Last week, the Woody/Soon-Yi mess returned to the news when, for the first time, Soon-Yi spoke on the record, about her long-ago affair that had once rocked the world.
However, she stirred up more controversy by opting to speak to a decades-old friend of Woody’s, the well-known author, Daphne Merkin.
Soon-Yi didn’t tell Daphne much that was new, except for a couple of things. She described her childhood in greater detail than had been known; namely, that she was an extremely poor and unhappy child in Korea, and that she attributes her adoption by Mia to her having stood out by being somehow more spunky than other children. When they were in a group performing for an audience, the other children stepped off the stage, but Soon-Yi spun around and jumped off, which appealed to the person choosing for Mia.
When she first met Mia, however, Soon-Yi claims there was an instant antipathy between them. Obviously, one can never corroborate that. It’s hard to completely believe that a six-year-old child would harbor such strong feelings since her life with Mia must have been a considerable improvement over what she’d earlier known.
What’s also new, and interesting, is that her first reaction as a ten-year-old to Woody’s appearance in Mia’s large and unusual family, with seven adopted kids and three biological ones, was an instant dislike of him as well. She claims it took some years before her feelings toward him began to thaw. She does repeat Mia’s original claims that she was backwards, which is at odds with what current observers have claimed: she’s very bright, very well-read, and of much above-average intelligence.
Woody Allen and Soon-Yi
In recent years, one of the adopted children who were at the heart of the custody trial, Moses Farrow, the photographer and psychologist, has backed up Soon-Yi’s version of life with Mia. He has denied that Dylan’s allegations ever took place and he too claims that Mia was, at times, a very abusive parent, and that Mia coached Dylan into making her accusation.
One of my friends, Marion Meade, with whom I’ve seen every Woody Allen film since his custody trial, who herself has written a book about the Woody Allen case, The Unruly Life of Woody Allen, says her sources pretty much agree with Soon-Yi’s description of Mia, as a verbally abusive person who spoke to them in a manner much worse than anybody they’d ever encountered. Meade also said she felt sorry for Daphne, that the piece she wrote she was blamed for writing a so-called “puff piece,” but that pieces about celebrities are mostly puff pieces. What did they expect?
My only question about the piece was what were Soon-Yi’s feelings about her other siblings.
As for her current relationship with Woody, Daphne paints a very positive picture of the marriage. The article is a reminder that at the beginning, their affair was definitely an instance of a broken taboo: Woody was old enough to have known that his romance was breaking a taboo. He was older. Whether Soon-Yi was or was not his daughter, she was Mia’s adopted daughter. He was older and he could have left the relationship had he chosen to do so. It was not up to Soon-Yi to do so; she was much younger. But neither of them made that decision. And the Dylan accusation, which followed right after Mia’s discovery of the affair, has been entwined with it ever since.
Since the couple has stayed together for twenty years and have successfully raised two, by all accounts terrific, daughters, the marriage seems to have worked. In Daphne’s telling, they still seem fond of each other.
So whatever was wrong in the way the relationship started—it doesn’t seem right that Woody and she should be damned for the rest of their lives and that his career should be upended because of something that happened a quarter of a century ago. He did break a taboo, but the question is for how long does society have to judge him guilty, especially given that the two of them have appeared to have made a success of their marriage and their parenting?
The Dylan allegations would never have come about if it hadn’t been for his affair with Soon-Yi. The two are completely linked in people’s minds. He was never found guilty and never charged.
I was at the trial in 1992-3. I heard the testimony and then I read about Mia’s maniacal adopting all through that period. I read about her ignoring all her children’s problems during that time, such as the shoplifting, her teaching the newcomer adopted children to run around saying, “Woody no Goody!” They were raised on hatred. I believe Woody when he says that he was a lifelong phobic, so he would never have been in an attic, sexually abusing a child. Plus, there’s never been another person who has ever accused him of sexual abuse. Even Judge Kavanaugh can’t say that today.