In defence of Woody Allen
The attacks on him show how rash and dangerous #MeToo has become.
If you want an indication of how long the #MeToo allegations could stick for, look no further than Woody Allen. Twenty-five years have passed since he was accused of molesting his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow, then seven years old. No evidence has been found for this. And yet actors Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Hall and Griffin Newman have all seen fit to distance themselves from Allen. The trending Hollywood sexual misconduct scandal has helped them to see the light, and now all three have apologised for appearing in Allen’s new film A Rainy Day in New York and have donated their salaries to charity.
These performers should not be applauded for their performance of virtue – they should be decried for their moral cowardice. We must assume these actors had the agency to decide whether it was ethical to appear in Allen’s film when they were first asked to do so. None of the circumstances of the allegation have changed since then. Rather, we have seen how severe are the consequences if one fails to get on board with the #MeToo witch-hunt. That is what the actors are responding to. This parody of repentance, complete with paying a Catholic-like indulgence, is careerism, plain and simple. They assist in ruining an individual’s reputation to maintain their own.
Chalamet said his decision was about challenging ‘injustice, inequality, and above all, silence’. The idea that public figures have been silent on Allen is absurd. There was a huge amount of negative press coverage when the allegation – a single, unsubstantiated allegation, so nothing remotely like the Harvey Weinstein affair – was first made. It was compounded by Allen’s affair with Soon-Yi Previn, 34 years his junior. The denunciation of Allen was reignited by an open letter Dylan Farrow wrote in the New York Times in 2014 after he was rewarded with a Golden Globe for lifetime achievement. Following Weinstein’s removal from the Academy, there was talk of Allen being next, alongside Roman Polanski.
There is even pressure on people to stop referring to Allen as a great director. Not content with destroying his future in the cinema, they want to eradicate his past, too. Before Farrow’s allegation, Allen was widely regarded as cinema’s greatest comedy auteur since Chaplin, constantly reinventing his unique persona through countless genres and European arthouse pastiches; how does being accused of child molestation make that less true?
Most chillingly, these actors are legitimising the ruining of someone’s life and career based on accusation alone. Those displeased with the results of two criminal investigations into the Farrow allegation – which found nothing – prefer to turn to the showbiz kangaroo court instead. While many of those accused in the wake of the Weinstein scandal have admitted that they did wrong, Allen has maintained his innocence all these years. There is no rational argument for his continued castigation. No matter how compelling Dylan Farrow’s testimony may be, the rhetoric of ‘believe the victim’ promotes the idea of guilty until proven innocent. These repentant actors cleansing themselves of having been associated with Allen are obstructing justice, not carrying it out.
Christian Butler is a spiked columnist. Follow him on Twitter: @CPAButler
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