02/03/2014 06:18 pm ET | Updated Apr 05, 2014

Despite Woody Allen Backlash, We're Still Not Serving Abuse Victims


In her tribute to Woody Allen while accepting his Cecile B. Demile award, Diane Keaton said, "Woody's films have been changing the way we think about life, love and the pursuit of neuroses forever."

In her open letter, featured on Nicholas Kristof's New York Times blog, Dylan Farrow wrote, "When I was seven years old, Woody Allen took me by the hand and led me into a dim, closet-like attic on the second floor of our house. He told me to lay on my stomach and play with my brother's electric train set. Then he sexually assaulted me."

In a fictional world, these statements would inevitably contradict each other. In the real world, it's hard to accept that an endearing cinematic genius could simultaneously be a dangerous child predator.

But we do a disservice to victims everywhere by compartmentalizing fact and fiction. We do a disservice to victims by assuming that talent and morality always go hand-in-hand.

While many are rallying behind Farrow, Allen's friends and fans have quickly come to his defense.

So why is it so hard to imagine that a brilliant filmmaker could also be capable of such a heinous crime? Why is it so difficult to believe that both Diane Keaton and Dylan Farrow could be telling the truth?

Because it is much more comforting to believe that depraved, immoral acts are only committed by degenerate strangers in dark alleys. We've come to expect that talent and genius must be equated with goodness and morality. Even though, this fallacy has been exposed time and time again.

Consider, for example, Aaron Hernandez, an incredibly skilled and versatile football player who made a name for himself early in his career. So when he was charged with multiple homicides his fans and teammates were incredulous at the news. But did they have reason to be? When did excellent fitness and top-notch hand-eye coordination become indicative of moral character?

Likewise, the whole of South Africa felt betrayed when Oscar Pistorius, arguably the country's most notable celebrity export since Mandela himself, shot and killed his girlfriend. Whether Pistorius is a cold-blooded murderer or a paranoid gun nut is yet to be seen, but somewhere along the way we confused being able to run really, really fast with being 'a stand-up guy' and 'all-around great human being.'

Or consider Roman Polanski. A wildly talented filmmaker, actor, producer and writer who has also pled guilty to the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl.

We prop up celebrities and sports stars on pedestals of our own creation -- not ones to which they have necessarily ascended or earned themselves.

Hollywood and storybooks teach us that there is always a thick moral line between good and bad. Villains rarely have redeemable qualities, and heroes, while sometimes flawed, always have the best intentions at heart.

Somewhere along the line, we bought into these notions of good and bad and cast our characters accordingly.

Ironically (or perhaps with no irony at all) Woody Allen has made a name for himself by creating multi-dimensional characters that blur the lines between good and bad. Allen's films feature characters that are fundamentally flawed and whimsically wrought, navigating the diverse terrain of our complicated and, at times, contradictory world.

Even Allen's most off-putting characters are more endearing in their realism than the cardboard cutouts of most mainstream movies.

So this is what it really comes down to: Woody Allen fans don't just appreciate his work; they see parts of themselves in it. And so the question becomes: If I can relate to the worlds that Allen creates and if he is indeed a predator, what would that say about me?

In reality, it would say nothing about you. It would say nothing about the many fans who identify with Woody Allen's films and the characters that occupy them. Instead it would say something about our insistence to see people one-dimensionally. It would say something about our collective vision and how we distort it to play into fairytale narratives of absolute good and absolute evil.

We don't want to believe that somebody who could do something so heinous could also possess such a phenomenal gift.

But time and time again, we've seen that talent and success don't exclusively occupy the moral high ground. Time and time again, we've seen our "heroes" fall.

It is high time we embrace a more dynamic way of seeing. The revolutionary filmmaker that Diane Keaton praises could be the same sexual deviant that Dylan Farrow condemns. We hurt victims when we pretend that the only perpetrators are ones lurking in the shadows.