Woody Allen’s Witch Hunt Exemplifies Hollywood’s ‘Not Me’ Problem

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By Tom Carson

Nobody knows for sure how one-time New York Congressman turned convicted sexter Anthony Weiner is passing time until he starts serving his prison sentence on November 6, but based on the available evidence, one theory might be that he’s moonlighting as Woody Allen’s media advisor. What else can explain why Allen would think that a breathless world wanted to hear his sagacious opinion of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, which has exploded in the past two weeks from horrific allegations of sexual harassment and abuse to even more horrific charges of outright rape to the instigation of his brother, Bob Weinstein, in similar allegations?

Earlier this week, the 81-year-old director of 1971’s Bananas valiantly stepped up to the banana peel to tell the BBC that this was “sad for everyone involved”–including Harvey, because “his life is so messed up.” Among his other well-deserved comeuppances, Weinstein had been expelled the day before from the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences. (It’s only the second time in the Academy’s history that someone has been.) Then Allen fretfully added that he hoped all of this wouldn’t lead to “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. That’s not right either.”

For starters, Weinstein is hardly just some guy in an office. As the head of first Miramax and then the Weinstein Company, he was one of the most powerful players in the movie industry for decades, with a prestige-fat filmography whose swank titles include, among others, Allen’s own Mighty Aphrodite and Vicky Christina Barcelona, both of which Weinstein helped drive to Oscar wins. The action of “winking” is also nobody’s idea of a prosecutable equivalent to the litany of grotesquely predatory sexual behavior on Weinstein’s part that actresses from Ashley Judd to Rose McGowan to Mira Sorvino to Gwyneth Paltrow to Asia Argento to Kate Beckinsale to Rosanna Arquette to Heather Graham to Angelina Jolie—and that’s just the better-known names on the list—have stepped forward to substantiate in awful detail.

Everyone seems to have grasped that this one is different: ‘the tip of the iceberg.’

The other problem, of course—and the unstated but no doubt real source of Allen’s anxiety—is that any witch hunters worth their salt should subpoena his broomstick. In the aforementioned Bananas, Allen’s hero, Fielding Mellish, makes a “joke” that deserves to come back to haunt its author: “I’m doing a sociological study on perversion. I’m up to Advanced Child Molesting.” In 1993, as the world knows, Mia Farrow accused Allen of molesting their then seven-year-old adopted daughter Dylan.

By then, the couple had already split up thanks to Farrow’s discovery of nude Polaroids Allen had taken of another adopted daughter of hers, then 21-year-old Soon-Yi Previn. Previn and Allen have been married since 1997, and it may or may not be totally irrelevant to their beautiful love story’s happy ending that wives can’t be legally compelled to testify against their husbands. Still, no matter how incongruous the word family may sound, this was a family situation, not a professional one. But one uncomfortable point of contact with Weinstein’s scandal is that both are tales of powerful men—in Allen’s case, a powerful father figure, the next best thing to a literal boss—allegedly getting their way and getting away with it.

Speaking of family, Mia Farrow and Allen’s biological son, Ronan (formerly Satchel) Farrow, who’s firmly on his sister Dylan’s side, has fiercely called out the movie industry for years for its complicity in backing, tolerating and even honoring his estranged father instead of ostracizing him. As it happens, Ronan is the author of the long New Yorkerarticle that devastatingly expanded the accusations against Weinstein soon after The New York Times broke the story in a lengthy investigative report on October 5th.

By any rational standard, that not-quite-coincidence should have been yet another incentive for Dad to keep his mouth tactfully shut about Weinstein’s troubles. But Allen’s brain has been in a losing foot-race with his affronted and vindictive ego ever since the Soon-Yi story went public. That’s why Ronan Farrow’s prominent role in bringing about Weinstein’s downfall might well have been one more goad for him to see himself targeted by implication and babble piously about witch hunts.

Naturally, Allen was forced almost instantly to “clarify” his original BBC comments. He gave a statement to Variety explaining that Weinstein was “a sad, sick man.” Isn’t it good to have that cleared up? All the same, if he’s worried that Weinstein’s scandal will trigger a re-examination of his own history, he’s right to worry. Almost from the minute the NYT’s bombshell hit, everyone seems to have grasped that this one is different: not just an exposé of one monstrous individual, but “the tip of the iceberg” (to paraphrase Emma Thompson) in revealing an industry-wide pattern of male sexual hostility, bullying entitlement, intimidation and abuse.

But unlike Weinstein, who may yet face criminal charges for his conduct, Allen no longer has to fear being tried in a courtroom for his sins. In a just world, every DVD and Blu-ray of Manhattan, his once beloved 1979 movie about a 45-year-old man (guess who) playing head games and bed games with a naïvely trusting 17-year-old girl, ought to be digitally altered from now on so that Mariel Hemingway’s wardrobe includes a lapel button reading “Me Too.”