This is a hard topic. Our brains want to make it seem complicated because we want life to be easy, but life was never easy and it wasn’t meant to be. It’s not a complicated topic, but it is a hard topic.
Dylan Farrow is a perennial reminder that maybe we’re doing something wrong. She’s like the video of a house hanging over the ocean because acid waves have eaten away the beach, and we think, “At least I drive a Prius!” or “At least I stopped eating fast food!” In the same way, I have talked to many people who read about Dylan Farrow’s story of childhood molestation from Woody Allen, or, more recently read her own account in her own words, and want to disbelieve her. It is complicated, their brains object, because Mia Farrow may have convinced Dylan of her story. It’s not Dylan’s fault, but she could still be wrong. This is like people who say volcanoes, not humans, are causing greenhouse gasses.
Dylan Farrow is still there, the house hanging over the cliff.
The reason our brains try to make this so complicated, for those of us where it seems complicated, is that we like Woody Allen’s movies, and we want to hate anything to do with a child molester. We want to be 100% black and white on that issue because if we’re not, do we even have a conscience?
The weird thing about Woody Allen, if you like his movies, which I do like many of them (especially the ones with Mia Farrow whom I love love love to the ends of the earth), is that they are dark and creepy enough that finding out about what he did to Dylan Farrow doesn’t really change them. Finding out about Bill Cosby just decimates the Cosby Show for me – just completely ruins it. Finding out about Woody Allen molesting Dylan Farrow is kind of like, “Ahhh, well, we probably should have known.”
We are the ones who sat by while a child was hurt. Our entertainment money supported an industry that hurt people. We spend more time thinking about losing a good filmmaker than about the greater filmmaker who might have safe room to grow if he was gone.
And, yet, we also (most of us) know how it feels to be Dylan Farrow. We know how it feels to be vulnerable and hurt and have people bigger and stronger than us call us liars or brainwashed.
(baby animals just for still reading)
This is a painful topic that brings up both our vulnerability and our complicity in other people’s pain. But, calling Dylan Farrow a liar is not the answer. Calling Dylan Farrow a liar only lets us pretend to live in a world where people are bad 100% of the time or good 100% of the time or where success has a relationship to value and worthiness.
Someone can be a good writer and a murderer. Someone can be violent and fun at parties. Someone can be insightful and cruel. People are more often both/and than either/or.
So, what can we do if we are Dylan Farrow and someone loves our abuser? What can we do if strangers love our abuser so much that they call us a liar, without even knowing us?
We can do one of the hardest things there is to do – we offer our story as the gift that it is and then turn around to live our lives for ourselves, not for our abuser. Living our lives to prove our abuser wrong makes us a slave to the abuse, even years after it is past. Now, I am not saying to pretend it didn’t happen or to stay quiet. Talking about abuse only contributes to keeping our communities safe from it. But no person’s abuse story is the story of their life. Dylan Farrow is much, much more than the Woody Allen controversy. Each of us is much, much more than any abuse. If we decide to live our lives for ourselves and live our lives to see what we can create, abuse fades to the background. It is still part of us, but a battle scar rather than a festering wound.
If people love Woody Allen, if I love Purple Rose of Cairo, which I will to my dying day, it says nothing about Dylan Farrow. If people love your abuser, it says nothing about you.
I hope to see what Dylan Farrow is capable of creating in spite of, or because of, her battle scars.
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