The Gaslight District: The Dangerous Precedents Being Set by the Woody Allen Molestation Case
The internet has been permeated with Woody Allen/Dylan Farrow think pieces over the past few weeks. With its level of cultural saturation, some people have actually grown sick of this story.
And they should. Because it’s sickening.
The reporting of this story and its importance in our culture is always met with that great old chestnut: “aren’t there more important things in the world?” These are my reasons why the answer is no. This is what this story means. This is what we face at its hands. This is why this story, the story of Dylan Farrow, is everything.
Dangerous Precedent No. 1: The idea that a victim should not be taken at her word.
This is the most dangerous idea to come out of this whole debacle. That a victim of abuse, an adult whose story remains unchanged, is lying or at the very least telling an implanted untruth. If victims cannot be taken at face value, everything falls apart for every other victim in the future. She is not a victim of abuse; she is a damaged and unstable girl who doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She is not a victim of a father who abused her; she is the victim of a horrible mother who used her against the innocent man. This is disgusting on every possible level.
Dangerous Precedent No. 2: The gaslighting of an understandably emotional mother.
Shortly before his New York Times response, CBS made available its 1992 “60 Minutes” interview with Allen wherein he alleged menacing phone calls, including late-night death threats, and a Valentine’s Day card featuring a needle-packed family portrait with a steak knife plunged into its heart.
Sure, the valentine is freaky, a headline-grabber to be sure. But these efforts to point out Mia Farrow’s insanity, the crazed actions of a woman scorned and left for a younger woman, are also consistent with a woman whose child had just been molested. And not only a woman whose child had just been molested, but a woman whose husband had left her for another one of her children. Why and how are people still excusing that relationship as healthy and acceptable? Why is Farrow made the unreasonable one? Why is the story that she was the abandoned older women left for a younger model? How has that become the narrative?
Dangerous Precedent No. 3: The distinction between adoptive and biological parents.
As pointed out on Twitter by Daniel Mendelsohn, there is a hideously subtle message behind the media’s insistence upon pointing out that Allen is Dylan Farrow’s “adoptive” father. This does not make the act of molestation better or more OK. The presence of a shared DNA does not a parent make. That is her father. When you adopt a child, you become a parent, and by constantly reiterating that Allen is her “adoptive” father, it is not, as I believe they think, good and accurate reporting. It is a damning hint toward acceptance, toward tolerance.
I don’t care where you fall on the Woody Allen innocence spectrum. But this is about much, much more than the funny little guy with glasses getting in trouble. This is about more than what his guilt means for your favorite movies. This is about that 7-year-old girl and all the others like her and what this could mean for all of them going forward.
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