Question: how far would a friend have to go before you dropped them?
What if they shoplifted?
How about if they slapped their toddler?
Drove away from a car accident?
Hit their partner?
Sexually abused their child?
When you know a person well – when that person is a dear friend, a top bloke, a mate who has never shown their dark side to you – how far is too far? When does it cease to be none of your business and become, well, everyone’s business?
Actor Susan Sarandon, Oscar-winning star of brilliant films like Dead Man Walking and Thelma and Louise, today made it crystal clear that she has a line – and that acclaimed film director Woody Allen has crossed it. She is one of very, very few Hollywood stars who have spoken out against the oft-described neurotic amid allegations he abused his adoptive daughter Dylan Farrow.
Here's a condensed version of what happened.
In 1980, Woody Allen and actress Mia Farrow started a relationship. Among Mia's 14 children, the couple had one biological child, Ronan, and adopted daughter Dylan and son Moses.
In 1992, Woody Allen and Mia Farrow split. To call the break 'acrimonious' would be an understatement of massive proportions - not least because Woody Allen had embarked on an affair with Mia's adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn. Allegations Woody Allen had abused Dylan emerged, but he was never been prosecuted, and police dropped the case after a seven-month investigation.
Then, in 2014, Dylan Farrow, in an open letter in the New York Times, wrote:
What’s your favorite Woody Allen movie? Before you answer, you should know: when I was seven years old, Woody Allen took me by the hand and led me into a dim, closet-like attic on the second floor of our house. He told me to lay on my stomach and play with my brother’s electric train set. Then he sexually assaulted me. He talked to me while he did it, whispering that I was a good girl, that this was our secret, promising that we’d go to Paris and I’d be a star in his movies. I remember staring at that toy train, focusing on it as it traveled in its circle around the attic. To this day, I find it difficult to look at toy trains.
In a response, Allen said Dylan had been brainwashed into believing the abuse had happened.
Reading that allegation - and it has followed him for years like one of the loud-mouthed, demanding Jewish mothers in his films - would you stay in Woody Allen's camp regardless? Would his friendship, his talent and clout, his shuffling, hangdog expression, his cinematic brilliance and endearing quirks make you scoff and turn away?
No such luck with Susan Sarandon.
At the Cannes Film Festival, she was asked for comment after Woody Allen told a media conference for his film Café Society "that he didn’t have 'anything to really draw on' to one day make a film about a younger man and an older woman" (his narratives often center on an older man and a much younger woman), the Guardian reported.
"Sarandon at first appeared to shut it down: 'I have nothing good to say about Woody Allen, so I don’t think we should go there.'
"Pressed to elaborate, Sarandon said: 'I think he sexually assaulted a child and I don’t think that’s right … It’s gotten very quiet in here, but that’s true'."
We might never be able to sift the truth in the allegations against Woody Allen. But regardless, that uncomfortable silence Susan Sarandon mentions is something more of us should get used to.
It's time we all started to call out the gargantuan elephants that sit in so many rooms - around domestic violence, bullying and workplace harassment.
For all the looks from this year's Cannes Film Festival, watch the video below. Post continues after video...
A woman I know well was abused again and again by her partner over about seven years. No amount of matt foundation could cover a black eye with the added cosmetic bonus of a lump the size of a golf ball. Or the bruises where he'd kicked her her legs as she fled screaming down the hallway of their family home.
Nothing could make her feel safe when he'd hold her close and whisper, "I could kill you now, you bitch".
Or save her from the embarrassment of facing neighbours who'd called the cops. Again.
And here's the thing. She told people. She told her friends. She told their husbands.
And guess what?
It was "none of their business". They stayed friends with him. Every single one of them. After all, he was the bloke most likely to shout at the pub, a great mate, bloody good fun to go out with.
So she was left battered, bruised and desperate, and he was left unchallenged by the people who could have actually made a difference.
I've asked this 'how far is too far' question again and again over the years. Because when she told me what had happened, she identified my line. He had crossed it. I confronted him. He cried like the bullying sook he was and promised never to do it again.
Of course, he did. And this time, she left.
I never saw him again. And, to quote a more descriptive man than me, if I did, I wouldn't piss on him if he was on fire.
So ask yourself: how far is too far for you?
And what are you going to do about it?
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