Ms. Dylan Farrow
February 10, 2014
The New York Times recently published the column Dylan Farrow’s Story by Nicholas Kristof. In the article, he refers to an Open Letter from Dylan Farrow to Woody Allen fans posted on his blog. The letter alleges that Woody Allen, her adoptive father, sexually assaulted her when she was 7 years old. The open letter is probably the most moving text I have ever read in the New York Times and I highly recommend that you read it as well, now. Be warned, it is a tough read.
To me the letter has the resonance of authenticity. Furthermore, according to a number of studies, the overall rate of false accusations of child sexual abuse is less than 10%. Sunny Hostin, a former prosecutor said on CNN 360 last week that based on her experience of prosecuting sex crimes (with a 100% conviction rate) she found the account credible.
Mr. Woody Allen denies the accusation just as he did back in 1993 and published his own Op-ed “Woody
Allen Speaks Out” in the New York Times yesterday.
In the present media frenzy, I found Maureen Orth’s article 10 Undeniable Facts About Woody Allen Sexual-Abuse Allegation, published by Vanity Fair helpful. She decided to publish the article because, she writes: “As an author of two lengthy, heavily researched and thoroughly fact-checked articles I feel obligated to set the record straight.”
Jack Marshall author of the Ethics Alarms blog calls her an Ethics Hero because she willingly threw herself into “public controversy now while re-living the worst trauma of her life” in order to “encourage victims of child molestation and incest to speak out, and may stop some future crimes from occurring.”
This tragic story brings up at least two separate ethical issues.
- 1. The tendency that we all have to turn a blind eye to a situation that makes us uncomfortable.
Ms. Farrow writes that her torment “was made worse by Hollywood” because, “all but a precious few (my heroes) turned a blind eye.” Turning a blind eye can never be morally justified. We have a moral, sometimes even a legal, obligation to report the suspicion of a crime.
- 2. Whether the personal lives and negative conduct of artists should influence our appreciation of their art?
It is a difficult question.
On the one hand, if we categorically refuse to make a distinction between the artist’s conduct and his or her art, we may end up never appreciating it since no artist nor anyone else is ever perfect.
On the other hand is it possible (from a moral point of view) to totally separate the artist from his work, since art is a very personal expression of the soul of the artist?
I think that ultimately it comes down to a personal choice that we make on a case by case basis. Our decision will certainly be influenced by our own sensitivity, moral values and willingness to compromise…or not!
As British author and journalist Jeanette Winterson once wrote:
“The body can endure compromise and the mind can be seduced by it.
Only the heart protests.”