Woody Allen and the monster myth

Dylan Farrow has published a courageous open letter in the NYT today about how Woody Allen sexually abused her as a child and how little the justice system did to address that harm.

The debate for the past few weeks about whether or not Allen deserves awards for his movies despite this highlights the problems with the idea that sexual violence is committed by monsters. It’s a comforting thought that only a terrible person would ever do such a thing, but when people who are beloved or powerful commit these acts, this assumption makes it impossible to believe the victim. The reasoning is this: abusers are evil monsters, we love Woody Allen, thus we are going to ignore or disbelieve that he’s an abuser. Of course the problem with maintaining this is that it means we need to sacrifice the needs of survivors like Farrow.

We condemn the very existence of child abuse altogether. It’s as if the crime includes being victimized by it, or responsible for bringing it into the light. We take an ontological roach spray to the whole event, either denying its status in reality altogether, or competing with one another to proclaim the most exquisite forms of torture for the perpetrators. (Warwick)

Many commentators are asking: How can we still love Woody Allen movies if we know he’s a sexual abuser? It’s a real problem that we are always asked to make this choice; to decide if someone is good or evil and to fail to see anything in between. I hope one day we will find a way to talk about and address sexual violence that doesn’t demonize abusers, but for the sake of their victims, leads towards accountability, responsibility, and reparation instead.

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