woody allen’s estranged son wants people to face his father’s actions

While the director is lauded in Cannes, Ronan Farrow asks the media to finally hold his father accountable for accusations of sexual abuse.

by Wendy Syfret
12 May 2016, 5:42am

This week Woody Allen's film Café Society opened the Cannes Film Festival. The director attended the premiere, flanked by stars Kristen Stewart, Blake Lively and Jesse Eisenberg. They fawned over him, and glowed with pride; telling anyone who would listen how happy they were to have worked with the prolific director.

The display is the kind of scene Ronan Farrow, Allen's estranged son with ex wife Mia Farrow, takes issue with in his recent article for The Hollywood Reporter, "My Father, Woody Allen, and the Danger of Questions Unasked". In the piece, Ronan (an esteemed journalist in his own right) examines the free pass his father has been given by Hollywood, the media and the public in the face of allegations over his sexual conduct with young women. 

Ronan refers to allegations his sister Dylan made very public in an open letter to the New York Times in 2014. In the piece Dylan recounts being "groomed" and inappropriately touched by her father who she claims sexually assaulted her when she was seven.

Examining the fallout of her claims, Ronan questions the space and weight his sister's story was given in comparison to their father's. Describing the immediate response from Allen's legal and PR team, he asks the wider media to acknowledge their role in protecting and excusing his father.

"When The New York Times ultimately ran my sister's story in 2014, it gave her 936 words online, embedded in an article with careful caveats", he explains. "Soon afterward, the Times gave her alleged attacker twice the space—and prime position in the print edition, with no caveats or surrounding context. It was a stark reminder of how differently our press treats vulnerable accusers and powerful men who stand accused."

Not only were the platforms very different, so was the public response. Buffered by his films and their sentiments, surrounding media coverage largely chose to gloss over the accusations levelled at the director. When it was discussed, the alleged incident was often cloaked in careful language to place the focus on Dylan.

Towards the end of the piece, Ronan asks why in a climate where online media is increasingly providing a new level of visibility to those impacted by sexual assault, we still so loathe to hold our heroes accountable. He adds, "That kind of silence isn't just wrong. It's dangerous. It sends a message to victims that it's not worth the anguish of coming forward."

Ronan explains that while his sister is dealing with the consequences of speaking out, "Amazon paid millions to work with Woody Allen, bankrolling a new series and film. Actors, including some I admire greatly, continue to line up to star in his movies". He also details how painful it was for Dylan to see "heroes like Louis C.K., or a star her age, like Miley Cyrus, works with Woody Allen."

Just days before his article ran, Kristen Stewart provided a grimly appropriate example of the behaviour that has tormented his sister for so long. Speaking to Variety the star remembered a conversation she had with Café Society co-star Jesse Eisenberg about the allegations: "I was like, 'What do you think? We don't know any of these people involved. I can personalise situations, which would be very wrong.' At the end of the day, Jesse and I talked about this. If we were persecuted for the amount of shit that's been said about us that's not true, our lives would be over."

In light of Ronan's piece, one has to ask: would we be so forgiving of Allen if he wasn't surrounded by such a lauded body of work? Judging by the crowds at Cannes and glowing early reviews, probably not.


Text Wendy Syfret
Image via Twitter

sexual assault
Kristen Stewart
woody allen
ronan farrow
Café Society