2014-02-10 14:16:16

Woody Allen pulls out the tired “woman scorned” defense

A week after Dylan Farrow spoke out, Woody Allen now has taken to the pages of The New York Times to deny the accusation that he sexually abused his daughter.

Predictably, Allen went straight to that classic of the genre: the angry, crazy ex-lover defense. “Of course” he didn’t molest Dylan. Of course. “So ludicrous”! Mia Farrow is just a spurned woman who used their daughter as a “pawn for revenge” and brainwashed his children to turn them against him. A “strong mother” like Mia can easily do such things. For good measure, he insinuates that she’s a slut, in an open attempt to call into question “the integrity and honesty of a person who conducts her life like that.”

word cloud of words Allen used to describe Mia in article

A picture of Mia Farrow painted by Woody Allen. (Includes words used or strongly implied about her and her actions in his piece.)

Sprinkled throughout the smears against Mia are several outright lies about the facts in the case, which are clearly and fairly concisely laid out in the custody ruling. As Dylan noted in a response to Allen’s piece, contrary to his claim that Mia “suddenly” made up this charge out the clear blue sky one day as revenge after their relationship ended, Mia had in fact been concerned about Allen’s conduct with Dylan for years prior to the assault and was not the one who brought it to the police. 

As I wrote earlier, there’s no way for anyone–certainly not media commentators more than 20 years after the fact–to figure out what really happened. And I don’t think it’s our job to try. But as long as we’re talking about credibility, Lili Loofbourow has a great take on the “the surprising fact that Mia is constantly accused of brainwashing and Woody is not,” despite the fact that he’s the one who has demonstrated a pattern of lies, manipulation, and rather awe-inspiring self-delusion.

In his piece, Allen notes that the judge in the custody case was hard on him because he disapproved of Allen’s relationship with Soon-Yi, thinking of “me as an older man exploiting a much younger woman.” For Allen, it’s apparently self evident that any concerns about that relationship being “improper” should have been erased by the fact that he and Soon-Yi have been married, apparently happily, for 16 years. That’s all well and good, but as Loofbourow reminds us, Allen’s behavior with Soon-Yi when they got together was clearly predatory. Full stop. The number of people who excuse it by saying “well, she wasn’t his daughter” and “she was over 18 at the time” is actually kinda amazing to me. I do not believe that all relationships between younger women and much older men are necessarily always predatory.

But given how Allen withheld affection from Soon-Yi throughout her childhood and began a relationship with her when she was in need of emotional support? And how he describes their marriage like this?

The very inequality of me being older and much more accomplished, much more experienced, takes away any real meaningful conflict. So when there’s disagreement, it’s never an adversarial thing. I don’t ever feel that I’m with a hostile or threatening person. It’s got a more paternal feeling to it. I love to do things to make her happy. She loves to do things to make me happy. It just works out great. It was just completely fortuitous. One of the truly lucky things that happened to me in my life.

Yeah, no. As Loofbourow notes, despite Allen’s repeated claim that the two could have “met at a party or something,” that’s not in fact how it went down–and more importantly Allen admits that “his ideal romantic role doesn’t start with equals at a party; he prefers a power dynamic that’s essentially parental.”

Being predatory toward a 20 year old is obviously not the same as sexually abusing a seven year old, but it’s certainly not irrelevant to how we should judge Allen’s credibility as he returns to his tried and true defense: that Mia is the one manipulating her kids. I’ll give the final word to the judge who in no uncertain terms lambasted Allen’s skills as a father 20 years ago: ”Mr. Allen’s resort to the stereotypical ‘woman scorned’ defense is an injudicious attempt to divert attention from his failure to act as a responsible adult and parent.”

Maya DusenberyMaya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.

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