Monday, February 3, 2014

Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Dylan Farrow and Public Opinion

Some sensitive topics have been bandied about on the internet and I say it needs to stop.
When it comes to issues of child abuse and addiction these are subjects that shouldn't be reduced to the arena of public opinion.

The Daily Beast's Robert B. Weide recently spent an article clarifying misconceptions surrounding Woody Allen and the allegations of abuse by his daughter Dylan Farrow in the 1990's. He also reveals what is true and false in regards to Allen's marriage to Soon-Yi Previn, Mia Farrow's adopted daughter with Andre Previn. Allen was in a relationship with Mia Farrow when the relationship with Soon-Yi began.

I read the article and was influenced by the revelations. "Oh, Soon-Yi was never Woody Allen's adopted daughter she was the adopted daughter of his girlfriend. Oh, there were no official charges against Woody Allen about the abuse of his daughter. My bad. Maybe Woody Allen isn't a creep," I thought.

Then Dylan Farrow published an open letter for the New York Times with details regarding the alleged abuse. It is a stark, graphic description. I was embarrassed that I'd been momentarily swayed by Weide's article but I didn't jumped from one conclusion to the other. I felt shame because I realized it was none of my business to try and exact the truth out of something in which I have no connection.

I wasn't there. I don't know any of these people. The complexities surrounding abuse deserve more than a quick read and my verdict.

On Sunday Phillip Seymour Hoffman a wonderful, forty-six-year old actor died of an apparent heroin overdose. Unfortunate details about how the father of three was found were laid out and the media machine went into full throttle. As quickly as the information was released people started spouting their opinions and in some cases judgement about his addiction.

He is dead. His partner lost a wife; his children lost a father. Debates about addiction have significance in a public forum but perhaps invoking Phillip Seymour Hoffman and one's opinion of him isn't respectful, necessary or appropriate. And perhaps speculation around whether a person was sexually abused should not be disseminated and reduced to conjecture and gossip.

Just because we have immediate access to information doesn't mean we can't take pause and recognize that we never know the whole story unless we have lived it.

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