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Why Woody Allen hasn’t been toppled by the #MeToo reckoning — yet

The low buzz of controversy that’s hummed beneath the filmmaker’s career for 25 years is becoming a roar.

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Alissa Wilkinson covers film and culture for Vox. Alissa is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.

At the Golden Globes in January, Lady Bird writer and director Greta Gerwig was questioned by a reporter about whether, given the night’s emphasis on honoring victims of sexual assault and calling for change in Hollywood, she regretted working with Woody Allen. (Gerwig co-starred in Allen’s 2012 film To Rome With Love.)

Gerwig’s response that night seemed a bit like a fumble: She said it was “something that I’ve thought deeply about and I care deeply about, and I haven’t even had an opportunity to have an in-depth discussion where I come down on one side or the other.”

Two days later, however, Gerwig gave a different response. Speaking with the New York Times’s Frank Bruni, she voiced regret. “It is something that I take very seriously and have been thinking deeply about, and it has taken me time to gather my thoughts and say what I mean to say. I can only speak for myself and what I’ve come to is this: If I had known then what I know now, I would not have acted in the film,” she said.

“I have not worked for him again, and I will not work for him again,” she continued. “[Allen’s daughter] Dylan Farrow’s two different pieces made me realize that I increased another woman’s pain, and I was heartbroken by that realization. I grew up on his movies, and they have informed me as an artist, and I cannot change that fact now, but I can make different decisions moving forward.”

Gerwig’s statement was the most prominent in a recent string of actors voicing regret for working with Allen. In October 2017, Griffin Newman, who appears in Allen’s upcoming 2018 film, voiced his regret and pledged his salary from the project to RAINN, an organization that works to combat sexual assault and violence. A month later, Elliot Page called his own work with Allen on To Rome With Love one of his “biggest regrets.” And on January 6, actor David Krumholtz tweeted that working with Allen on the director’s latest movie, Wonder Wheel, was “one of my most heartbreaking mistakes.”

Krumholtz’s confession came in the wake of a searing piece by writer Richard Morgan, published in the Washington Post on January 4, that details a pattern of obsession with teenage girls in Allen’s self-curated personal archives, stored at Princeton University.

Controversy has dogged Allen since 1992, when his daughter, Dylan, who was then 7 years old, accused Allen of sexually molesting her. Yet some of Hollywood’s most well-known actors have continued to defend or at least remain neutral on Allen — notably including Kate Winslet, during the press tour for Allen’s eyebrow-raising Wonder Wheel.

Woody Allen and Kate Winslet seen on set on September 27, 2016, in New York City.
Ignat/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Allen has made dozens of movies since the accusations against him were first made. He’s been honored with lifetime achievement awards. In the past decade alone, he’s released 10 movies and shot another due out in 2018, as well as a six-episode TV show. In 2012, he was nominated for two Oscars and won one of them, for Midnight in Paris; in 2014, he was nominated again for Blue Jasmine’s screenplay.

Yet Allen now works in a Hollywood that is ferreting out and blackballing powerful men accused of misconduct, an environment in which Dylan Farrow and others have continued to speak out against him. After Harvey Weinstein, the industry seems willing to expunge any and all accused predators from its ranks. So why are actors like Gerwig and Winslet still struggling to figure out and articulate their relationship to Allen?

That’s an important and revealing question. Since the 1990s, a low but continual buzz of controversy has hummed beneath Allen’s career, born of a complicated story comprising three main chapters: an affair and eventual marriage with his longtime girlfriend’s daughter; Dylan’s allegation of child molestation in 1992; and the renewal of those allegations in 2014.

Woody Allen leaves the Manhattan Supreme Courthouse March 22, 1993, in New York City. Mia Farrow filed for custody of their natural son Satchel (now Ronan) and their adopted daughter Dylan after discovering Allen’s relationship with her adopted daughter Soon-Yi.
Arnaldo Magnani/Liaison/Getty Images

Because of the nature of these events — and because Allen seems to delight in thumbing his nose at them by repeatedly using elements in his movies and fiction that seem ripped from his own story — the big question for many is why Allen hasn’t been drawn into the so-called “post-Weinstein” moment of reckoning for powerful men accused of sexual misconduct.

