I've always loved movies, especially Woody Allen's. They're delicately funny, beautifully intricate and lovingly bold. As a fan of his work, I have participated in many conversations about the controversy surrounding both the allegations of molesting his adopted daughter and his marriage to his ex-partner's adopted daughter. Until recently, I had decidedly withdrawn from taking a stance about the acclaimed director's sense of morality.
In general, I think one of art's greatest curiosities is context. The perception of artwork depends on location, time, mood and a plethora of other factors. Because it is ever changing, the distinction between art and artist is important. So, in the 'Woody Allen debate,' what is my opinion? I love his movies. But after reading Dylan's letter, I realized this simple opinion wasn't enough.
Annie Hall invites its viewers to participate in Alvy Singer's existential struggle. Manhattan romanticizes a city's lifestyle. But, Woody Allen's films could be considered their own genre. There's something so familiar about each of them -- his presence. They are not just stories about people and their relationships. They are projections of Woody Allen's mind, his sentiments and his fears. Among his film repertoire containing over 70 titles, he has directed 45, written 53 and acted in 39. To admire Woody Allen's films is to admire who Woody Allen is.
When Dylan Farrow published an open letter reiterating the sexual abuse allegations from 1993, it became much harder for me to admire Woody Allen. While unconfirmed, the letter is painful to read. She challenges the world to consider their "favorite Woody Allen movie" given her experience.
Dylan's words are haunting. It seems that the letter is not simply an effort to disparage Allen's name. It encapsulates the struggle thousands of abuse victims must face everyday to be heard and acknowledged. In Canada alone, according to the Toronto Police Service, 51 percent of women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of sexual or physical violence - and those are only the known cases. Statistics Canada estimates that only 1 in 10 sexual assaults are actually reported to the police. These facts dumbfounded me. It is an appalling reality, but hardly surprising, since it is a well-known fact that, in return, society and the justice system victimizes the victims. We ignore them, shame them and interrogate them as if it was they who were guilty of some crime.
It is for all these reasons that I am no longer withdrawing from the 'Woody Allen debate.' I am standing up for Dylan Farrow. For me, this does not mean standing up for a claim that has yet to be proven. It does not mean prematurely accusing Allen of a crime he may or may not have wretchedly committed.
Standing up for Dylan Farrow means standing up against a culture that silences victims of unspeakable abuse. It means standing up against a society that tells men that they can sexually abuse children and go about their daily businesses, to their jobs, to their families, to the Oscars.
Standing up for Dylan Farrow means standing up against sexual abuse. I am standing up for Dylan Farrow, are you?
Follow Celeste Yim on Twitter: www.twitter.com/celesteyim