Woody Allen has just signed a deal with Amazon to create a new television show for the web giant. Just last year Mr. Allen was publicly shamed by his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, who wrote a compelling open letter about her allegations that Mr. Allen sexually abused her at age seven, two decades prior. That ugliness is now a part of Amazon’s brand.
Troubling, though different, allegations against Woody Allen and Bill Cosby
I’ve previously written about the 6 reasons why I find Ms. Farrow’s allegations highly credible: A report to the police was made at the time, the police and the courts appeared biased in their investigation of the powerful Mr. Allen, corroborating evidence and family members support Ms. Farrow, and she’s not seeking anything now.
Perhaps most significantly, Mr. Allen had a sexual relationship with another of his girlfriend Mia Farrow’s daughters — Soon Yi Previn, who was 17 or 18 when that relationship began — shortly after the alleged abuse. Mr. Allen seemed disturbingly incapable of grasping how devastating that choice was to Mia Farrow and her children, saying he “didn’t find any moral dilemmas whatsoever” with the relationship. I believe it’s also notable that the older-man-younger-girl romance is a common theme in his films, including in Manhattan and in his next project about a college professor having a relationship with his student.
Mr. Allen and his supporters deny the allegations, pointing out that he was never charged with a crime in either case, and that Ms. Previn ultimately married him. They remain married to this day. Mr. Allen’s career has obviously thrived despite the allegations, evidenced again by the recently announced Amazon deal.
Compare: Bill Cosby. He too is accused of decades-old sexual abuse. He too is not criminally convicted of any charges, and his wife stands by him. The accusations differ, of course. The sheer number of women who have accused Mr. Cosby of drugging and raping them, in claims ranging from 1969 to 2008, is appalling. More than two-dozen have now publicly told their stories. If even half of the allegations are truthful, Mr. Cosby is a prolific, serial sexual predator.
Mr. Cosby also denies the accusations against him, but has suffered major career damage including cancellations of planned shows on NBC, Netflix and TV Land. Mr. Cosby is still touring, doing a comedy act, but he’s increasingly being heckled from the audience. At his most recent show, a large group of audience members chanted, “we believe the women!” before they were escorted out.
Media companies have a choice, despite legal inaction
What is a media company to do when working with a talented person facing such serious accusations, unresolved by the legal system? The media companies that cut ties with Mr. Cosby got it right. Celebrities reap huge financial rewards as a result of their choice to live in the public eye. When they’ve lost the public’s faith, they lose those lucrative contracts. That’s part of the deal.
Of course, the root problem is our system’s borderline incompetence in handling sexual assault claims. Victims are not only too traumatized to go straight to the police, they don’t trust that they will be respected and their complaints competently processed. And case after case has shown the system doing everything possible to protect powerful men. (I’m looking at you, Roman Polanski.) Even convicted rapists like Mike Tyson get hired by media companies, and artists like Eminem who rap about raping little girls (see my book Swagger) are megastars.
We have a long way to go before our culture treats rape as the cruel and evil act that it is, one that causes lifelong damage to its many victims.
The power of public condemnation
Luckily, big media does listen to its audience — especially now that we all have social media at our disposal, the powerful tool widely credited with bringing down Mr. Cosby. Facebook and Twitter outrage at Mr. Cosby and any companies doing business with him has made him virtually unemployable.
“Innocent until proven guilty” rightly applies in criminal courts. It does not mean we have to ignore the facts right in front of us in our daily affairs.
Having closely reviewed Dylan Farrow’s claims, I will not be buying Woody Allen products. Sure, Amazon has the legal right to hire him. We all have the right to be disgusted by that choice, and to say so loudly.
We are pleased to announce that we have been retained as litigation counsel for Janice Dickinson regarding her claims against Bill Cosby. Ms. Dickinson has been devastated by Mr. Cosby’s recent attacks on her in the media, through his attorneys. Ms. Dickinson has worked hard all of her life to earn her well-deserved international recognition as a supermodel and television star and she will not sit idly by as Mr. Cosby trashes her. We are now reviewing Ms. Dickinson’s legal options with her and we are prepared to aggressively defend her. We have no further comment at this time. All press inquiries should be directed to Lisa Bloom.
Lisa Bloom was honored to speak in St. Louis this past Wednesday on topics including Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner and her book Suspicion Nation. This event was hosted by the St. Louis Jewish Community Center and St. Louis Urban League for the upcoming Martin Luther King day.