First a Word About Woody Allen and Sex Abuse

As you probably know, Woody Allen’s step-daughter Dylan Farrow accused him of abusing her back in the 1990s. With one of his movies up for several Oscars, she repeated her charges in the New York Times recently.
I’ll be reviewing one of his movies in the next post, so I’ll take a moment to say yes, I would assume he did it. I don’t know if the evidence is enough for me to vote guilty in a court of law (as Echidne puts it, the fact there are far more child-abuse cases than false accusations doesn’t prove anything about a specific charge) but as a private individual, my opinion is Yes.
Other than that I don’t have any deep insight, but one thing I strongly disagree with is the insistence that if you look at Allen’s history it’s screamingly obvious. He dated a 17-year-old when he was in his forties, ergo, child rapist!
Umm, no. Even if dating a 17-year-old in a consensual relationship presses the creepy button, it’s not somehow a logical companion to child abuse. In fact the whole idea that it’s somehow obvious in hindsight feels like the reverse of the “Woody Allen isn’t the child abuser type”—i.e., there must be signs that clearly show his true nature. As if the absence of signs would somehow be a point in his favor. I honestly don’t think so.
That said, given how often Allen’s films reflect his life, it’s hard not to look through them for signs of abuse. And as this Esquire story points out, there are jokes about child abuse in several Allen films.
Does that prove anything? I don’t think so (please note, that’s not to say the jokes are therefore acceptable). As the abuse survivor and writer Louise Armstrong has pointed out, for a long time father-daughter incest wasn’t considered such a bad thing. In the 1950s and 1960s, the prevailing psychiatric view was that it was really quite harmless (it was only the shame society inflicted on the children that made it so traumatic); I’ve read books written much later that explain it’s really rather beautiful, because the father and daughter are seeking comfort in each other’s arms when Mom is cold and bitchy and distant. I still see references to the “incest taboo”; as Armstrong says, taboo isn’t a word for something bad, it’s a word for something naughty. Something you’re not supposed to do but won’t hurt you if it does.
Allen’s certainly old enough to have absorbed that view. Not that it makes the jokes any more palatable, but it’s like the rape joke in Play It Again Sam, something lots of people would have found perfectly acceptable at the time he wrote it.
So maybe the sex abuse references mean nothing. Then again, maybe I’m wrong and it is Allen’s id coming out to play. I imagine I’ll be watching out for possible examples in future movies as I work through his films.

4 Comments

Filed under Movies, Politics, Undead sexist cliches

4 responses to “First a Word About Woody Allen and Sex Abuse

  1. Pingback: I read Jekyll. Now I learn about Hyde | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: Korean Cops, Woody Allen, Monsters and Lonely People: Movies Watched (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: Woody Allen, high society and ex-cons: movies viewed (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  4. Pingback: And just think, these guys get paid for writing about politics and I don’t. | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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