The answer to that question requires diving into each chapter of Allen’s complicated family history and the allegations against him. These chapters, taken together, help to explain why Gerwig and others have begun to rethink their association with the director, why others seem reluctant to do so, and why Dylan Farrow continues to speak out publicly against her father.

Chapter 1: Allen’s relationship with Soon-Yi Previn is revealed

The first piece of the story has to do with Soon-Yi Previn, Allen’s current wife.

By the time Woody Allen started dating actress Mia Farrow in 1980, he was already one of the most famous figures in Hollywood. He was fresh off a filmmaking hot streak, having pocketed two Oscars for his 1978 hit Annie Hall and two more nominations for Manhattan in 1979.

The following year, Farrow and Allen began dating. Their relationship lasted a dozen years. The pair never married or lived together, but they raised three children: Moses, whom Farrow had adopted after her divorce from composer André Previn and whom Allen adopted in December 1991; Dylan, whom Farrow adopted in 1985 and Allen also adopted in December 1991; and Satchel, born in 1987. (Satchel would later go by one of his middle names, Ronan; his investigative reporting for the New Yorker in 2017 would become a key factor in the fall of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.)

Previn and Farrow had also adopted a daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, in 1978. In 1992, less than a month after Allen’s adoption of Dylan and Moses was finalized, Farrow discovered explicit nude photos of Soon-Yi taken by Allen. Soon-Yi’s age was not known at the time of adoption, but she was about 20 years old and a college sophomore when Farrow found the photographs. Allen was in his 50s.

Farrow and Allen’s relationship ended acrimoniously. Soon-Yi moved in with Allen, and they married in 1997. The couple have two adopted children and live in New York City.

Woody Allen and Mia Farrow and Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi leaving Farrow's apartment to see Liza Minnelli at Carnegie Hall in 1987.
The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

This part of the story is why, to many, Manhattan serves as an important reference point in the Woody Allen story. In the film, Allen plays Isaac, a version of himself — a common trope in his movies — who is dating a 17-year-old named Tracy (played by Mariel Hemingway, who was 16 when the film was being shot).

Manhattan is widely assumed to be based on a relationship Allen allegedly had with actress Stacey Nelkin, who was 17 at the time, though Allen has never acknowledged the relationship. In addition, Hemingway wrote in her 2015 memoir that after she turned 18, Allen tried to get her to go to Paris with him.

(This story seems to be the inspiration for a similar plot point in Louis C.K.’s I Love You Daddy, whose release was canceled after C.K. was accused of sexual harassment. The film was widely seen as C.K.’s comic tribute to Allen and Manhattan.)

Many of Allen’s movies feature men in relationships with women who are much younger than them — not an unusual practice in Hollywood. But Manhattan’s adult-teen romance is an especially egregious example. Allen’s upcoming film reportedly repeats it, with a plot that includes a character (played by Jude Law) whose wife accuses him of having sex with a 15-year-old.

Woody Allen and Mariel Hemingway in a scene from the film Manhattan in 1979.
United Artists/Getty Images

The details, if not the ethics, of the relationship between Soon-Yi and Allen aren’t disputed, by Allen or anyone else. Soon-Yi was likely at least 19 when her sexual relationship with Allen began. But the significant age gap — coupled with the fact that she was the daughter of his long-term partner and had grown up in his company, even if he claimed he was never much of a father figure to her — made the situation disturbing to many people. Though it wasn’t technically illegal, to many it seemed morally dubious, and it cast a shadow over Allen’s subsequent career.

That shadow would only grow larger and murkier during the ensuing custody battle between Farrow and Allen, which served as the setting for the pivotal chapter in the Allen controversy.

