We live in a culture that loves tearing down celebrities for their criminal behavior, and 2005 isn't exactly a distant spot on the horizon of yesteryear. That was the same year Revenge of the Sith was released, so it's not as if the Internet just hadn't started shitting on people yet. We were more than happy to spread loose change around, but for whatever reason, we just didn't feel the need to stick it to the Coz back then. No, what happened instead was Cosby scuttled back to one of his two mansions to wait for the controversy to die down, and then, impossibly, it did. It may be too early to tell, but that's probably not going to happen this time.
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So, what's changed? Why has the response to Cosby's rape allegations in 2014 been so swift and absolute, whereas in 2005 we were only too eager to pretend it never happened? To answer that question, I'm going to talk about Woody Allen, another famous comedian who was accused of sexual assault this year.
In an open letter published on The New York Times website, Dylan Farrow, Allen's adoptive daughter with former long-time partner Mia Farrow, provided a disturbing account of being sexually abused by Allen on numerous occasions when she was a child. The letter sparked an immediate, divided response -- an understandably large number of people were outraged, while an equally large number of Allen's fans, fellow comedians, and filmmakers came roaring to his defense. Meanwhile, a paradoxically large number of people (including Stephen King) sat firmly on the fence, hoping the accusations weren't true. Not for Dylan Farrow's sake, mind you. For Allen's.
Here's the thing -- that open letter was the first time Dylan Farrow has ever spoken publicly about her alleged abuse, but it was by no means a new story. Mia Farrow first attempted to file charges against Allen for allegedly molesting her daughter back in 1992, when Dylan was 7. (The prosecutor decided not to pursue the case because he felt it would be too traumatic for Dylan -- truly, a heroic man.)
Back then, just like they did earlier this year, several comedians and industry folk tripped over their expensively shoed feet to defend Allen, insisting that Mia was crazy (she might be) and that she had planted the story in her little girl's head (I suppose it's possible). Again, just like it was this year, their concern was for Allen, and not for the child who was unquestionably being abused by at least one of her parental figures. Allen received the same outpouring of disgust and support when he began dating (and eventually married) Mia Farrow's adopted daughter Soon-Yi. Incidentally, that's why they broke up -- Mia found nude photos of Soon-Yi in Allen's possession and confronted him with them. In a cosmic dose of life imitating art, his stumbling, awkward admission must have looked exactly like a scene from a Woody Allen movie.