Allen v. Farrow

HBO’s Allen v. Farrow documentary begins with footage of Woody accepting an honorary Oscar smack dab in the middle of the #metoo Hollywood era. We hear his daughter, Dylan Farrow, describe what she felt watching her abuser celebrated by a cultural elite that has supposedly awakened to the horrors of powerful men in the arts exploiting vulnerable women.
The series portrays Mr. Allen as a manipulative predator who expertly crafts vile narratives that weaponize our society’s profound misogyny. Assuming an earnest demeanor, Allen takes control of the media to deliver a one-two punch that invalidates his daughter’s trauma while painting Mia as a vengeful, deluded harpy.
We learn about Woody’s well-documented penchant for dating high school girls, including Christine Engelhardt (just after Sleeper), Stacey Nelkin (during Annie Hall), and his step-daughter, Soon Yi Previn. His 8-year affair with a 16 year-old Engelhardt began in Allen’s early forties; both she and Stacey claim to have inspired the Mariel Hemingway character in “Manhattan.” Oh, yeah: Hemingway also describes Woody’s attempts to seduce her after the movie wrapped; she was 17, and her parents urged her to cash in on the Parisian invite.
These days I find myself wondering if humanity’s greatest frailty lies in our unwillingness to call out cruelty. While I understand the importance of redemption and reconciliation, a key condition for making such repairs is the ability for perpetrators to honestly own their transgressions — and for witnesses to stop making excuses for charming bullies.
I find myself magnetized by accounts of celebrated bad behavior — including Mia/Woody, the royal family, assorted Supreme Court justices — because they illustrate how abuse amplifies to an agonizing pitch when survivors lack clear support from family, community, the criminal justice system and society as a whole.
I await a moment, perhaps it will feel like a tremendous sigh, that clearly expresses collective will to let go of excuses and lies. Social spin will slow. There will be a stillness.
We will feel a hum of empathy, respect, and dedication to dismantling systemic distortion and lies that tolerate, enable, perpetuate and support the worst among us.