Chapter 2: In 1992, 7-year-old Dylan Farrow accuses Allen of molesting her

Seven months after Farrow found out about Soon-Yi and Allen, Allen filed suit against Farrow for custody of Moses, Dylan, and Satchel. At the time of the suit, Moses was 14, Dylan was 7, and Satchel (now Ronan) was 4.

Allen sued for custody on Thursday, August 13, 1992. On Monday, August 17, two things happened: Allen and Soon-Yi went public with their relationship, which had been going for about nine months, and the Connecticut State Police announced that they were investigating an accusation from Dylan that her father had molested her. Dylan told her mother about the alleged molestation on August 4, about a week and a half before Allen sued for custody.

Woody Allen with Soon-Yi Previn circa 1992.
The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

On Tuesday the 18th, Allen held a news conference to deny sexually abusing Dylan. “This is an unconscionable and gruesomely damaging manipulation of innocent children for vindictive and self-serving motives,” he read from a two-page written statement. He also claimed that allegations of this sort were a “currently popular though heinous card played in all too many child-custody fights, and while sometimes effective, the tragedy of programming one's child to cooperate is unspeakable."

That defense — that Dylan’s accusations were not only false but planted by a conniving and allegedly unstable Farrow as a way to keep the children out of Allen’s hands, in retaliation for cheating on her with her daughter — is the basis of a decades-long denial from Allen that the molestation ever happened. Moses has allied himself with Allen and claims his mother brainwashed and abused him. Dylan has continued to maintain her story, backed by her mother and her brother Ronan.

Woody Allen speaks at a press conference in front of the Manhattan Supreme Court January 12, 1993.
Steve Allen/Liaison/Getty Images

The accusations snowballed into one of the most visible and acrimonious scandals of the early 1990s, dragging many of the former couple’s famous friends and family into the ring. Farrow’s mother, actress Maureen O’Sullivan (who played Jane in the Weissmuller Tarzan films), released a statement through her publicist that called Allen an “evil and desperate man.”

Allen’s publicist Leslee Dart orchestrated a full-court press for the director, with interviews in both Newsweek and Time to defend himself, saying that he couldn’t have taken part in the story as Dylan told it since he was a “famous claustrophobe” and the small, narrow attic area she described being molested in was a place he could never go.

Farrow stayed away from the press, but Maria Roach, one of her lifelong Hollywood friends, released a letter that Farrow had sent to her bolstering her own version of events; Farrow was reportedly upset by the move.

And in a statement to Newsweek, Soon-Yi excoriated her mother: “I admit that it’s offbeat, but let’s not get hysterical. I’m not a retarded underage flower who was raped, molested and spoiled by some evil stepfather — not by a long shot.”

That statement sounded suspicious to some of Farrow’s supporters, and in a long Vanity Fair piece published in November 1992 titled “Mia’s Story,” reporter Maureen Orth unpacked the tale. In addition to suggesting that Soon-Yi’s statement showed the strong hand of Allen, the article contained other explosive claims: that Allen had been in therapy for two years for “inappropriate” fatherly behavior toward Dylan; that Allen had been observed touching Dylan inappropriately by multiple people, including bringing her to bed with him while he was only wearing underwear and having her suck his thumb; that Allen had mounted a massive smear campaign targeting Farrow; and that Farrow was afraid of Allen, one of Hollywood’s most powerful men.

“Her love for Woody had always been mixed with fear,” Orth wrote of Farrow. “He could reduce her to a pulp when he gave vent to his temper, but she was also in awe of him, because he always presented himself as ‘a morally superior person.’”

On March 18, 1993, Allen declared that a team of medical experts had examined Dylan and found no signs of sexual molestation, and that this report cleared him of the charges. The findings were not made public, though Farrow’s lawyer said they were inaccurate. Allen’s publicist said that the two sides had “agreed that the report would not be made public because a child’s privacy was at stake.”

