Sisterhood Blog

It's Okay To Be Ambivalent About Woody Allen

By Elissa Strauss

  • Print
  • Share Share

On Saturday, Woody Allen’s adopted daughter Dylan Farrow published a letter in the New York Times in which she claims that her father sexually abused her at age seven. She calls upon Allen’s famous friends to not dismiss her story, and says that Allen is “a living testament to the way our society fails the survivors of sexual assault and abuse.” The letter is emotionally devastating, and has quickly ignited a torrent of renunciations and judgement from all sides.

One of the things that rose up is the outcome from the initial charges brought against Allen by his then-partner Mia Farrow (with whom he adopted Dylan). According to a New York Times story from the time, a doctor on the case found numerous inconsistencies in Dylan’s statement, and said he believed they were false. This was part of a six-month investigation into the case by the Connecticut State Police, who never ended up filing charges because they felt as though they did not find enough evidence to support Dylan’s claim.

I don’t bring this up to cast doubt on Dylan, or acquit Allen. Just to remind us all that we still don’t know what happened. And we don’t have to make up our minds about it. Instead, we are free to remain ambivalent about all parties involved, and about Allen’s work.

Remember, ambivalence is not synonymous with indifference. It is rather the state of simultaneously holding or fluctuating between two strong emotions or opinions at once. It’s also said to be a sign of intelligence and emotional maturity. We can experience the trauma of Dylan’s words, acknowledge the importance of survivor stories and our awful habit of victim-blaming, while also maintaining the possibility that it never happened.

We can also remain ambivalent about Allen’s films, and his legacy. As Jews, we can connect with the deep post-War World II cultural affirmation that is his body of work. And as people who take issue with the hyper-sexualization of young women and the culture of violence that it produces, we can cringe at his long line of rather young female ingenues, ending at “Manhattan” in which the middle-aged Allen character dates a 17-year old girl played by a 16-year old Mariel Hemingway.

Anyway, to be a Jew and a woman is to be well-accustomed to divorcing creator from creation. A quick look at the greatest artists from the 20th century, from Coco Chanel to Pablo Picasso to Ezra Pound, and you are likely to stumble upon more than a few anti-Semties, or womanizers or both, if not worse. Woody Allen might just be another artist with whom we take issue or are made uncomfortable by his personal life while still finding exaltation in his work. That’s okay.

Still, there is someone to blame here. Us. And it’s not for celebrating Woody Allen, or unfairly condemning him. It is for our continued support of creative work that sexualizes young girls, and objectifies women of all ages for that matter. This creates an environment in which it is much easier to excuse and normalize sexual abuse against women, much like what Dylan recalls.

From Steubenville, to “Blurred Lines,” to the countless movies featuring male leads romantically linked to women half their age or less, we are still dating a 16-year Mariel Hemingway ourselves, sometimes metaphorically speaking and sometimes not. This is the thing we have reason and cause to be absolute about, not Allen.

Photo credit Getty Images


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Woody Allen, Manhattan, Jewish, Dylan Farrow

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.