Thirty-two years ago this week, Satchel Ronan O’Sullivan Farrow made his debut. As the child of renowned actress Mia Farrow and legendary film director Woody Allen – or maybe crooner Frank Sinatra? – no one would be surprised if he made his way to the stage or screen. And his has, but not in the way anyone might have expected.
Ronan Farrow has indeed turned up on stages and screens, but not as an actor. Instead, he’s become the megaphone of the #MeToo movement. The journalist painstakingly researched and broke the story of Harvey Weinstein’s decades-long abuse of women, catapulting the issue into the public spotlight and setting off a cascading series of events that led to the downfall of many powerful men.
It takes moxie to be a megaphone, and Farrow has it. Here’s how:
Moxie shows up early.
Farrow is no dilettante coasting through life on a path paved by his family’s influence. He was recognized as a prodigy early on and graduated from Bard College at the tender age of 15. By his late teens, he’s already working as a spokesperson for UNICEF and writing serious investigative pieces for the Wall Street Journal, all before he even graduates from Yale Law School, which he does by the time he turns 21.
Wait, there’s more.
At age 23 he works alongside then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to launch the Global Youth Issues Office and becomes its director. He pioneers that role until he’s named a Rhodes Scholar in 2012.
His work evolves into thoughtful investigative journalism for leading publications. In 2018, he helped the New Yorker and New York Times earn the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
All before the age of 30.
As the son of influential people, Farrow could have easily slipped into a life of ease. Instead, he’s packed his short time so far on this earth with work that aims to champion the causes of young people, refugees, and women. That takes moxie.
Moxie breaks the silence.
Despite being the son of influential and successful people, Farrow’s upbringing was far from untroubled. His parents split in the early 1990s amidst allegations that his father had sexually abused Ronan’s older sister, Dylan, and revelations that he was intimate with another sibling, Soon-Yi Previn, whom he would later go on to marry.
The scandals dominated headlines for a few years, and the attention flared again when Dylan published her account in an article in the New York Times in 2013. Ronan Farrow largely avoided the fray until 2016, when he broke his silence with a guest column in the Hollywood Reporter entitled My Father, Woody Allen, and the Danger of Questions Unasked. With great candor, Farrow questioned reporters’ complicity in failing to question powerful men accused of sexual abuse. He even revealed his own failure to ask such questions. Most damningly, he pointed out that his own father would be honored on red carpets and at award shows without anyone breathing a word about the allegations against him.
“Perhaps I succumbed to that pressure myself. I had worked hard to distance myself from my painfully public family history and wanted my work to stand on its own. So I had avoided commenting on my sister’s allegations for years and, when cornered, cultivated distance, limiting my response to the occasional line on Twitter,” he said in the column. “Initially, I begged my sister not to go public again and to avoid speaking to reporters about it. I’m ashamed of that, too. With sexual assault, anything’s easier than facing it in full, saying all of it, facing all of the consequences.”
With that piece, Farrow proved he would be silent no more. In 2017 he published his first piece on sexual abuse and assault allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, which was followed by similar reporting on the New York attorney general, studio executive Les Moonves, and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. His reporting amplified the burgeoning #MeToo movement and gave voice to women who had been dismissed, marginalized, silenced and viciously attacked if they dared to speak up against men who abused them.
Moxie keeps its own confidences, too.
That’s not to say that Farrow’s life is an open book. He’s canny about long-circulated rumors that he’s actually the biological son of Frank Sinatra. Even a passing glance at side by side photos of Farrow and Old Blue Eyes reveals more than a passing resemblance. In 2013, Mia Farrow indicated in an interview that there was some possibility that he might indeed be Sinatra’s biological son.
But for Ronan Farrow, the reality is he was raised as Woody Allen’s son, and that’s the truth of his life. Whatever his biological makeup, Woody Allen was “dad,” and the two are now estranged and have been for years.
Farrow’s understandable desire has been to define his own narrative, and he’s given us plenty to talk about other than his parentage. Maybe it’s best to let the Frank Sinatra questions go.
If you had the chance, what would you ask Farrow?