It’s tempting to say that it would take a battalion of psychiatrists to sort out the Woody Allen-Mia Farrow fiasco, but there already was a battalion of psychiatrists on the case, and maybe that was the problem. Woody was seeing two before the media frenzy erupted in August 1992. Seven of Mia’s 11 children had their own shrinks, and Soon-Yi, who replaced her adoptive mother in Woody’s bed, was studying psychology. It’s the soft murmur of psychiatrists in the background of the story that makes it seem like our therapeutic culture’s epic poem, a neurotic Iliad.
But Freud and Jung might have been at a loss for words when confronted with this can of worms. They neglected to invent a complex complex enough to cover sexual attraction between an unmarried man and the adopted daughter of the mother of his son. They left us with no term for the compulsion to adopt disabled infants, which seems to be Mia’s way of coping with stress.
The psychiatrists, of course, were just part of a large, expensive retinue of housekeepers, nannies, locksmiths, and lawyers who smoothed the collision course for Woody and Mia. Embarrassments on this scale require a large staff. Kristi Groteke, who wrote Mia & Woody: Love and Betrayal with People writer Marjorie Rosen, was a college student when she was hired in the summer of 1991 to care for Mia’s younger children. During the tabloid assault that began the following summer, she and Mia became ”friends and confidantes.” So the book isn’t ”intended as an objective account.” It’s about ”how the Farrow family struggled to survive Woody’s betrayal.” A recent newspaper article indicates that Mia may also feel betrayed by her former employee.
Groteke makes her own psychological conjectures, and they seem as good as anything obtained at $125 an hour. Was Mia’s attraction to older men, including Frank Sinatra, an urge to replace her father, the alcoholic director John Farrow? Was Woody’s sexual roving motivated ”by the artist’s notion of what the world owed him”? Despite the ex-nanny’s best efforts, the central mystery remains unresolved: How did two intelligent and reticent people manage to produce a public spectacle that was half tragedy and half bedroom farce?