Regarding Woody Allen and Dylan Farrow, I have no idea what happened between them. And neither do you or any of the pundits, celebrities, columnists, lawyers, abuse survivors, tv talking heads, magazine editors, bloggers, former girlfriends, siblings, former maids or documentarians weighing in on the matter. And for the record (and at the risk of sounding like an Allen apologist), Mia Farrow doesn’t know beyond the shadow of a doubt what actually happened either. We only know what was alleged. The only two people on earth who know what really occurred are Woody Allen and Dylan Farrow. And 20 years on their accounts may be (may be) colored by the shadows of time and the fog memory. But this blog isn’t necessarily about what may or may not have taken place 20 years ago between a father and his daughter or the timing of the allegation resurfacing or any of the possible motivations of anyone involved. This is about the willful hypocrisy we engage in when it comes to celebrities and celebrity culture; who we choose to celebrate and who we choose to vilify.
I’m not claiming to have any special knowledge or great insight into this story but I think there’s something that needs to be pointed out here. While what seems like the entire internet is calling for Woody Allen’s head on a platter or a boycott of his films because he may have sexually abused his daughter, we as a society are more than willing to embrace certain other celebrities and their work even though they have proven, documented criminal histories. Consider:
Snoop Dog: drug dealing, prostitution. Now one of the world’s biggest and most beloved hip hop artists. He recently performed at the White House.
Ice T: drug dealing, prostitution, assault. The writer of Cop Killer is now one of television’s biggest stars playing… a cop.
Mark Wahlberg: robbery, assault. Now a world-wide box office star as both an actor and producer.
Tim Allen: drug trafficking. TV’s most beloved (and richest) dad since Bill Cosby, was caught with 650 grams of cocaine.
Ray Lewis: obstruction of justice (tried for murder and aggravated assault). Won a super bowl and is now loved by millions as one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history. And he’s a lock for the NFL Hall Of Fame.
Jay Z: drug dealing. Now an entertainment mogul: producer, rapper, entrepreneur. Married to one of the most famous women on the planet.
Robert Downey Jr: arrested for driving drunk and possession of cocaine, crack, heroin and a Magnum revolver in 1996. Sentenced to three years probation. Ended up violating his probation and was sentenced to six months in prison. Arrested in 2000 for possession of cocaine. He’s Iron Man now.
The list goes on: Robert Mitchum, Merle Haggard, Kid Rock, Mike Tyson, and many, many more.
Just to be clear, I’m not making any moral judgements about these people or about Woody Allen for that matter. I love Robert Downey’s work, I listened to a ton of Snoop Dog and Ice Cube in high school, I was a huge Mike Tyson fan and I thought Mark Wahlberg was great in Boogie Nights, so I suppose I’m as big a hypocrite as anyone else in this. So it begs the question: Why do we choose to glorify and enrich some celebrities who have been accused of crimes, been found guilty in court and served prison sentences, while we jump at the chance to publicly vilify and indict other celebrities who are accused but not charged, are not tried and serve no jail time?
My suspicion is that in this instance it’s because of the specific accusation. Child sexual abuse is horrible enough and the mere idea that it could involve a parent and their own child is stomach-churning, to say the least. It’s hard to wrap our heads around the idea that someone could do that to any child, let alone their own. Those who are guilty of such a thing deserve to be flushed from this world. And if it is one day proven that Woody Allen did abuse his daughter he deserves the most severe punishment possible. But in this case the allegation was never proven. There was no arrest, no trial, no conviction, no sentence passed. Quite unlike the other cases I mentioned. In addition, Allen has kept largely silent on the matter for two decades, in stark contrast to those who committed their crimes, and (at least with Ice T and Snoop Dog), bragged about them and then profited from their actions.
Perhaps our willingness to forgive and forget the crimes of some celebrities is because they had justice meted out to them in the form of jail time or probation or a temporary loss of fortune and privilege. Maybe it’s because their stories epitomize the essence of American ingenuity and redemption. Maybe it’s because Americans will forgive almost anything as long as one apologizes sincerely enough and often enough and in the right way. Or the product one sells is of broad enough appeal that a marketing machine will be able to sanitize one’s image to make him/her acceptable to the general public. Considering that, maybe Woody Allen should apologize. Maybe release a statement that he’s sorry for all the hurt and upheaval this drama has caused his estranged family. Perhaps pen an open letter to Dylan Farrow expressing contrition and regret for whatever role he may have played in his daughter’s pain. Maybe even offer to donate all the profits from his remaining films to fight against child abuse and exploitation. Not just for Dylan Farrow’s sake, so that she may come to some sort of resolution, but for all of us so that we may satisfy our own need for moral equilibrium. So that we can move on and forgive Woody Allen and any other pop culture icon for their alleged misdeeds, just as we’ve come to forgive and embrace those who affected and quite possibly ruined lives with their past (yet proven) crimes and misdemeanors.