I’ve been trying to make sense of how I feel about Dylan Farrow’s open letter accusing her adoptive father, Woody Allen, of raping her when she was just seven years old. The issue as I see it is this: We must believe her and take her words with most grave seriousness, because, as Lena Dunham beautifully said, “Most victims NEVER speak up. Most never feel they can. These are not stories we tell for fun, attention or revenge.” No one in her right mind walks out onto the public stage and opens her heart up like this unless she believes that she is right beyond any shadow of a doubt. Because in our culture, the backlash that comes with this news is brutal, dark, and vengeful. And that doesn’t even hold a candle to the story Dylan Farrow just unfolded before us.
However, in order to believe her, we must now believe things about Woody Allen that we do not want to believe. Woody Allen, a man so lauded in film that we just awarded him for his lifetime of work, and he’s not even done living yet. Woody Allen, a man so powerful in Hollywood that he’s been nominated for 24 Oscars and won four—without even showing up to accept them. Woody Allen, a man so talented and celebrated, that every single celebrity clamors to work with him, despite knowing many of the unsavory bits of his past that aren’t even limited to the news that just broke about him—again.
We have a very important tenet in our legal system, that someone is innocent until proven guilty. So we cannot automatically rush to judgment and throw Woody Allen behind bars. We must hear his side first. I agree with this. We all have to. There is still the possibility that this is all somehow one of the sickest and cruelest jokes ever played, even though it could never be construed as funny. When considering the consequences of forgoing our established and practiced legal system, we must consider the whole picture. Put yourself in this situation, for example. Wouldn’t you want the burden of proof? Wouldn’t you want the presumption of innocence so that you could come to your own defenses or rally the troops needed to defend you? Wouldn’t you want to have some neutral intermediary there to determine guilt or innocence? Yes, yes, and yes.
All of this goes without saying. Dylan Farrow has spoken. The words cannot be unsaid, even though they were unseated once before, when time faded them off into the horizon. That’s why she had to say them again. And that’s where this goes sideways. The balance of power in this conversation is woefully, grievously off kilter. Woody holds all the power. Dylan holds none. Her words rang in our ears while her infinitely more powerful father said nothing until now. NOTHING. Consider that. He has so much power that he didn’t even have to defend his good name to the world, everyone else seemed to be doing it for him.
Let me recap. We must listen to Dylan Farrow because this kind of accusation must be addressed, otherwise the framework of our culture and our world begins to dismantle. We must take her seriously because what she is saying is disgustingly serious. We must believe her to be telling the truth because she knows who holds the power and she spoke up anyway in spite of the incredible odds against her. She risked it all again hoping that we’ll listen to her this time. In listening to her and in taking her seriously, we also must consider that this man who we laud and award and clamor after may have done awful, monstrous things. Isn’t that worth knowing? Isn’t it worthwhile to figure out if the man on the pedestal deserves to be there? Isn’t it important to us that the people whom we revere are worthy of our admiration?
If, after getting to the bottom of this in as much as we can at this sadly late juncture, we somehow discover that despite the evidence against it, Dylan Farrow has either been lying this whole time or had this idea implanted in her by her mother Mia Farrow (what a hateful, victim-shaming thing to say), and Woody is in fact innocent of all charges, does it change anything? I say no. We still had to believe Dylan in the first place in order to find that out. Because if we didn’t believe her and instead let the imbalance of power silence the truth, we would be the ones guilty of monstrous, evil behavior by letting a little girl suffer while we did nothing. And for every Dylan Farrow, there are thousands of other nameless girls who suffer tragically in silence. Think about that. How many monsters should there be? One? Or millions?