Make-up Call

After Nick Kristof used his byline to revive Dylan Farrow’s accusations against Woody Allen, the New York Times allowed Allen a chance to respond. Some people found the response convincing, but some felt that he, “made himself appear even less sympathetic to an already critical public. And he made an already ugly situation even uglier.”

Not to worry. As soon as I saw the headline of the Times’ latest Retro Report feature, The Trial That Unleashed Hysteria Over Child Abuse, I knew the Gray Lady’s management were doing their best to make nice with Allen and his lawyers.

It has long been said, in varying language, that a lie travels halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on. You do not have to reach back 200 years to Scotland to find enduring wisdom in that adage. You need return only to the 1980s and to the subject of this week’s Retro Report documentary video, part of a series re-examining news stories from the past. This week’s subject is the notorious McMartin Preschool abuse trial. …

Of course, child abuse was then, and is now, an appalling reality in this country. So is false memory. The tricky part is sorting out which is which. If you have wondered whether it is possible that Woody Allen long ago sexually abused his and Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter, Dylan — and who has not wrestled with this explosive accusation and Mr. Allen’s insistent denial — you readily appreciate the depth of the problem.

The problem for those of us who read the Wilks decision and Vanity Fair articles – as well as the many articles defending Allen – is that there is a lot more to these allegations than a child’s memory – false, implanted or otherwise. Grown people observed and testified about Allen’s indifferent behavior to Mia’s adopted children, and even to Satchel, who was supposed to be his natural son.

No one can deny that Allen eventually noticed and began romancing Soon-Yi Previn. I have fallen out of love myself, and while I didn’t start dating a teenager or stepdaughter, if Allen had ended there with a long marriage to Soon-Yi, I and most people would have gotten over it, as we have with so many all-too-human celebrities.

But Allen was also creepily hands-on with his and Mia’s adopted daughter Dylan O’Sullivan Farrow, fawning over her and in one account rubbing suntan lotion deep into the crack of her buttocks until chided by Mia’s mother, actress Maureen O’Sullivan. Allen has claimed that he was happy in a new relationship, but clearly he saw something in prepubescent Dylan that he hadn’t in prepubescent Soon-Yi.

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