Woody Allen’s 1992 breakup from actor Mie Farrow – and his romantic relationship with her then 21-year-old adoptive daughter Soon-Yi Previn – became one of the monocultural scandals of the 1990s that the public consumed through tabloid osmosis.
The saga took place in flashy headlines on the covers of New York’s daily pers, in nightly news and on a talk show. The allegations of sexual abuse made by then-seven-year-old Dylan Farrow against Allen were not the main story; they were a subplot in the controversial story of separation.
People split into Team Allen or Team Farrow and treated the story like a “celebrity, she said” celebrity tournament. Allia claimed that Mia, a despised woman, had “trained” Dylan to charge her in an attempt to attack him.
Until 2014, after adulthood Dylan renewed her charges against Allen, the media barely paid attention. (She decided to publish her essay on the blog of columnist Nicholas Krištof rather than as a true story.) Journalist Ronan Farrow (Dylan’s sibling) tweeted about her claims against Allen during this year’s Golden Globes tribute, counting something that counts on social media. But it wasn’t until #MeToo that the real consequences began to occur; some actors refused work with him and others later expressed regret over that he did. In 2018 Amazon terminated its contract with Allen.
Allen v. Farrow, a new HBO multi-part documentary by Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick, joins a series of recent series that critically reconsider the 90’s media and judicial system’s treatment of allegations of sexual abuse. (Allen refuses to participate in the series and denies any allegations of sexual abuse. On Sunday, Allen and Soon-Yi Previn released a statement calling series “ax work full of lies.”). It is a reclamation of stories by Mie and Dylan, an examination of lawsuits against Allen, and consideration of gender prejudices in the judiciary and the media. This document, like other recent ones, does not criticize race in its critique of gender policy. Still, Allen v. Farrow is a nuanced example of what an animated genre can do.
Allen / Farrow’s story is in part complex because it contains many stories in one: the story of tabloid celebrities, personal melodrama, and cultural and cultural morality. The four episodes of the series actually combined all these sources into a coherent indictment of Allen and the power he wielded.
The series reminds us of how Allen, a writer, director and actor, became a prominent New York celebrity, embodying the spirit of the city, through films such as Manhattan and Annie Hall. Provides a background for his fascination with teenage girls, including interviews with the model had a sexual relationship when she was 16 and who inspired the role of Mariel Hemingway in Manhattan, where she plays a senior from Allen’s 42-year-old figure from high school.
The documentary also discusses the unconventional relationship and family of Mie and Allen (they never lived or married together), the birth of Satchel (now Ronan) and Mia’s adoption of Dylan and Moses Farrow in the 1980s.
Through intimate home videos and testimonies of family friends and household staff, Allen v. Farrow contextualizes Allen’s increasingly haunting interest in Dylan. The nannies and friends noticed his persistent attention (“Dylan was looking into space and Woody was in her l,” one nanny recalls); even the child psychiatrist in the building where the Farrow lived pointed to Mia that his interactions with Dylan seem inappropriate.
In 1991, Allen began consulting with Dylan on his behavior. It’s especially helpful to hear Farrow’s side, because it’s partly the story of a woman who finds it difficult to come to terms with the truth about a partner she loved. (In one of the most favorable scenes in the documentary, Mia licks Dylan and asks if she is angry with her for not seeing everything. No, Dylan answers, grateful that she believed her.)
Mii was thirty, working as an actor in Allen’s films, and the balance of power was on his side. Mia (and her friend Carly Simon) point out how Allen lost his self-esteem and weakened her age against her to remind her of her diminished value in the industry.
In January 1992, Mia found nude photos in her house that Allen had taken to Previn, and even then she was confused about what to do. When she showed the pictures to Allen’s therapist, Mia said, staring kindly at them and declaring, “It is not the therapist’s job to moralize.” In phone calls between her and Allen, she sounds hopeful for reconciliation.
It was in August, during one of Allen’s visits to Dylan, that he disappeared with her for 20 minutes. Dylan claims that he took her to the land and sexually assaulted her in a way that went beyond his usual violation of her boundaries. “Don’t move,” she said, telling her. “I have to do it.” If you stay calm, we can go to Paris. “
Finally, Mia tried Dylan’s account of what disgusted and contacted the authorities. As Dylan’s accusations were about to escape, Allen went public with his affair with Previn, claiming they were in love. This chronology – the relationship with Previn, who escaped accusation of sexual assault – is what deliberately turned the coverage into the story of a tabloid novel. “WOODY LOVES MIAIN’S DAUGHTER,” the pers.
The series not only provides personal stories behind the headlines, but also re-examines the lawsuits against Allen – in Connecticut, where Farrow resided, and in New York – and how he presented them in the media.
Allen abducted a prosecutor’s investigation at Yale New Haven Hospital. He held a press conference to announce that he had been released after somehow, according to Dylan, the news, which sounded rehearsed, before a lawyer.
In fact, according to the film, social workers conducted nine interviews with Dylan, which was at the time contrary to the normal surgical procedure for child sexual abuse. As she recalls: If she were consistent in her story, they would say she was “coached,” and if she made changes, she would say she was “inconsistent.” Allen rejected the polygrh. The Connecticut prosecutor believed there was a probable cause, but decided not to pursue it so that Dylan would not retraumatize. In New York, a social worker who interviewed Dylan said he trusted her and was fired. (Childcare authorities reportedly faced pressure from then-Mayor David Dinkins to resolve the case.)
During a custody case in New York, Allen’s lawyers introduced the concept of “parental alienation” – created without real evidence – about women who, in custody cases, accused of sexually assaulting their husbands. Allen had powerful publicists and lawyers who parroted his speeches.
Although the media was on Allen’s side, the judge in custody ruled against him and considered whether he should be granted the right to visit again. (Dylan herself decided she would never see him again.) Yet until the case was revived during the #MeToo movement, the public perceived Mia as an angry ex-partner and Dylan as a “coached” child.
As this new wave of the dock series seeks to rethink tabloid moralizing and criticizing the way the media frames women’s celebrity stories, they cannot help reproduce some of the same problems of the 1990s and media cultures. For example, it’s not an accident that it lasted Framing Britney Spears a documentary for Justin Timberlake log Janet Jackson.
And when he stood up to Allen and viewed the perspective of Dylan and Mie, Allen v. Farrow it lacks nuances in the representation of Moses. In a blog post from 2018, Moses claimed that he is now a therapist that Mia was torturing him emotionally and physically. His account evokes many of stories of adoptive children celebrities, specifically stories about transracial adoptions.
In the documents in the series, the white siblings discount and reject Moses’ claims of abuse and ability. (Farrow herself has also denied the allegations.) In some ways, the attitude of the documentary churches is understandable because it has to deal with (and convincingly falsify) Moses’ defense of his father against Dylan. However, many things can be true at once.
The way in which the documentary flattens Moses’ claim of his own trauma by reworking it as part of a family rift over Dylan’s story – and the battle between Allen and Mia – is a symbol of the media of the 1990s: Race is still considered secondary to gender, especially when the trauma of white women is at stake.
Still, Allen v. Farrow is a belated settlement with the story of Mie and Dylan and the morals of the whole cultural moment. Like a Michael Jackson documentary Leaving Neverland, which sharply placed the perspectives of his survivors at the forefront, forces us to face uncomfortable truths. Because it connects the dots methodically and terribly, you will never see Allen the same way again. ●