On Sunday night, New York Magazine published a profile of Soon-Yi Previn. Soon-Yi, the daughter of Mia Farrow and wife of Woody Allen, had been largely silent on the accusations of abuse that swirled around her.
For the first time, the profile promised, the 47-year-old, who married her mom’s boyfriend when she was 27, would speak out.
There’s a lot to unpack in the piece.
For starters, there are accusations of abuse against Soon-Yi’s mother, Mia Farrow. There’s Woody Allen, sticking to the stories that he’s said for the past three decades. Then there’s the director’s constant presence as Soon-Yi was interviewed — he pops in and out of the piece, offering the occasional interjection.
There are two uses of the word “chutzpah,” in two very different contexts. One, when Soon-Yi asked Connie Boll, who worked for the organization that connected Mia to Soon-Yi’s orphanage, why she picked her: “Boll said she had been taken by Soon-Yi’s ‘chutzpah.'” And two, when explaining why Allen was attracted to her, Soon-Yi explains, “I think Woody liked the fact that I had chutzpah when he first kissed me and I said, ‘I wondered how long it was going to take you to make a move.’ From the first kiss I was a goner and loved him.”
There’s the acknowledgement that Allen began pursuing Soon-Yi in high school; Soon-Yi says, “I wasn’t the one who went after Woody — where would I get the nerve? He pursued me. That’s why the relationship has worked: I felt valued.”
From the get-go, the profile is nauseating. The second sentence says Soon-Yi was seen as “Lolita, a seductress.” But here’s the thing: Lolita was a victim. To think otherwise is to fundamentally misunderstand Nabokov’s novel, which is based on the true story of an abducted young girl. Little girls — 10-year-old girls! — cannot be seductresses.
By Soon-Yi’s own account, Woody Allen “came after her”. It doesn’t actually matter when a sexual line was crossed since he knew her in a familial capacity since she was a 10 year old child. It was predatory behavior. I can’t believe this is still being denied or debated in 2018.
— Crystal Marie Fleming (@alwaystheself) September 17, 2018
There are many things that are off about this profile. But here’s a big issue: It was written by Daphne Merkin, a close friend of the famous director. As one Twitter user put it sarcastically, “And now in my exclusive profile we get the true story from Soon-Yi, Woody Allen’s wife, as told to me, Woody Allen’s Friend, while Woody Allen is in the room with us. Truly we will find the truth today.”
Merkin writes, “I myself have been friends with Allen for over four decades and have always been somewhat mystified by him, in part because of the almost Aspergian aloneness of the man and in part because of the genuine diffidence — the lack of a discernible ego — that lies just beneath both a lifetime’s worth of ambitious productivity and his nebbishy film persona.” (Say it with me: Oy.)
Woke up wondering how this line in the Daphne Merkin piece got past the fact checkers. She writes of Woody Allen’s ‘lack of a discernible ego.’ Of a man whose narcissism is *his entire shtick.* pic.twitter.com/NPIBH2Fvkc
— Rebecca Keegan (@ThatRebecca) September 17, 2018
It’s important to hear from Soon-Yi, yes. But having her “speak out” in a profile written by an old friend of Allen’s makes the profile lose all credibility. As journalist Yashar Ali tweeted, “to have a Woody Allen sycophant (read Daphne’s previous writings on Woody) profile Soon-Yi isn’t journalistically sound. The also piece brings us nowhere close to understanding Soon-Yi, it’s just a slew of attacks on Mia Farrow.”
Merkin is also notable as a writer who is consistently “skeptical of all kinds of sexual abuse allegations.” Cool!
While we’re here, let me just remind you of Dylan Farrow’s 2014 open letter in the New York Times, where she writes, “For as long as I could remember, my father had been doing things to me that I didn’t like…. When I asked my mother if her dad did to her what Woody Allen did to me, I honestly did not know the answer. I also didn’t know the firestorm it would trigger. I didn’t know that my father would use his sexual relationship with my sister to cover up the abuse he inflicted on me. I didn’t know that he would accuse my mother of planting the abuse in my head and call her a liar for defending me. I didn’t know that I would be made to recount my story over and over again, to doctor after doctor, pushed to see if I’d admit I was lying as part of a legal battle I couldn’t possibly understand.”
Dylan, the adopted daughter of Mia and Woody Allen (who were together from 1979 until the abuse allegations in 1992), was at the center of abuse allegations.
Ronan Farrow, Mia and Woody’s son, and a journalist at the forefront of the #MeToo movement, said in a statement, “As a journalist, I’m shocked by the lack of care for the facts, the refusal to include eyewitness testimony that would contradict falsehoods in this piece, and the failure to print my sister’s responses. Survivors of abuse deserve better.”
Keeping up with the news is exhausting. It can be painful and draining to read. But while Soon-Yi is absolutely “entitled to be heard,” as the New York Magazine statement said, we owe it to victims of sexual assault — all victims — to hear their stories in full.