Greta Gerwig Finally Denounces Woody Allen. Will Hollywood Follow Her Lead?
The ‘Lady Bird’ director took personal responsibility for appearing in one of the alleged abuser’s films and ‘increasing another woman’s pain.’ Will others follow suit?
Whatever you thought of Time’s Up at the Golden Globes—whether radical, superficial, too much, or not enough—we can all agree that the awards show was uncomfortable.
The ladies and “remaining gentlemen” of Hollywood faced the daunting task of congratulating themselves after a long year that everyone feels bad about. Anyone who tried to make the red carpet or even the ceremony about all the “great work” A-listers did in 2017 came across as tone-deaf and out of touch— like when Ryan Seacrest congratulated Michelle Williams on her “graceful” performance, only to be promptly redirected to the subject at hand: sexual harassment and assault, unsafe workplaces, and gender inequity in Hollywood and beyond. The waves of resolute, no-bullshit women in black visibly unsettled everyone, from E! red carpet personalities to male actors utterly devoid of social consciences. Meanwhile, the rest of us were left to watch this mess unfold unscripted, as standards of behavior and industry norms are updated in real time.
The Golden Globes may be over, but the debates that it sparked have lives of their own. Which brings us to Greta Gerwig, whose refusal to denounce her former collaborator Woody Allen after the ceremony left commentators wondering if every alleged victim of Hollywood abuses will truly be amplified equally, regardless of the talent or influence of the accused. That Sunday, Dylan Farrow published a thread on Twitter explaining her measured support of the Time’s Up movement and pointing out its potential shortcomings. “Four years ago, at the Globes in 2014, Woody Allen was awarded the Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement,” Farrow wrote. “Four years ago I decided enough was enough and wrote an open letter detailing the abuse I sustained at the hands of Woody Allen. I thought it would make a difference. I thought things would change. I learned quickly (and painfully) that my optimism was misplaced. His time wasn’t up.”
Farrow concluded, “I will be watching tonight with a very different feeling than I had at this time four years ago. I will watch with optimism, with hope, and with the firm belief that there is a brighter future ahead. And I will watch to see if now, finally, time is up for my predator too.” Dylan Farrow’s fears appeared to come to fruition, as multiple actors who have worked with Allen in the past declined to denounce him—yet walked the red carpet in black. In the press room after the show, one of these actors, Greta Gerwig, was asked if she regretted appearing in the director’s 2012 film To Rome with Love. This isn’t the first time Gerwig, whose solo directorial debut Lady Bird took home the trophy for Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy, has been asked about Woody Allen.
In a November Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross, Gerwig admitted that the subject was “very difficult to talk about,” adding, “I think I'm living in that space of fear of being worried about how I talk about it and what I say.” Gerwig continued, “I had an idea of wanting to move to New York and that I admired Woody Allen's movies, and I was that person. And I'm very lucky. I didn't do anything right to not have anything happen that was traumatic. But I was lucky. And I don't know. I'm experiencing it in real time with everybody else. And I wish I had something more articulate to say about it. There's so many ways that you cannot address this well.” After a good deal of uncomfortable back and forth with Gross, Gerwig concluded, “I understand that this is something that we need to talk about, but I also have directed my first film that I wrote on my own, and I want to talk about that.”
Of course, in a perfect world, women would be able to celebrate their accomplishments without the specter of a painful topic like sexual abuse. But in our current reality, victims have a right to request that their self-appointed champions reject complicity with their abusers—and journalists have a duty to call out hypocrisy whenever possible. Unfortunately, Gerwig wasn’t any more prepared to take responsibility during her post-Golden Globes questioning, instead offering another non-answer: “It’s something that I have thought deeply about, and I care deeply about…and I haven’t had an opportunity to have an in-depth discussion, where I come down on one side or the other, but it’s something I’ve definitely taken to heart.”
In response, Dylan Farrow retweeted multiple articles critiquing the director’s equivocation. In a statement to Buzzfeed, Farrow elaborated, “It’s of course particularly hard for me as a survivor of sexual abuse to know that for these particular individuals, I am not part of the ‘every woman’ they stand for…I seem to remain secondary to their ambition, which undermines the powerful and embracing message they are trying to send.” To be clear, Farrow was calling out a number of celebrities, not just Gerwig, citing Justin Timberlake and Blake Lively as actors whose past work with Allen is at odds with their supposed solidarity with abuse victims.
But then an interesting thing happened; Greta Gerwig changed her mind. In an interview with The New York Times, Gerwig said something that very few celebrities have the balls to admit—that, having educated herself on the issue, she’s now convinced that she was in the wrong.
Resolved to answer “the Woody Allen question” once and for all, Gerwig explained, “It is something that I take very seriously and have been thinking deeply about, and it has taken me time to gather my thoughts and say what I mean to say. I can only speak for myself and what I’ve come to is this: If I had known then what I know now, I would not have acted in the film. I have not worked for him again, and I will not work for him again. Dylan Farrow’s two different pieces made me realize that I increased another woman’s pain, and I was heartbroken by that realization. I grew up on his movies, and they have informed me as an artist, and I cannot change that fact now, but I can make different decisions moving forward.”
In the most optimistic reading of this story, the #MeToo reckoning has caused a fissure in Hollywood, leaving the industry with one foot in the past and one in the future. There’s a palpable resistance to handing out free passes; not to James Franco, Gary Oldman, or even Kirk Douglas (yes, her too). Discomfort arises when entertainment elites fail to adjust quickly enough to a world where sweeping abuse under the rug will no longer be accepted or normalized, and where non-answers will not be tolerated. Taking personal responsibility for past complicity is a prerequisite for joining the movement—otherwise, you’re just a hypocrite wearing a Time’s Up pin.
Gerwig’s evolution on the Woody Allen question, however slow and uncomfortable, is ultimately a testament to the director, and deserves to be applauded. As does Ellen Page, who called working with Allen the “biggest regret” of her career last November. But if we’re really dedicated to this new world, we need to hold complicit men to the same standard. It’s not a stretch to say that Gerwig probably would not have been repeatedly pressed—and may never have issued her latest statement—if she wasn’t a woman. During the Fresh Air interview, Terry Gross justified her line of questioning by describing Gerwig as “somebody who is, you know, I think very feminist-oriented and has given a lot of thought to these things.” Gross isn’t wrong to hold feminists to a certain standard, and Gerwig wasn’t wrong to bemoan the fact that, as a young female director, she is asked difficult questions that her male peers are rarely subjected to.
The idea that only women should be expected to be educated on and speak to issues of sexual harassment and abuse is the same ridiculous notion that plagued the Golden Globes from start to finish. On the red carpet, Justin Timberlake, who recently starred in Woody Allen’s Wonder Wheel, made superficial chatter in his black tuxedo. During the ceremony, not one male award winner mentioned #MeToo or Time’s Up in their acceptance speeches.
Sure, ask women why they are wearing black—they’re armed with articulate answers—but why not save a follow-up question for the accused abusers on the red carpet? If all of this activism and discomfort is going to lead to real, lasting, systemic change, female artists like Greta Gerwig can’t be the only ones feeling the pressure.