A week later, Farrow testified before the state Supreme Court in Manhattan, where Allen had sued for custody, that Dylan had indeed told Farrow the previous summer that Allen had molested her. She also testified that Dylan wouldn’t tell a doctor about the abuse. She agreed with Allen that the medical experts who examined Dylan concluded there was no sign of abuse.

Farrow had videotaped Dylan’s confession, but the tape contained starts and stops, and Allen disputed its validity. The New York Times reported that Allen “called the allegations the products of either Ms. Farrow's imagination or the child’s behavior.”

(L) Mia Farrow arrives at New York Supreme Court on April 5, 1993. (R) Mia Farrow leaves the courthouse on May 4, 1993.
Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images; Hai Do/AFP/Getty Images

The custody battle wore on for some time. In May 1993, Dr. John M. Leventhal, who had headed the Connecticut investigation into the alleged molestation, said in a sworn statement that Dylan’s story had a “rehearsed quality,” and offered hypotheses about what happened:

We had two hypotheses: one, that these were statements that were made by an emotionally disturbed child and then became fixed in her mind. And the other hypothesis was that she was coached or influenced by her mother. We did not come to a firm conclusion. We think that it was probably a combination.

A major reason Dylan’s allegations were repeatedly called into question by Allen’s side of the case was that her testimony had changed: Farrow said that Dylan told her Allen had touched her vagina, but later she said he hadn’t, then said he had. This inconsistency suggested the 7-year-old’s story was fabricated, Allen’s defenders would say.

In May, the court awarded Farrow custody of Dylan, Moses, and Ronan. In September, Frank S. Maco, the state’s attorney for Litchfield County, Connecticut, held a press conference in which he said that he had “probable cause” to charge Allen with molesting Dylan, but that Allen would not be charged because of the potential trauma it could cause for Dylan. The following February, Maco was criticized by a disciplinary panel for the statement and his handling of the case; in November, a complaint Allen filed against Maco was dismissed.

The story seemed to slow down after this point. Allen went on working. In 1993, Manhattan Murder Mystery was released; in 1994, Bullets Over Broadway played at the New York Film Festival; in 1995, Mighty Aphrodite — in which Allen played the lead, a man who sleeps with a woman half his age — came out. He’s made a movie nearly every year since.

Woody Allen leaves Manhattan Surrogate’s Court on June 10, 1993.
Mario Cabrera/AP

In 1997, Mia Farrow released an autobiography, What Falls Away. The New York Times review praised some of its writing as “simple and affecting,” while saying it was melodramatic and suggesting it garnered sympathy not for Farrow, but for Allen. In 2000, Farrow became a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, and in the years since, she has received several awards for her humanitarian work, particularly around children’s rights and drawing attention to genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.

In 2005, she defended her friend Roman Polanski (who had directed her in his 1968 film Rosemary’s Baby) in a libel trial — a fact that confounded some, given that Polanski had been living in France since 1978 after fleeing the US following being charged with child rape.

In 2008, Time named Farrow one of the world’s 100 most influential people.

Chapter 3: In 2014, accusations against Allen are renewed

More than two decades later, Dylan’s story seemed to have passed into the realm of whispered myth. But then it flared up again — this time, in a Hollywood culture on the brink of a reckoning.

In late 2013, Maureen Orth wrote another article for Vanity Fair about Farrow and her children, highlighting the humanitarian work that Farrow and Ronan had done together. In the article, Dylan, who was by then 28 and living under another name, maintained her story and explained the fallout she’d experienced since then, including depression during college, when Allen attempted to contact her several times.

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow visits Syrian refugees in Baalbek, Lebanon, on January 15, 2013.
Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images

In Orth’s article, Farrow offered the possibility that Ronan was not actually Woody Allen’s biological son but rather the son of Frank Sinatra, Farrow’s first husband, with whom she had remained friends. Many of Farrow’s detractors seized upon this as further evidence of her character, and maybe evidence that she was an attention seeker. Nancy Sinatra (Frank’s daughter and Farrow’s former stepdaughter) later said that Farrow was making a joke.

