Soon-Yi Previn has broken her silence on her marriage to Woody Allen in a recent profile from New York magazine. The adopted daughter of Mia Farrow, Previn had maintained a decades-long silence on her controversial relationship since she married her mother’s ex-boyfriend at the young age of 21-years-old. Though the profile offers Previn the opportunity to mount a defense of Allen in light of his daughter Dylan’s allegations of sexual abuse, it does little to dispel the sense that Woody Allen is a creep with creepy attitudes about (very) young girls (not to mention a less-than-ideal stepfather).
Soon-Yi’s attempt to help repair Allen’s reputation — and, by extension, her own — is centered around her origin story as a Korean orphan brought to the states by a movie star. While that scenario may sound like a rags-to-riches story fit for the Hallmark channel, Previn suggests her childhood was more a Lifetime movie nightmare.
Previn details all manner of physical and psychological abuse at the hands of Mia Farrow, who raised 14 children including Soon-Yi. Previn suggests that Farrow played favorites among her adopted and biological children and says that she and other adopted children became ad hoc “domestics” for the increasingly distant and distracted actress.
In the midst of the alleged horrors of life with Farrow, Woody Allen arrived when Soon-Yi was just 10 years old. Allen, then 31, was Farrow’s director before eventually becoming her live-across-the-park-in-a-separate-apartment-on-Fifth-Avenue boyfriend. Apparently, he annoyed Soon-Yi so much that her expression was murderous when he came around. She reports Allen once told her she looked like she might come at him with a knife. (You know, something you tell a child.)
So how did this improbable pair fall in love some 11 years later? Previn explains that Allen inexplicably showed care for her after she’d broken an ankle. Then, he continued to care for her and talk with her until he eventually kissed her. At that time he was still in a relationship with her mother.
The point of the Previn story seems to be that Farrow drove adult Soon-Yi into the caring arms of a man who clearly loved her and vice versa. But that doesn’t really hold water.
There’s nothing in Previn’s account to convince anyone that Allen isn’t an opportunistic predator, who groomed a young girl into a disconcertingly young wife. And there’s nothing in Previn’s account that satisfyingly explains the coincidence that made Allen’s exile inevitable: That Allen’s work involves a lot of leading men (often played by Allen himself) taking advantage of neurotic young women. It’s tough to watch his lead character in his film Manhattan and not be creeped out by his treatment of an underage Mariel Hemingway. It’s even harder when you learn that Hemingway says Allen attempted to lure her to Paris shortly after her 18th birthday.
Allen becomes particularly gross when you place his relationship with Soon-Yi and his storied conquests of younger women in the harsh light of Dylan Farrow’s harrowing accusations. She claims that when she was 7-years-old, Allen engaged in sexual abuse, touching her genitals.
All of which makes the Soon-Yi Previn’s profile in New York Magazine confounding as well as troubling. Yes, she has been married to the same man for over 20-years and she seems to trust and respect him. Perhaps that relationship is loving. That’s certainly possible and it’s certainly possible Soon-Yi has never done anything wrong at all. But the complete lack of perspective from Allen, who drops by to voice confusion about why people seem not to dig his vibe, is unnerving. There is no acknowledgment whatsoever that his behavior could be perceived as off — if not predatory. For a guy who spent so much time in analysis, he seems singularly oblivious.
What’s the takeaway? There isn’t a clean one. There’s something vaguely incestuous about the pairing and that remains titillating to a lot of people. Allen isn’t exactly the trendiest celeb these days and a story about his wife went viral — evidence of the lasting tawdriness of scandal. The takeaway about Allen seems to be that he’s not going to change and the takeaway about the reading public seems to be that they won’t either. Even the smell of yesterday’s dirty laundry seems to have a lasting allure.