Monday, February 3, 2014
Celebrity Games Farrow Sex Abuse Claim
If he was anybody else, would he be a free man?
This past Saturday, the New York Times published an open letter from Dylan Farrow to fans of her famous father, Woody Allen. Farrow, now a married woman, was seven years old when she claims Allen raped her at her mother's house in Connecticut. At the time, her mother, Mia Farrow, tried to have charges brought against Allen, but authorities never indicted him because of, they claimed, a lack of evidence. Now, after Allen was bestowed with the Golden Globes 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award last month, critics have been clucking about all of that nasty unfinished business back East with the daughter Allen adopted with Mia.
Oh - and Allen's improbable affair with Soon-Yi Previn, Mia's adopted daughter with a former husband.
Confused yet? Disturbed? Or mildly bemused by the travails of one of Hollywood's less functional leading families?
For Dylan's part, as the professed victim of child abuse by Allen, this appears to be as good a time as any to remind the world that justice has not yet been served. On the other hand, if Allen is correct in his denials, which he repeated again after the Times piece went viral, then it's just another weird day in the perverted life of one of America's most popular movie producers. After all, is there such a thing in Hollywood as bad publicity?
Say what you will about circumstantial evidence and Woody Allen's guilt involving child sexual abuse, he's got the law on his side, and it's a quandary as to how we prove one side to be telling the truth, and the other isn't. Innocent until proven guilty, remember? Child abuse allegations are notoriously difficult to prove, and when you've got an "untouchable" celebrity even more highly worshipped than a Penn State assistant football coach, prosecutors want iron-clad proof before walking the gauntlet of court reporter cameras.
And what of mother Mia's culpability in whatever might have happened to Dylan? Back in the 90's, I had a friend who lived in her building, the ritzy Langham, on Central Park West, and she said Farrow's apartment was teeming with children. She'd adopted some, and borne some, both with husbands she'd married and men, like Allen, that she'd bedded. An actress in the fullest extent of the term "dramatic," it's no secret Mia married around - and then slept around - until she'd get a better offer from some other man. Men the likes of Frank Sinatra, no less, and award-winning classical musician Andre Previn. No wonder her kids never attached emotionally to the "father-figures" in their lives. The paternal turnover Mia cultivated for her brood presented a perfect environment for a sexual predator, if that's indeed what Allen was, and/or is.
It's hard to see how that's not in doubt. After his 12-year affair with Mia, whom he never married, Allen left with another of her adopted children, a supposedly orphaned waif from South Korea who is approximately 36 years his junior. At the time, the absurdity of Allen's chutzpah made waves, but his celebrity soon twisted a sort of justification out of it. Yes, his sexual prowess (Previn became Allen's fifth "official" partner, and his current wife) proved to be a deviant spectacle, but it also provided a form of entertainment for Allen's fans. Maybe in our lives, you and I couldn't get away with what he does, but the fact that he can and we can't apparently makes him worthy of some sort of following.
After all, people rationalize, he's such a gifted movie producer.
Meanwhile, in my own form of protest to the sacrilege he's made of the covenant of marriage, I've never been to a Woody Allen movie since the story broke about his sexual pursuit of at least one (if not two) of Mia's adopted daughters. Allen's should be the bizarre charade of respectability that society shuns! But instead, people think I'm the weird one for saying that! I should join with society and separate Allen's vulgar libido from his cinematic prowess, since after all, none of us is perfect.
So, at what point does the general public become complicit in the sins of those whom we put on pedestals?
I have to admit: I don't get the whole fan/celebrity/hero worship stuff in our culture. I once read a prominent Christian preacher claiming that we all need heroes, and I recall rebutting out loud, "says who?!"
Heroes may exist. Or, to be specific, people with heroic qualities may exist. Shucks, theologians call the 11th chapter of the book of Hebrews an honor roll for "heroes of the faith." But while people to whom we ascribe the mantle of hero may exhibit traits we'd like to emulate ourselves, or are otherwise noteworthy, who says we're to let people get away with crimes or immorality just because of their celebrity status? God didn't let Sampson get away with anything, did He? How about King David, and his immorality with Bathsheba? So why do the rest of us worship heroes and grant them such impunity?
