Things aren’t looking good for Woody Allen these days–the allegations of abuse that have been thrown at him over the past 20 years are having a public resurgence, and they’re carrying more weight than the first time around. It seems like every day, a new revelation about Allen’s comportment comes out that makes it harder and harder to doubt Allen’s daughter Dylan Farrow’s allegations, although deluded people certainly continue to doubt. We can add a new voice to the chorus of Allen-defenders: his former girlfriend, Stacey Nelkin. Unfortunately for Allen (and more unfortunately for Nelkin), this defense does more harm to his reputation than exonerate him, and it’s infuriating that this will be interpreted as a valid defense.
Speaking on Piers Morgan‘s show, Nelkin “insisted her own relationship with Allen was entirely consensual and not corrupt in the least.” This seems suspect given that Nelkin was 17 to Allen’s 42. To be clear–this wasn’t illegal–17 is the age of consent in New York. But I have trouble believing that Allen’s 35 year seniority wasn’t an unequal power advantage, and that there exists a single 17-year-old on earth who has the wherewithal to make a decision like that for herself when faced with an older, famous, powerful man.
Nelkin parroted the “woman scorned” theory that we’ve been hearing so much of, alleging that Dylan Farrows allegations were planted by Mia Farrow in order to get back at Allen. Nelkin revealed that she was even asked to testify against Allen in the original court proceedings, but refused:
“[They] asked if I would testify and admit that I was 15 when we dated, and I said ‘no,’ because I was not 15. I was 17, 18 and 19, and to me there’s a big distinction between that, and I think they were looking for the fact that, you know, 15 is jail bait. Seventeen is a very different story. I would not go along with that, so I think she was trying to create a pattern of, this is a man who looks for young girls and seduces them unwittingly and that’s not true. I was very, very much willing to be dating him, I was thrilled.”
It’s hard not to react to this on a visceral level, because “seventeen is a very different story” is the type of thing I said to my friends when I thought I had a real chance at seducing a history teacher at my high school. Mia Farrow didn’t need to create any pattern–it’s there. In fact, Stephen Marche wrote an especially salient piece on Esquire about the pattern of inappropriate relationships and uncomfortable age differences in Allen’s movies, in which the characters involved always seem to be stand-ins for Allen himself. Given the autobiographical nature of Allen’s movies, it’s hard to separate his characters from his real-life persona, and Allen made no effort to do so. It’s fair to look at his characters as extensions of himself.
Despite the increasingly damning evidence against Allen, his defenders will continue to put Dylan and Mia on trial (The Daily Beast’s embarrassing-for-humanity defense by Bob Weide details Mia’s sex life, astutely called scrutiny-by-proxy for 7-year-old Dylan by Slate’s Jessica Winter). Defenders of Allen are beginning to sound increasingly unhinged, and are clinging to some sort of emotional attachment that makes it painful to watch a hero fall. But when Piers Morgan trots out Allen’s teenaged girlfriend as a way to defend Allen, it speaks more to his guilt than to anything else.
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