Why Are So Many People Still Protective of Woody Allen?

They may be a big deal these days—the prelude to the Oscars, like that's something to brag about—but some of us remain secure in our knowledge that the Golden Globes are a joke.  Not the judgment by one's presumably qualified peers that gives the Academy Awards their claim on validity, the Globes aren't the verdict of particularly qualified critics either; the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which bestows them, is notoriously a pack of nonentities.  All in all, the GG's might as well have been named for the late, great Anna Nicole Smith's not-found-in-nature gazongas. 

So it logically follows that last Sunday's Cecil B. De Mille Lifetime Achievement award to Woody Allen should be a joke as well.  But it wasn't one to Mia Farrow and her family. Both during and after the show, they took to Twitter for their latest commando raid on a rehabilitation that leaves them understandably indignant.  

"Did they put the part where a woman publicly confirmed he molested her at age 7 before or after Annie Hall?" tweeted Ronan Farrow, Mia and Woody's lone child together during their long cohabitation. On Sunday, Mia herself only indulged in a joke about switching over to Girls when Woody's segment came on.  By Monday, however, she was loaded for bear: "Is he a pedophile?" she asked on Twitter. Then she directed her followers to the 2013 Vanity Fair piece by Maureen Orth in which the former Dylan Farrow went public about Allen's alleged abuse of her—incidentally the same one that featured the sweet revenge of Mia's speculation that Ronan's real father might be none other than Frank Sinatra.   

The whole war goes back to Mia's 1992 discovery of Allen's nude photographs of her then 20-year-old adoptive daughter, Soon-Yi Previn. Mr. Take The Nookie and Run soon decamped—he and Soon-Yi have been married since '97—but call Farrow's disgust obsessive at your peril.  The man's yen for the young stuff is on display in his own movies, most notoriously Manhattan (it's an open secret that the underage bedmate played by Mariel Hemingway in the movie had a real-life original). Since Farrow had once been the young stuff—she'd married a then 51-year-old Sinatra when she was barely old enough to vote—her rage has a distinctive POV.   

What's remarkable, however, is that—so far as I know—the Farrows were the only people to protest Allen's C. B. DeMille award. Apparently, it didn't occur to anyone else that there was anything unusual or unseemly about it. Compare Woody's free ride to the outrage over onetime House Un-American Activities Committee "friendly witness" Elia Kazan's honorary Oscar in 1999, or the brawls guaranteed to erupt on film-oriented websites whenever someone has a good word for Roman Polanski. True, Allen was never charged with molesting Dylan, let alone convicted. But a court was nonetheless concerned enough to deny him visitation rights he fought hard for—maybe oddly, since he'd never been the legal stepfather to Mia's brood of adopted children.

Then again, Polanski—always something of an interloper in his Hollywood days—never had the kind of media fan base Allen enjoys. People just have too much invested in clinging to him as a distinctively New York-y cultural icon to want the other stuff dredged up. Never underestimate how the Big Apple takes care of its own; if Woody had been just another L.A.-based movie director, he'd probably be much more of a pariah today. At best, the revelation of his pervy side—not to mention his chilling indifference to wrecking other people's lives as he followed his bliss—is treated as ancient history, and at worst it's simply ignored.  When he was past 70, he spent no less than three movies letting his camera drool all over the youthful lusciousness of Scarlett Johansson, who's half a century his junior—and you'd have to look long and hard for a review that noted Allen hadn't exactly changed his spots or even turned tactfully abashed about showing them.

If I revered his work the way many of my colleagues do—and/or felt the kind of wishful affinity (he doesn't reciprocate) that makes cherishing him part of their self-image—I might be more conflicted.   But despite my regard for more than a few of his movies, including a couple of those that drooled over Johansson, I haven't been a Woodyphile for a long time now. If his devotees quarrel with that judgment, fine, but I'll never be able to sympathize with how protective they are of him.  Few people need protection less—or deserve it, for that matter.

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