As a lawyer and journalist, I was troubled and disturbed when I read about the Hachette book publisher cancelling the publication of Woody Allen’s memoir. Hachette had been on the receiving end of a hailstorm of criticism from Mia Farrow’s son, reporter Ronan Farrow, and some of its own staff, who reportedly staged a walkout in protest. The backlash centered on allegations going back several decades that Allen sexually abused his step-daughter, Dylan Farrow.
I don’t hold an opinion one way or the other on whether there is truth to the allegations, so I take no position on the matter. It’s important to note that Allen has never been charged with a crime and he has vehemently maintained his innocence. I probably wouldn’t have read the memoir, although I enjoy many of Woody Allen’s films. I just rewatched Blue Jasmine starring Cate Blanchett, and I consistently marvel at his ability to showcase the talents of such disparate groups of actors.
But it bothers me that now no one else will be allowed to read it. Maybe there were some fans, and non-fans, who would have liked to hear what Allen had to say. He certainly would not have been the first controversial, or even infamous, person who published a memoir. Director Roman Polanski published an autobiography back in the 1980s, and he had actually admitted his guilt in a similar crime. It’s unlikely it would ever see the light of day now.
Charles Manson published a memoir. Think about that for a minute.
Other convicted criminals have written books, and as long as they’re not allowed to profit from their crimes, no one seems to object.
Bill Clinton and Donald Trump have both put out books and both been accused of sexual misbehavior. Does that mean they can’t put out any more books? Does it mean their existing books should be pulled from circulation?
This smacks of censorship. A powerful and vocal few deciding what the masses get to read, as well as see and hear. This is not the first recent incidence of a company’s employees forcing executive action through various histrionics, and it makes one wonder if the tail is wagging the dog.
It also makes you wonder, where were all these objections when the book was in the planning and negotiating stage? I feel that a publisher should stand behind its authors, no matter how personally unpopular. Let the employees quit if they don’t like it. I’m thinking that Hachette is still probably on the hook for paying Allen a sizable author’s fee.
Has the #MeToo movement gone too far? There is no question it has forced a lot of changes that are for the better, but when it begins to chill speech and free expression and decide for the rest of us what we can and can’t read, I’ve got a problem.
And here’s another thing to mull over: If the litmus test becomes that only wholesome, noncontroversial, squeaky-clean figures will be allowed to publish books, think about how profoundly dull that’s going to be for the reading public.
It brings to mind an old Roger Ebert interview I was watching the other day. He was talking about a mass-market film that he had found remarkably offensive, tasteless and lacking in any redeeming qualities. When asked if he felt that such movies should not be released at all, he replied: "No, it ought to be released in theaters and no one should go to see it."