ON February 1, the New York Times published a harrowing open letter from Dylan Farrow in which she told of the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her adopted father, Woody Allen.
Allen’s supporters claim Dylan has been brainwashed by her mother, Mia Farrow, and the letter has been published now to cause as much damage as possible to the Oscar hopes of Allen’s latest movie Blue Jasmine.
While I cannot even imagine how unbearable it must have been for Dylan Farrow to see Woody Allen venerated at the recent Golden Globes, or to hear Cate Blanchett thank the director for creating “role after role after role for women”, you would imagine by the public outcry that these allegations were new.
However, Mia Farrow’s claim that the veteran film director abused Dylan, played a huge role in their custody battle in 1993, (although it must be noted, as Allen’s attorney has said, all allegations of abuse were “fully vetted and rejected by independent authorities”) and Vanity Fair magazine published an in-depth investigative piece in 1992 regarding Allen’s “inappropriate fatherly behaviour” towards Dylan.
Twenty-one years have passed since Farrow accused Woody Allen of sexually abusing her daughter, and it seems to have made very little impact on his career, receiving Oscar nominations in various categories for seven of the movies he has made in that time. In his 2011 one act play, Honeymoon Hotel, Allen even made a joking reference to sexual assault, with a character commenting: “At least you were molested, I didn’t have sex ‘til I was twenty-five.”
There will be those who argue that we must separate the art from the artist. They will defend their right to listen to Michael Jackson’s seminal record Off The Wall despite repeated allegations that the singer had molested young boys. They will argue that Chris Brown deserved to perform and win an award at the Grammys in 2011, two short years after he brutally attacked his girlfriend Rihanna, because it has to be about ‘the music.’
That we shouldn’t get upset at Lady Gaga singing Do What You Want with My Body to R Kelly, a man with a number of lawsuits for alleged rape and sexual assault pending. Or how about Roman Polanski, the director of Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown, who was charged with drugging and raping a 13 year old in 1977? At the 2002 Academy Awards, following his win for best directing, Polanski (not in attendance) received a standing ovation from the adoring audience.
This pattern of forgiveness for heinous crimes has repeated itself over the years — but, it seems, only when the guilty party is a man. The same generosity of spirit does not tend to be afforded to women as easily, even when their ‘crimes’ are far less nefarious.
In his article for the Daily Beast defending Woody Allen, Robert Weide comments on the possibility that Mia Farrow may have cheated on Allen with Frank Sinatra, as if that might negate the allegations of sexual abuse. Sienna Miller has admitted in this month’s issue of Esquire magazine that her ‘mistakes’ (such as an affair with married father of four, Balthazar Getty) made it very, “difficult for me to get the work I wanted, if I’m really honest.” Winona Ryder was one of the most popular actresses of the 80s and 90s, and yet after an arrest for shoplifting in 2001,her career faltered. Meg Ryan, America’s Sweetheart, and star of huge hits such as Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally, had an affair with Russell Crowe on the set of Proof of Life in 2000. The affair was short lived but Ryan’s career never fully recovered after it. The same cannot be said for Crowe.
Even in 2005, when the ‘Bermuda triangle’ between Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston began, it was the two women that were seen to be at fault, not the married man who strayed. Jolie was cast as the evil temptress, with rumours whispered that Aniston was unwilling to have children — a modern day Lady Macbeth ready to sacrifice her ‘milk’ for her ambition.
Of course, there are exceptions. Mel Gibson, for one, committed career suicide when he was arrested for drinking under the influence in 2006 and launched into a vitriolic speech about Jewish people. However, there seems to be reluctance in the entertainment industry to condemn men who behave abusively towards women and it points to an overarching issue that affects our society as a whole — the disparity between the moral compass that men and women are each expected to adhere to.
After Chris Brown’s attack, it was Rihanna who faced criticism for not using the scandal as an opportunity to be a role model for other victims of domestic abuse. When ‘Slane Girl’ [a 17-year-old who was photographed while engaging in a sex act during an Eminem concert which was then posted on the internet] started trending on Twitter during the summer, it was the girl who was castigated and made to wear a metaphorical scarlet letter to atone for her sins, not either of the men involved. This double standard is not only unfair to women, it’s also reductive to men, portraying them as mere animals unable to control their baser desires.
It’s fitting, in a way, that this year marks the 10th anniversary of the Superbowl ‘Nipplegate’ controversy. Who bore the responsibility when Justin Timberlake tore off a piece of Janet Jackson’s costume, revealing her breast? Not Timberlake, who, following a quick apology, never mentioned the incident again.
But what of the other men who transgress our accepted societal customs? What are the consequences for them?
Why, they get nominated for Oscars, of course.