopted children -read the words of Soon-Yi Previn & Moses Farrow!- and she was horribly jealous of Woody’s love for Soon-Yi (by the way, Soon-Yi and Woody are together since 1992, so almost 30 years, and have formed a wonderful beautiful family: they have 2 adopted brilliant daughters). Case closed! Since 1993, Mia Farrow (whose career ended -didn’t do anything worth mentioning after Woody Allen masterpieces) has had 1 thing in mind only: to destroy Woody’s reputation (Ronan & Dylan Farrow also are in this horrid & lost quest). I feel sorry for Dylan-the-child (destroyed by her adoptive mother), but repulsion for Dylan-the-adult (a 35 year old woman, who clearly needs a lot of therapy, that has made a career by being a false victim for the past 30 years, only wants fame, poor her, and has a PhD in Tweeting).
When you think about the accusation made up by Mia Farrow against Woody, have in mind: 1) the voices of Soon-Yi Previn and Moses Farrow (who have declared that they were both mentally and physically abused by Mia Farrow); 2) the 2 suicides and 1 death of Mia Farrow’s (non-White) adopted children Tam (she died by suicide), Thaddeus (he died by suicide) and Lark (she died of AIDS, alone); 3) that Mia Farrow’s own brother has been convicted to 10 years for pedophilia (wow, weird, huh?), and neither Mia Farrow, Ronan Farrow or Dylan Farrow, or the media, have ever tweet or even written about it; 4) that in this insane world it’s OK to make a garbage “documentary” accusing Woody of a crime he didn’t commit and to paint Woody (an innocent man, wonderful writer and genius cinema director) as a creep and Mia Farrow (a mediocre actress and an insane vengeful crazy woman) as a saint. And the world reminds silent… I hope that Woody sues these “documentarians”, HBO and the 3 Farrows. This “documentary” should win an Oscar for fiction (genre: Horror).
Woody will always be remembered as one of the greatest filmmakers of all times. In contrast, the three Farrows, the shameful “documentary”, the shameful “documentarians” and all the false accusers would be, with time, remembered as lying snakes. Keep creating, Woody! We love you, admire you, and support you! / Antonia Tejeda Barros, Madrid, Spain.

Sara Williams Willard
Sara Williams Willard
3 years ago

Can someone smart on this thoughtful website explain to me why the human brain has to process wrongs by vilifying the victims? Why the hell is it almost always done against women? And why is it impossible for you Antonia, a woman, to believe that Dylan Farrow might just very well be telling the truth? If you, Antonia, had been one of the lucky millions of women alive today who have experienced sexual assault in their lifetime, you would know in your core that Dylan is speaking the truth, not a fabricated third-party vengeance piece. So what does that mean to turn this around that she, and her mother, are heretics against your religion of Allen art? You should be ashamed of yourself.

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
2 years ago

Who knows why they identify so much with Woody Allen? It’s a bit creepy. For myself, I believe Dylan. Allen is despicable, and so are his defenders.
Stay away from my kids, folks!

Else Verwoerd
Else Verwoerd
1 year ago

For your information: we stopped condemning people based on ‘belief’ quite a while ago. For rather good reasons.
Dylan Farrow is surely a tragic victim of parental abuse. All established facts, all opinions by investigating child abuse experts (working in Dylan’s best interest), the whole of witness testimony, and all legal decisions point firmly at the parent who abused Dylan.
And guess what: it’s not the parent you like to ‘believe’ it is.
Even Mia’s own hired expert, Dr Steven Herman, did not find the evidence convincing. He testified that Mia had likely coached Dylan by ‘setting a tone for a child about how to answer’ to her videotaped ‘interview questions’.
Even Mia’s own attorney, Eleanor Alter, stated that she did not believe the abuse allegation. She said it could all be a product of Dylan’s fantasy.
Enjoy your ‘belief’, that excuses Mia’s deceitful revenge vendetta. There’s more than one person a ‘victim’ of that.

Dan Gleeballs
Dan Gleeballs
2 years ago

Brilliant piece. Thank you for writing it – and for the reminder of Man for All Seasons.

Allie McBeth
Allie McBeth
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Gleeballs

Seconded. I enjoyed that vignette too. How relevant it is today!

