Lena Dunham made an appearance on Marc Maron‘s WTF podcast yesterday, and seemingly had the most balanced view of the Woody Allen abuse case of any celebrity who’s weighed in. While I normally find Dunham to be generally eye roll-inducing, her stance on things seemed measured, reasonable, and decisive–going so far as to call herself “decidedly pro-Dylan Farrow and decidedly disgusted with Woody Allen’s behavior.” Dunham’s most salient points come in the separation between Allen’s artistic contributions and personal horror show, and are maybe the only insightful thing a celebrity has said on the topic.
“For me, when people go through his work and comb through it for references to child molestation, that’s not the fucking point. I’m not gonna indict the work. I think that you can decide that you don’t want to support the work of somebody who has molested a child. That’s a completely appropriate choice. But going through it and saying, ‘Look, he’s told us in 57 ways that he rapes kids’ — that’s not the thing.”
I was one of the reactionary voices drawing parallels in his movies to real life, which I’ve since re-thought and decided was an incorrect assessment. It was grasping for more evidence and playing detective, but it’s simply not fair nor particularly smart to pretend that all art is simply code for artists’ illegal actions. Dunham stressed that real world evidence and the art someone creates aren’t the same thing, and I couldn’t agree more:
“The thing is to look at the actual evidence that exists in the world, which I think strongly suggests that Woody Allen is in the wrong. But for me the point is not to go through his one-act plays looking for references to child molestation. Because I’m not comfortable living in a world where art is part of how we convict people of crimes.”
This might actually be the most insightful thing Dunham has ever said in any interview of her’s that I’ve ever read. The discussion of Allen’s art is basically irrelevant, because as she says, the real world evidence that we’ve been exposed to is damning enough. But I’m with Dunham and absolutely not comfortable with the idea of someone’s art being used as evidence to find him or her guilty of a crime. That wouldn’t hold up in court, and shouldn’t have a place in the court of public opinion, either.
Dunham faltered a bit when talking about people’s attachment to Allen despite the allegations, although I can’t really blame her for not knowing how to walk this line.
“I feel like people need to understand that you can hold two positions in your mind. You can know that someone’s made work that’s meaningful to you and also know that they have most likely molested their daughter.”
While I believe that she’s theoretically right, I would add that it’s pretty likely that the knowledge that someone “most likely molested their daughter” would change your relationship to his or her art in some way, but it doesn’t devalue what the work may have meant to you. Speaking personally, Allen’s movies were important to me for most of my life. As silly as it might sound, seeing a neurotic head case who deflected with humor made me feel less alone, and so those movies won’t stop being important to me. At the same time, I haven’t wanted to watch them in years, ever since I became cognizant of the step-daughter/marriage thing and the abuse allegations. But that doesn’t mean the movies weren’t important to me at some point, and even though I don’t want anything to do with them now, they still are.
None of this should detract from the real point of all of this–Dunham was able to decisively say that Allen most likely molested Farrow based on what we actually know, and didn’t beat around the bush with pandering Hollywood bullshit. I can’t think of any other celebrities who were so strong in their condemnation, likely prioritizing Hollywood working relationships over, you know, speaking up over what’s right (including yesterday’s disappointing take from Scarlett Johansson). I can’t believe that Dunham is the voice of reason on all this and up until this point, I have yet to really agree with her analysis on anything. But I agree wholeheartedly on this one, and am glad she said something. She said the right thing.
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