I posted this before I read it. This is a situation I’ve been familiar with since I read Mia Farrows “What Falls Away” in 1999.
My father and I took a road trip to go pickup my sister from college the year before, we spent the night there…I stayed in the living room and couldn’t sleep.
I looked through a box of videotapes for something to watch and found “Rosemary’s Baby” which I hadn’t seen since high school.
I turned it on and watched it…amazed at the skill of Polanski. How sure the camera was. The script seemed to be very tight. Exceptionally so. But it was Mia that truly dazzled me. I was in awe of her. She was beautiful, and this energy she had was leaping off the screen. I could see her spirit, her aura.
Within a few weeks I had watched the film again a few times, then I bought Ira Levin‘s book. Reading the book after studying the film…I saw how closely Polanski followed the text…I had never seen a film mirror a book like that before.
As soon as I heard Mia had written a book, I went out and bought the hardcover.
Read it quickly, brought it with me everywhere I went and soaked up her memories and recollections.
I was a bit familiar with Woody Allen before this from his films, primarily “Hannah And Her Sisters” from 1986 and “Manhattan” from 1979. As far as his personal life went, I knew he and Mia Farrow had once been together…and that Allen married Farrows daughter after being accused of sexually abusing her.
Dave was the manager of the bar I worked at, and Dave was a Woody Allen fan.
We went back and forth over his innocence and guilt, how I thought he was a fucking dirty bastard that made great films and Dave thought Allen was a great filmmaker that fell in love with a woman (15 at the time) who happened to be the adopted daughter of his girlfriend, and that the girlfriend was simply jealous and leveling accusations at him.
Now I love Dave. Great guy. But I thought he was wrong, then I read the book. Then I read about Dylan.
At this point in time, Farrow carefully brought up what her youngest daughter had recently told her Allen had been doing to her. Allen denied. He was and is quite powerful. Frank Sinatra said he would break Allen’s legs if I remember correctly.
Now again, this is years ago, but seeing the headline
“An Open Letter From Dylan Farrow” last night gave me flashbacks. I knew exactly what I was about to read, I applauded her courage in my mind and before I could finish the first paragraph of the letter, I put it up on my blog…Voices: FILM & TV… and also sent it out to Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Google + and Path. I wanted to help get it out there in the best way I knew how.
Reading the hardcover book 15 years ago, This outlet wasn’t possible.
I remember hoping people were reading the book and hoping the story got out.
Who knew it would take this long, and when the news did surface it would be Dylan herself, now she goes by Malone, who would address Allen…and there would be such thing as social media to assist her in getting her story told.
I, for one, support her and want to say:
Below, I urge you to read.
What’s your favorite Woody Allen movie? Before you answer, you should know: when I was seven years old, Woody Allen took me by the hand and led me into a dim, closet-like attic on the second floor of our house. He told me to lay on my stomach and play with my brother’s electric train set. Then he sexually assaulted me. He talked to me while he did it, whispering that I was a good girl, that this was our secret, promising that we’d go to Paris and I’d be a star in his movies. I remember staring at that toy train, focusing on it as it traveled in its circle around the attic. To this day, I find it difficult to look at toy trains.
For as long as I could remember, my father had been doing things to me that I didn’t like. I didn’t like how often he would take me away from my mom, siblings and friends to be alone with him. I didn’t like it when he would stick his thumb in my mouth. I didn’t like it when I had to get in bed with him under the sheets when he was in his underwear. I didn’t like it when he would place his head in my naked lap and breathe in and breathe out. I would hide under beds or lock myself in the bathroom to avoid these encounters, but he always found me. These things happened so often, so routinely, so skillfully hidden from a mother that would have protected me had she known, that I thought it was normal. I thought this was how fathers doted on their daughters. But what he did to me in the attic felt different. I couldn’t keep the secret anymore.
When I asked my mother if her dad did to her what Woody Allen did to me, I honestly did not know the answer. I also didn’t know the firestorm it would trigger. I didn’t know that my father would use his sexual relationship with my sister to cover up the abuse he inflicted on me. I didn’t know that he would accuse my mother of planting the abuse in my head and call her a liar for defending me. I didn’t know that I would be made to recount my story over and over again, to doctor after doctor, pushed to see if I’d admit I was lying as part of a legal battle I couldn’t possibly understand. At one point, my mother sat me down and told me that I wouldn’t be in trouble if I was lying – that I could take it all back. I couldn’t. It was all true. But sexual abuse claims against the powerful stall more easily. There were experts willing to attack my credibility. There were doctors willing to gaslight an abused child.
After a custody hearing denied my father visitation rights, my mother declined to pursue criminal charges, despite findings of probable cause by the State of Connecticut – due to, in the words of the prosecutor, the fragility of the “child victim.” Woody Allen was never convicted of any crime. That he got away with what he did to me haunted me as I grew up. I was stricken with guilt that I had allowed him to be near other little girls. I was terrified of being touched by men. I developed an eating disorder. I began cutting myself. That torment was made worse by Hollywood. All but a precious few (my heroes) turned a blind eye. Most found it easier to accept the ambiguity, to say, “who can say what happened,” to pretend that nothing was wrong. Actors praised him at awards shows. Networks put him on TV. Critics put him in magazines. Each time I saw my abuser’s face – on a poster, on a t-shirt, on television – I could only hide my panic until I found a place to be alone and fall apart.
Last week, Woody Allen was nominated for his latest Oscar. But this time, I refuse to fall apart. For so long, Woody Allen’s acceptance silenced me. It felt like a personal rebuke, like the awards and accolades were a way to tell me to shut up and go away. But the survivors of sexual abuse who have reached out to me – to support me and to share their fears of coming forward, of being called a liar, of being told their memories aren’t their memories – have given me a reason to not be silent, if only so others know that they don’t have to be silent either.
Today, I consider myself lucky. I am happily married. I have the support of my amazing brothers and sisters. I have a mother who found within herself a well of fortitude that saved us from the chaos a predator brought into our home.
But others are still scared, vulnerable, and struggling for the courage to tell the truth. The message that Hollywood sends matters for them.
What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett? Louis CK? Alec Baldwin? What if it had been you, Emma Stone? Or you, Scarlett Johansson? You knew me when I was a little girl, Diane Keaton. Have you forgotten me?
Woody Allen is a living testament to the way our society fails the survivors of sexual assault and abuse.
So imagine your seven-year-old daughter being led into an attic by Woody Allen. Imagine she spends a lifetime stricken with nausea at the mention of his name. Imagine a world that celebrates her tormenter.
Are you imagining that? Now, what’s your favorite Woody Allen movie?
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