Does the Gospel of Christ fudge a special dispensation if Woody Allen is the best movie producer Earth has ever seen? Good grief: even if officials in New York and Connecticut can't validate Dylan's claims, and even though society gives our Hollywood stars far more moral leeway than we should, in what other profession could Allen have been so openly able to have sex with his biological son's stepsister? Even many evangelicals who bristle in disgust at gay marriage openly admire Allen, despite his fornication with the adopted daughter (possibly two) of one of his ex-wives. Am I the only evangelical who isn't so attached to our movie culture that he's been able to intentionally and happily not attend another Allen film? Mine is not a grand sacrifice or ornery critique, is it? I mean, good grief: forget about however much the unsaved world values it; is entertainment THAT important to us evangelicals?
And Philip Seymour Hoffman? Truth: I'd never heard of him until yesterday, after news of his suicide broke. I learned on a local radio station this morning that he was in "Twister," a really bad movie I saw years ago. But on Facebook, I've had supposedly evangelical friends grieving his loss, and I don't get it. I truly don't. Not that it isn't a tragedy that somebody was so miserable, despite apparently being so successful and popular, that they took their own life. But doesn't even Hoffman's suicide point to the triviality of success and popularity? Okay, so I don't follow the movie business and its personalities, but obviously, it doesn't necessarily matter to celebrities when millions of people do.
There's more to life than Hollywood, people! Even Hollywood people know that to be true, right?
Unfortunately for Dylan Farrow, she's forever tainted by the dubious credibility of her adoptive mother, Mia. By all of our society's conventional standards of morality, decency, and virtuous parenting, it's hard not to argue that Mia was a lousy mother, at least back before and up to the early 90's, when the abuse allegations first went to court. And as much as I hate to admit it, Dylan's story lacks credibility because her upbringing hinges on who her parents were, and the lifestyle to which they exposed their children, and how disruptive it likely was for their own nurture and emotional development as juveniles. I read Dylan's letter in the Times, and part of me feels deep sorrow for her and what she likely endured. Yet, at the same time, part of me hears what I imagine to be the manipulative, conniving, self-perverted, publicity-craving, narcissistic Mia Farrow in the background; man-crazy in more ways than one.
Not that Dylan deserved anything that happened to her. But how much of her childhood was embellished by a mother who obviously had personal motivations to harm him whom Dylan identifies as her violator?
Legally, of course, we're at a typical "he said - she said" dilemma, even if the stronger anecdotal evidence and negative personal history aren't in Allen's favor. In the court of public opinion, Dylan may receive more sympathy, but at least for us evangelicals, the court of public opinion is not one in which we can base our assumptions and verdicts. Even if we want to.
This is part of the evil of pedophilia, isn't it? The difficulty in determining guilt and innocence? It's most of the reason why society lets people like Woody Allen get away with it, even if Allen is indeed, at least in Dylan's case, innocent. Allen's celebrity is what, for his fans, further diffuses such allegations into mere gossip fodder.
So, what's the fix? Perhaps a comprehensive fix will remain elusive, thanks to the perniciousness of sin, and the vile gullibility of society's narcissists. But one thing we can do, even if it will seem counter-cultural to most evangelicals. We can stop idolizing people. Stop with the hero-worship. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be. How much do you treasure our society and its pleasures? How commanding a presence are movies - and pop culture in general - in your life?
People like Dylan are writing letters to the New York Times, pleading for respect and justice. And only people with as famous a pedigree as Dylan's are getting published, so even there, publicity tends to go only to the people you and I designate as worthy recipients of it.
That gives criminals like child molesters all the cover they need.
Are you a Woody Allen fan? If you are, how narrow-minded might you be to exclude yourself from blame?