Monday, February 03, 2014

Woody and His Worshippers

I had a bunch of nasty fights with Woody Allen worshippers on Facebook this past week after Woody Allen's friend and director of the authorized documentary about Allen, Robert B. Weide wrote a piece published in the Daily Beast suggesting that Mia Farrow was lying about what Allen did to their adopted daughter Dylan.

That the author of the Beast piece, Robert B. Weide is an Allen sycophant who created a hagiography is obvious in this NYTimes review:
Everything in “Woody Allen” comes from within the bubble, and none of the actors, colleagues, family members or critics who appear have a surprising or even slightly equivocal word to say. When Mr. Weide cuts together five of them, including Diane Keaton, using the word “compartmentalize” to describe Mr. Allen’s mindset, it has a comic effect, but it also makes you wonder whether they’re all reading from a prepared script.
One of the favorite defenses of Allen is that he was never taken to court over this. Well in Farrow's autobiography What Falls Away she not only recounts what Dylan alleged happened to her, she recounts all kinds of witnesses who saw Allen acting like a freak around Dylan, including a therapist of one of Farrow's other children who told Farrow, without prompting that Allen was behaving inappropriately. If it was all a pack of vicious lies by "a woman scorned" (and I was amazed at how often people - usually older men - used that phrase in reference to Mia Farrow) why didn't Allen sue? As Weide pointed out, even convicted child rapist Roman Polanski was able to successfully sue against false allegations. And Allen is famously litigious.

From the book:
His behavior with Dylan was getting worse. "Obsessed" was the word most frequently used by my family and friends. He whispered her awake, he caressed her, and entwined his body around her as she watched television, as she played on the floor, as she ate, as she slept. He brought her into bed when he was wearing only his underpants. Twice I made him take his thumb out of her mouth.  
But even more than any of these specifics, there was a wooing quality in his approaches: a neediness, an aggressive intensity that was relentless and overpowering. Now, at the sound of the doorbell and the slam of the front door, Dylan fled from the kitchen to closets, bathrooms, under beds and desks. "Hide me... Hide me! she would scream to her older brothers and sisters. It was not a game. 
Please don't hunt her down like that I said for the umpteenth time. If you'd just let her come to you she wouldn't be so scared, it's too much. But he wouldn't listen. 
Most of the time Dylan was a bright, chatty little girl, brimming with opinions and observations. But in his presence he withdrew, her talk became sketchy and hard to follow, and instead of answering his questions, she looked around the room. When he became more insistent she hummed, talked like a baby, barked like a dog, sang, did anything to deflect his attentions; and this only made him more insistent. When she wouldn't say good-night, when she wouldn't even look at him, he pinned her shoulders to the bed and demanded a response while her head thrashed back and forth.  
"C'mon, just kiss her good-night and leave it at that." I begged, tugging him off of her. I found myself policing his behavior, which made him angry.
If there was a problem he insisted it lay with me, in my misinterpretations of his very normal paternal affection. I was accustomed to thinking he was right about everything; he had to be right about this. I couldn't accept any other explanation.
"Spoilsport," he exploded angrily when I pulled Dylan out of the bed where he had been wrapped around her like a python in Jockey underpants.
"What sport?" I asked him. "Exactly  what sport am I spoiling?"
A psychologist who was already helping another child in the family (Woody believed everyone would benefit from therapy) witnessed only a brief greeting between Woody and Dylan, but it was enough for her to mention it to me, and express her concern that Woody's attitude was "inappropriately intense, because it excluded everybody else; and it placed a demand on a child for a kind of acknowledgement that I felt should not be placed on a child." 
That was nothing! I told the therapist, and the years of fear, disbelief, silence and denial welled into words. I told her all of it, and I prayed she would be able to help.  
To my great relief the therapist began to work with Woody, to help him to understand that his behavior with Dylan was "inappropriate" and had to be modified. Now many of the things that so disturbed me seemed to improve. She made him stop putting his hands under Dylan's covers, stop putting his face in her lap, stop the constant caressing, stop hunting Dylan down, stop having her suck on his thumb.  
Although the therapist addressed the specifics, she was unable to modify the overall wooing quality of Woody's approaches, his own neediness expressing itself to Dylan. And if I left a room with Woody and Dylan in it, when I returned, I was still likely to find him doing those same things again.
At least now when he got mad at me, he was more likely to come around and say, "Look, I'm really sorry. You're right to tell me when this kind of thing happens. Just tell me. It's OK.
So we had come a long way, I had articulated my concerns, he had acknowledged there was a problem, and a therapist was in place addressing the issue with him. He was making an effort.  I had to believe that everything would be all right. I had to.
Now the Woody Allen worshippers usually claim that Mia Farrow was out to get Allen and that she coached Dylan into saying all these things against Allen. But here Farrow claims that Allen was being treated by a therapist for his deeply disturbing behavior around this little girl - do they also claim that the therapist was lying? Or a figment of Mia's imagination?

In the Saturday bombshell in the NYTimes, Dylan herself tells a similar story:
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.
She also give explicit details about what he did to her in the attic, which I don't feel like reading again - follow the link if you want to read it.

As always, the Onion gets to the heart of things:
Oh, sure, you could try to defend me in an argument by saying, “Well, he was never convicted, and it’s possible that this little girl just made all that stuff up,” but, c’mon, anyone who says that is bound to sound like kind of an asshole, right? Even if your intentions are good, that line of argument does sort of make you look like you’re throwing a potential molestation victim under the bus in order to defend, at all costs, that funny, neurotic guy in the glasses who makes you laugh, doesn’t it? No, obviously you can’t do that. But then again, what are you going to do? Never watch Annie Hall again? Not to sound too conceited or anything, but you know you don’t want that.