In 1997’s Deconstructing Harry, Woody Allen’s central character said “all people know the same truth; our lives consist of how we choose to distort it.” There are other standouts from that movie – “baseball’s easy because it has rules” and “I’m a guy who can’t function well in life but can in art.” Now that the proverbial has hit the fan for old Woody, it’s hard not read more into them than I had before. I wonder if he’s been mulling them over as much as I have in the last week. I don’t suppose I’ll ever know how he’s really feeling, but I do know this: I don’t want him to have done what he’s accused of. I don’t want him to be a paedophile.
You’d have to be living in a parallel universe not to know that allegations he molested his daughter Dylan Farrow have resurfaced, 20 years after they were originally made public. Everyone seems to have an opinion, despite none of us being there to know exactly what happened, but it’s not looking good for him is it? Then again he doesn’t exactly make it easy for himself – the awkwardness of his demeanour, both onscreen and in real life; his reclusiveness; his obsessive need to focus on his sexual inadequacies in explicit detail in almost every screenplay; not to mention the marriage and children to a woman who was once his stepdaughter. These are things that are at first glance a little startling; with concentrated effort they can quickly be seen as totally freakish behaviour. The more you think about it, the more suspect it becomes. So did he do it? Well, I guess so. I will always believe the victim, that’s what we must do.
And yet there is a little part of me that’s holding back. Not because I disbelieve Dylan Farrow or because I’m a Woody Allen fan and don’t want to see an idol disgraced, but because we live in a world that is already so suspicious of the motives of men and I don’t want yet another story confirming that suspicion is justified. I have men in my life who are wonderful, kind and honest men who would never hurt a child, yet every time a paedophile is discovered they too are judged. And they know it.
It is particularly apparent in the way we view older men. I have a father about the same age as Woody Allen who is fascinated by little children. Where my mother is disinterested in the offspring of anyone unrelated to her, my father can watch children for hours delighting in their company. He is not creepy, he is not predatory, and he’s absolutely not interested in them for any sinister motives. He does however live in the moment, have an incorrigible mischievous streak, and is a big fan of play. He lights up around tiny people and always has. He loves observing how they interact with the world; it is something he has passed on to me. The difference is that as a woman I am fairly free to interact with children without causing alarm, whereas my father – my kind, genuine, gentle father who children gravitate toward – keeps his distance. He’s respectful, cautious and aware. He wouldn’t dream of approaching a child unless he knew both the parents and the child themselves were okay with his presence – after all he was once the protective father of a little girl watching out for bad men. He still is.
But as his daughter, it makes me sad. It makes me sad that my father has to modify his behaviour because we live in a world where men and children are a suspicious combination. It makes me sad that the children themselves don’t get to benefit from the wisdom of his years and the silliness of his humour. It makes me sad that I can’t make him a grandfather when he’d be such a very good one.
So back to Woody, and another of his quotes: “It seemed the world was divided into good and bad people. The good ones slept better while the bad ones seemed to enjoy the waking hours much more.”
I really hope for the sake of my father that Woody Allen gets a good night’s sleep every night.