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Gleeballs

You obviously did not understand “A Man For All Seasons”
The play was about a vulnerable person standing up to a powerful person despite the consequences.
Dylan was the vulnerable person in that scenario, and she still is.
As far as the importance of the law goes, Allen was found legally unfit to be around his children unsupervised. And despite plenty of witnesses testifying that he did molest his little girl, including the little girl herself, he has never spent a single day in prison.
The law has protected Mr. Allen just fine.
It’s his daughter’s the law failed to protect. As usual.

Lee Jones
Lee Jones
2 years ago

Mental! (The situation etc., not the writer/article, Allen could have made it into madcap comedy).

Antonia Tejeda Barros
Antonia Tejeda Barros
3 years ago

I love, admire and support Woody: https://www.ibelievewoody.com/

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
2 years ago

In what universe was Woody Allen ever sent to prison? I think he is a repulsive child molester, but so what? I can’t send him to prison.
I believe Dylan. I think she is very brave.
Only when someone is given a prison sentence should we demand a criminal conviction.
But I feel under zero obligation to like the grotesque POS or watch his movies.
You do you, Tanya.
But I think he did it, and I think women like you enable bad men – but only if they have power.

Else Verwoerd
Else Verwoerd
2 years ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

The distinction you make is immoral and disgusting. In essence you advocate for extrajudicial punishment or social exclusion for someone you only ‘believe’ to be guilty of a heinous crime, and who on behalf of society has been 100% exonerated. You advocate for mob justice, plain and simple. You entitle yourself to ignoring the clear, unanimous outcome of judicial investigations. You entitle yourself to ignoring the legal decisions made by the criminal court in CT, the custody and appellate courts in NY, and the adoption board in NY. They all concluded that the Farrows’ allegation was NOT credible – yet you want us all to forget that and consider Allen a ‘child molester’, and you love to spread hatred for him.

You are made of the same stuff that the Salem witch trials were made of, the Mormon persecution was made of, the 19th century lynch parties were made of, the Ku Klux Klan was/is made of, the McCarthy witch-hunt was made of, the McMartin preschool allegations were made of. You should be ashamed of yourself.

William MacDougall
William MacDougall
2 years ago

We may not know about the abuse charges, but we do know that he committed incest with his step daughter Soon-Yi. If that’s not illegal, then it’s certainly very wrong, and more than enough justification for his being shunned.

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
2 years ago

These people are protecting their egos, not Woody Allen. They don’t want to admit that they admire a child molester.
They also don’t know the difference between choosing not to like someone or watch his movies, and choosing to throw him in prison.
A criminal conviction is required to imprison someone, not to stop liking them or watching their movies.

Else Verwoerd
Else Verwoerd
2 years ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

I don’t have to ‘admit’ that I defend a child molester for the simple reason that Woody Allen is not a child molester. Only in the minds of those who love to spread hatred for him, in spite of the clear outcome of due process, never legally challenged by anyone.
Right up to the moment when Mia found out about the relationship between Woody and her 21 year old daughter Soon-Yi, Mia praised Woody’s fathering and desired that he adopted Dylan, Moses and Satchel. Mia’s therapist has given sworn testimony that Mia even considered marrying Woody in August 1992, only a few days before Mia would make her abuse allegation, and three weeks after Mia had announced to the world that Woody was now out to molest Dylan.
Just imagine: Mia claiming that Woody was out to sexually molest their young daughter, and three weeks later she considers marrying him, allowing him to be part of Dylan’s family and live with her.
On July 12th, Dylan’s birthday, Mia had put up a note on the bathroom door telling guests that Woody intended to sexually molest Dylan. Three weeks later, she invited him to her house, left him alone with Dylan, and ‘went shopping with a friend’.
Just imagine. Mia called someone a Terrible Child Molester, then invites him to her house, and leaves them alone. How big a Red Flag is that to you?
According to two of Mia’s nannies, Woody spent only 20 minutes in the house before Mia returned. The children, including Dylan, were happily talking in the garden, unpacking presents that Woody had brought. Mia noticed nothing unusual about Dylan. Nor did the nannies tell her about any ‘missing Dylan’. The next morning, a happy Moses, Dylan and Satchel waved daddy bye-bye.
The evening before, Mia had instructed her attorney to stop the custody agreement she had reached with Woody. She had not told Woody about that. It was in the course of the next day that Mia “discovered” Dylan had been abused. Why do you think she had already halted the custody agreement the evening before?
The more you know about the facts, the more you will understand that Mia made a totally vicious, false allegation, in her – ultimately successful – attempt to steal Woody’s three children away from him. Both Woody and Dylan are Mia’s victims, and no one else’s.