The other day, I watched my first Woody Allen movie. I know it’s shocking but, cinematically at least, I live under a rock. Nosing around I realized that my parents held a strong distaste for Woody Allen, an opinion not as uncommon as you may think. His marriage to his 19-year-old adopted step-daughter made him “creepy” and “disgusting.” It was something that struck a nerve, especially considering both myself and my younger sister are adopted.
A quick search on the internet brought me to the recently revived Woody Allen/Dylan Farrow accusations. After reading Farrow’s harrowing letter of how Allen supposedly sexually abused her when she was seven, I couldn’t help but feel some semblance of sympathy. Then I read Allen’s response – his professional, calm, mature, and logical explanation of the situation – that made Farrow’s piece seem like a childish outcry bringing up age-old issues. He also faults Mia Farrow, Dylan’s mother, for taking advantage of a child and implanting memories to serve her own agenda.
Within me now raged a civil war. Having read Farrow’s account first, I had predisposed myself to her plea. Regardless of what actually happened, she clearly had come to believe she had been violated. Her call to action to bring awareness and support to victims of rape was something that appeals to any person with a heart. Yet, Allen’s response illuminated extenuating circumstances which very carefully and convincingly annulled Farrow’s accusations.
One point that Farrow brought up that came back to me time and time again focused on the power that money and fame garner to expertly cover up such issues. In her letter she writes, “sexual abuse claims against the powerful stall more easily. There were experts willing to attack my credibility. There were doctors willing to gaslight an abused child.” What if Allen’s reply was merely a well told lie, a perfectly executed publicity stunt?
I, like many, am a fan of the show Scandal. Besides my necessary dose of Kerry Washington, this show has brought to the surface underlying doubts I’ve always harbored concerning what information the public receives is actually true. If you aren’t familiar, Scandal is a drama set in Washington D.C. based around the various cover ups used in the circus show we call politics. Obviously exaggerated for sensational reasons, there is a grain of truth to take away: it’s all about how you spin the story.
Whether we like it or not, media is profoundly influential. What is reported, printed, and written in the news can change lives. The power of words is evident in the sometimes tragic repercussions of an article publishing. One Tampa Bay Times article featured a woman with a sexual disorder that left her constantly aroused. Mortified and publicly, the said woman committed suicide.
We take what we read seriously. The media has the ability to arouse unprecedented levels of patriotism, sympathy, hatred, scorn, etc. It can polarize opinions, transforming controversial issues from a flowing conversation into a heated debate with only two sides pitted against each other. What if I had only read Farrow’s letter? Perhaps I would have made Annie Hall my first and last Woody Allen movie on principle.
There are always two sides to a story. On a larger, more serious scale, how can I ever feel truly informed on foreign policy or other such issues? The government of a country always want to keep up appearances to its citizens. As merely the public, not directly involved in conflicts, we are always receiving delayed, secondhand information. How much is just smoke and mirrors? Those reporting will always have an agenda, a biased outlook. Or perhaps, as often is the case in Scandal, the media reports as objectively as they can, but they are merely a tool being used by someone to relay selected information.
Public opinion can hold a lot of weight, but is it based on fact or feeling? I’m more inclined to believe the latter. At times I think public opinion is just another factor that is manipulated and shaped. Should I even bother to give my two cents if I may never know the true scope of an issue? Maybe it isn’t really Woody Allen vs. Dylan and Mia Farrow. It’s the truth vs. the agendas of two different and powerful people, using the media as a ping pong to be bounced back and forth to see who will win the match. To take a side is to take a leap of faith, hoping somewhere in the conflicting information we are receiving lies some undeniable truth.
Alcindor, Yamiche. “Tragedies Show Power of Media Spotlight.” USA Today. Gannett, 08 Dec. 2012. Web. 02 Aug. 2014.
Allen, Woody. “Woody Allen Speaks Out.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 08 Feb. 2014. Web. 02 Aug. 2014.
Hobley, Marcus. “Public Opinion Can Play a Positive Role in Policy Making.” Theguardian.com. Guardian News and Media, 03 Sept. 2012. Web. 03 Aug. 2014.
Farrow, Dylan. “An Open Letter From Dylan Farrow.” New York Times. The New York Times, 1 Feb. 2014. Web. 02 Aug. 2014.
Samara, Adam. “5 Common Reasons Why People Hate Woody Allen, But Really Shouldn’t.” Mic. Mic Network Inc., 5 Aug. 2013. Web. 03 Aug. 2014.
Image Credit: Swan, Colin. “Woody Allen.” Flickr: Creative Commons. Flickr, n.d. Web. 9 Aug. 2014. <https://flic.kr/p/8KHaB>.