Woody Allen is not Harvey Weinstein, but he is sometimes treated almost as if he were.
Weinstein, the prominent film producer, was arrested in May 2018 and charged with raping a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and forcing a sex act on a different victim in 2006. He is awaiting a September trial under a $1 million bond.
At least 80 women have made allegations of sexual misconduct against Weinstein. He was the spark for the #MeToo movement, which has emboldened many other women to come forward with distressing stories of sexual violence, harassment and abuse.
Allen, on the other hand, has not been charged with a crime. But prominent actors have expressed regret for appearing in his movies in the past and vowed never to work with him again.
In June 2018 Amazon cancelled a four-movie, $68 million deal with Allen because, Amazon said, of “supervening events, including renewed allegations against Mr. Allen, his own controversial comments, and the increasing refusal of top talent to work with or be associated with him...”
And last week The New York Times reported that at least four major publishing houses have taken a pass on a full-manuscript memoir by Allen “because of the negative publicity that working with Allen may have generated.”
Some publishing executives reportedly “used the word ‘toxic’ when describing the challenges of working with Allen in the current environment.”
Again, Allen is not Weinstein, but in a way that is different from the way in which former-senator Al Franken is not Kevin Spacey. Franken and Spacey both deserve the attention of the #MeToo movement, which has correctly called out bad behavior (Franken) and very, very bad behavior (Spacey) by powerful men who have exploited their access to young people with much less power.
But in some respects, the allegation against Allen falls outside of the parameters of the #MeToo movement altogether and is much worse than anything Spacey or Weinstein was charged with. It involves a child. Allen was accused of molesting, in 1992, his 7-year-old adoptive daughter, Dylan Farrow. It’s hard to imagine acts more despicable.
However, the circumstances surrounding the incident are in considerable dispute. Their complexity precludes a thorough discussion here beyond these bare facts:
At the time of the allegation, Allen and Mia Farrow were involved in an acrimonious divorce. Farrow accused Allen of molesting Dylan. An investigation of the allegation conducted by the Yale-New Haven Hospital concluded: “It is our expert opinion that Dylan was not sexually abused by Mr. Allen.” The state of Connecticut declined to press charges.
On the other hand, Dylan Farrow has been unswerving in her allegation that Allen molested her, and she credibly argued her case in a December 2017 Los Angeles Times article entitled “Why has the #MeToo revolution spared Woody Allen?”
I decline to take a position on Allen’s guilt or innocence. Contrary to Attorney General William Barr’s fuzzy thinking about the law, the failure to file charges against Allen does not constitute exoneration.
Nevertheless, it’s worth remembering that Allen is a tempting target for many people for reasons having little to do with the allegation. Some people just don’t like his movies. Fair enough.
But I suspect that much of the antipathy for Allen stems from his romance with Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn. Allen was 56 when it began and Soon-Yi was about 22. Some people find such a tryst tacky and tasteless. Their point is well taken.
But this is how Allen put it: “The heart wants what it wants. There’s no logic to these things. You meet someone and you fall in love and that’s that.” Allen and Soon-Yi have maintained a conventional and apparently happy marriage for almost 22 years.
So the Soon-Yi issue should have no bearing on this case. But the presumption of innocence and the right to privacy should. And we should be careful to ensure that the very necessary and worthy #MeToo movement exercises the wisdom and judgment to discriminate between the deeply guilty and the merely accused.