Orth’s article concluded with Farrow living quietly in Connecticut and Dylan happily married and offering advice to her younger self: “If I could talk to the 7-year-old Dylan, I would tell her to be brave, to testify.”

On January 12, 2014, the Golden Globes paid tribute to Allen with the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award. Allen did not attend the ceremony; Diane Keaton received the award on his behalf, saying their friendship of 45 years filled her heart with “pride, affection, and even love.”

The award sparked controversy and renewed conversation about the allegations against Allen. In the Guardian, Hadley Freeman wrote that “Allen is legally innocent and therefore deserving of all celebrations people send his way,” and that “it is totally OK to celebrate Woody Allen, but that doesn’t mean you have to.” At Slate, Amanda Marcotte argued that “there’s a case to be made for trying to separate the art from the artist, but Keaton and the chummy industry around her seemed to think we should forgive a man’s sins because we like his movies. That’s too big an ask.”

Mia Farrow tweeted that she was switching over to Girls at that point in the Globes broadcast, while Ronan Farrow objected more pointedly:

Shortly after the Globes recognition, Allen was nominated for an Oscar for the Blue Jasmine screenplay. Not long after that, the producer and director of the two-part PBS special Woody Allen: A Documentary, Robert B. Weide, wrote a lengthy article for the Daily Beast disputing the charges against Allen, and in particular Orth’s Vanity Fair article, questioning Vanity Fair’s “overall reliability or objectivity” and citing the 2005 libel case Roman Polanski had won against the magazine (with Mia Farrow’s support).

In his article, Weide sought to dispel some of what he said was misinformation that had grown up around the story, while also returning to some time-worn tactics: discrediting Farrow and questioning the veracity of Dylan’s account. Shortly after, Slate writer Jessica Winter took issue with Weide’s piece, particularly its attacks on Farrow, and countered some of his assertions, while in Vanity Fair Orth enumerated facts she called “undeniable” that she encountered during her reporting both in 1992 and 2013.

All this appears to have been the last straw for Dylan Farrow. On February 1, 2014, in a blistering letter published by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, Dylan not only reinforced her allegations from 1992 but called out those who continued to work with her father:

What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett? Louis CK? Alec Baldwin? What if it had been you, Emma Stone? Or you, Scarlett Johansson? You knew me when I was a little girl, Diane Keaton. Have you forgotten me?

Woody Allen is a living testament to the way our society fails the survivors of sexual assault and abuse.

A week later, the New York Times gave Allen space to respond. In an op-ed, he revisited the findings of the experts at the Child Sexual Abuse Clinic of the Yale-New Haven Hospital who examined Dylan and concluded there was no evidence she had been abused. He framed Dylan’s allegations as actually being Farrow’s, and excoriated what he called the “self-serving transparency of her malevolence.”

As an adult, he said, Dylan was still a victim of her mother’s plot against him. “Now it’s 21 years later and Dylan has come forward with the accusations that the Yale experts investigated and found false,” he wrote. “Plus a few little added creative flourishes that seem to have magically appeared during our 21-year estrangement.”

Allen concluded:

Of course, I did not molest Dylan. I loved her and hope one day she will grasp how she has been cheated out of having a loving father and exploited by a mother more interested in her own festering anger than her daughter’s well-being. ... No one wants to discourage abuse victims from speaking out, but one must bear in mind that sometimes there are people who are falsely accused and that is also a terribly destructive thing.

In a parenthetical, he added that he would not respond to any more comments on this matter, because “enough people have been hurt.”

Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Woody Allen, and and Blake Lively arrive at a screening for Cafe Society at the Cannes Film Festival on May 11, 2016.
Valery Hache/AFP/Getty ImagesAFP/Getty Images

In 2016, on the eve of the Cannes Film Festival, which Allen’s Cafe Society was opening, the Hollywood Reporter published a long piece by Ronan Farrow about his father and the unasked questions about his past. Among other things, Ronan wrote about the reluctance of press outlets to question people about whom rumors have flown, like his father and Bill Cosby. He called out the Hollywood Reporter for putting Allen on its cover. (The next year, he would criticize NBC for its handling of his in-depth reporting on Harvey Weinstein, which he eventually published in the New Yorker.)

Following the publication of Ronan’s essay, Allen’s longtime publicist Leslee Dart barred the Hollywood Reporter from a luncheon celebrating Cafe Society. At the opening night event, the comedian Laurent Lafitte made a startling joke drawing an equivalence between Polanski and Allen, saying, “You've shot so many of your films here in Europe, and yet in the US you haven’t even been convicted of rape.” The joke reportedly “prompted an awkward silence and a few gasps.”

Allen claimed not to be offended by the joke, and said he hadn’t read his son’s piece. “I have moved so far past that,” he told a Vulture reporter. “You know, I never think about it. I work, and that's the end of it for me.” Meanwhile, Weide (author of the 2014 Daily Beast article defending Allen) self-published an open letter to Ronan about his Hollywood Reporter piece.

Why does “the system” still work for Allen in the post-Weinstein era?

In 2017, sexual assault in Hollywood became a major news story, partly thanks to Ronan Farrow’s reporting in the New Yorker, along with the investigative efforts of many newspaper reporters, especially Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey at the New York Times, who broke the initial story about Harvey Weinstein. As allegations of harassment and assault repeatedly took down powerful men in Hollywood and elsewhere, some eyes turned toward Allen, wondering why he wasn’t also a target.

Allen himself drew ire when he offered his opinion about Weinstein in October, telling the BBC that Weinstein was a “sad, sick man,” but also saying it was important to avoid a “witch hunt atmosphere” where “every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself.”

Allen’s Wonder Wheel opened in theaters on December 1, garnering more than a few raised eyebrows for its plot, in which a man having an affair with a woman starts seeing her stepdaughter as well. The film’s star, Kate Winslet, found herself answering a lot of questions about why she worked with Allen during the press tour, often clumsily.

And on December 7, the day after Time named the “Silence Breakers” its Person of the Year, Dylan wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times titled “Why has the #MeToo revolution spared Woody Allen?” In it, she pointedly blamed the “deliberately created fog” by Allen’s publicity team around his story for why “A-list actors agree to appear in Allen’s films and journalists tend to avoid the subject”; she also called out Winslet as well as Blake Lively and Greta Gerwig, all of whom had also starred in recent Allen films.

Kate Winslet, Jim Belushi, Woody Allen, and Juno Temple at the premiere of Wonder Wheel in New York City on November 14, 2017.
Taylor Hill/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Dylan linked her argument to the way that Weinstein and other powerful sexual assaulters in Hollywood had been protected:

Although the culture seems to be shifting rapidly, my allegation is apparently still just too complicated, too difficult, too “dangerous,” to use Lively’s term, to confront.

The truth is hard to deny but easy to ignore. It breaks my heart when women and men I admire work with Allen, then refuse to answer questions about it. It meant the world to me when Ellen Page said she regretted working with Allen, and when actresses Jessica Chastain and Susan Sarandon told the world why they never would.

It isn’t just power that allows men accused of sexual abuse to keep their careers and their secrets. It is also our collective choice to see simple situations as complicated and obvious conclusions as a matter of “who can say”? The system worked for Harvey Weinstein for decades. It works for Woody Allen still.

Why does the system continue to work for Woody Allen, while others such as Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Brett Ratner, and James Toback were forced out?

There are a few answers to this question. One has to do with the nature of the accusations against Allen. While many of these men were the subject of multiple allegations (in some cases, dozens or even hundreds), Allen is the subject of a single accusation. It’s an explosive one, but in the years since, there have been no additional allegations of similar activity. Of course, a person doesn’t need to be accused by multiple parties in order to have done wrong. But that’s one way Allen’s case differs from other notable cases of the post-Weinstein moment.

Another part of the equation is Dylan’s age at the time of the accusation. Nobody wants to accuse a 7-year-old of lying, which meant much of the attention was focused on her mother, Mia Farrow, who was in the process of breaking up with Allen. It’s not a stretch to assume Farrow was angry with Allen for not just having an affair, but having an affair with her daughter.

Then again, by the same logic, it could be a stretch to imagine her anger being so fierce that she was willing to have another one of her daughters spend decades being told that her accusations of molestation were false. As an adult, Dylan has maintained that her version of events is real, but many defenses of Allen pivot on the assumption that she is still deluded, and that Farrow is at fault for planting that delusion.

Woody Allen, Dylan Farrow, Mia Farrow, and Ronan (formerly Satchel) Farrow in 1992.
The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A third factor is that the Allen case seemed to have been settled in the 1990s, when the courts awarded Farrow custody of the children. There hasn’t been any new information since then; what has changed is the way we think and talk about sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood.

The way we think and talk about victims’ testimony has changed too; in 2018, we’re more aware that the trauma experienced by victims (both children and adults) may cause them to report their experiences in ways that seem inconsistent or baffling.

The cultural climate has changed, but the information around the matter hasn’t — and many people are still grappling with what that means for reevaluating the allegations against Allen in 2018.

Dylan’s 2017 LA Times op-ed encapsulates all these factors: that the web of accusations, denials, explanations, and complications that spans decades has made the case almost impossible to untangle, and that — coupled with the strenuous work of publicists — it has cast a kind of haze over the whole matter. It’s confusing enough that many people have elected to ignore or set aside all of it, watching Allen’s films and working with him without engaging with the allegations.

That’s not surprising. For many, the most startling thing about the Weinstein allegations wasn’t that he had done the things he was accused of; it was that he had finally faced consequences.

Hollywood has tolerated bullies and sheltered predators for a long time, and one big factor that unites many of the men who’ve faced sexual assault allegations is that they are controlling, angry, and manipulative in many areas of their life, refusing to play by the rules that normal people do. That casts this passage from Orth’s 1992 Vanity Fair article in a new light:

To those on the inside ... Woody Allen is a chilling figure of power, a potentate of reel life who doesn’t seem to have to play by the rules. “This man is so exalted in the business — no one has the position he has. Until recently he hasn’t had to submit a script or anything,” says [playwright] Leonard Gershe. “I think when you get up into that stratosphere you no longer have to pay attention to the law of gravity. Regular morals, conscience, ethics — that’s for slobs like you and me.” The effect, says Gershe, “spills over into real life. He’s treated like a little god, and little gods don’t have to do what everybody else does.” “He just scares me,” says a member of the household. “I think he scares everyone who knows all the things he has done. And anybody who is close to him — that he has the potential of destroying — I think is scared of him.”

This sort of behavior has been tolerated in the past, especially in Hollywood, a world built atop “open secrets.”

But all of that seems to be changing, judging by Winslet’s experience promoting Wonder Wheel and Gerwig being questioned at the Golden Globes. Public opinion has shifted, and critics and audiences are reevaluating their relationship with Allen.

It’s still unclear whether Dylan Farrow’s allegations against her father will bear any direct consequences for the filmmaker in the post-Weinstein era. At age 82, Allen is nearing the end of his career, which means critics and audiences are beginning to think about not just his latest film, but the legacy he will leave behind.

As cultural attitudes toward sexual harassment and assault continue to shift — and as those who speak up are celebrated, rather than viewed with suspicion — a more strenuous reevaluation of Allen’s legacy may still lie ahead.

Woody Allen seen on location for his untitled movie in New York City on September 21, 2017.
James Devaney/GC Images

Correction: A photo caption in this piece originally misidentified Soon-Yi Previn as the adoptive daughter of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen. She is the adoptive daughter of Farrow and Andre Previn.


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