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Ronan Farrow: The Youngest Old Guy in the Room
“Wow, he’s handsome,” one dinner guest said, peering over a throng of photographers.
“He’s going to be our president in, like, 30 years,” another gushed.
The event, last Monday at the American Museum of Natural History, was a benefit for the Blue Card, which aids Holocaust survivors, and the object of the room’s collective kvelling was Ronan Farrow, the 25-year-old lawyer, diplomat, author, boy genius, offspring of two celebrities (though which two is an open question), possessor of alabaster good looks and, as of this month, the latest talent to join MSNBC, where he will host a weekday show starting in January.
Like a styled valedictorian, Mr. Farrow worked his way through the well wishers, his corn-colored hair lightly tousled. Though he already has the résumé of someone twice his age, in the last year Mr. Farrow has come into his own as a public figure, appearing on Vanity Fair’s international best-dressed list and applying his spiky Twitter commentary to everything from politics (“Leadership in America just turned into a pumpkin”) to pop culture (“Miley Cyrus is basically our generation’s Simone de Beauvoir”).
Mr. Farrow was there to receive an award for his humanitarian efforts, along with his mother, the actress Mia Farrow, who observed the hoopla from a corner, illuminated by the glow of the Hayden Planetarium. “I’m very proud of him,” Ms. Farrow said, cradling a glass of red wine. Dressed in dark-blue velvet, she was talking with Kati Marton, the widow of the ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke, an early mentor of Mr. Farrow.
“Richard and I met Ronan when he was a scrawny 15-year-old,” Ms. Marton said. “He used to sit at a huge desk outside Richard’s office, and people would come in and say, ‘Who’s that kid?’ ”
Good question. Mr. Farrow is the only biological son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen. Or at least he used to be. In Vanity Fair this month, Ms. Farrow made the head-spinning admission that her son’s father is “possibly” her ex-husband Frank Sinatra. Since then, Mr. Farrow’s paternity has become tabloid fodder, upstaging his announcements: that he would join MSNBC and that he is writing a book, “Pandora’s Box,” which its publisher said will expose the “surprising dark side” of American foreign policy.
Mr. Farrow, for his part, responded to the speculation with coy humor, tweeting to his nearly 140,000 followers: “Listen, we’re all *possibly* Frank Sinatra’s son.” (The comment has been retweeted almost 10,000 times.) Nevertheless, the issue persisted, even from his new MSNBC colleague Chris Matthews, who teased him at a book party a week ago by calling him “Young blue eyes.”
For Mr. Farrow, the Sinatra question is part of a lifelong quandary: how to make a name based on your accomplishments when your family history is so relentlessly interesting. Perhaps driven by a desire to outpace his parental saga, Mr. Farrow has barreled through life at least five years ahead of schedule, reading Kafka in elementary school (“The Metamorphosis,” his mother said at the benefit) and becoming, at 11, the youngest student to enroll in Simon’s Rock, Bard College’s program for gifted high schoolers in Great Barrington, Mass.
At 15, he received a college degree from Bard, and at 16 was accepted to Yale Law School. At 21, he joined Mr. Holbrooke at the State Department, where he later became Hillary Rodham Clinton’s special adviser for global youth issues.
Feel bad about yourself yet? There’s more. In 2011, he was awarded a Rhodes scholarship, for which he studied international relations at Oxford University. The scholarship marked the beginning of his drift back into the public eye, decades after his parents’ well-documented breakup. Though he had been hiding in plain sight, the world seemed stunned to discover that Woody Allen’s son had somehow turned into a fair-haired Übermensch, like the WASP rival in one of his father’s movies.
- Mother and son no longer talk to Mr. Allen, whose affair with one of Ms. Farrow’s adopted children, Soon-Yi Previn, tore the family asunder in the early ’90s. But Mr. Farrow seems to have mastered the art of deflating his eccentric history with dry wit. In June 2012, he tweeted, “Happy father’s day — or as they call it in my family, happy brother-in-law’s day.”
His mother retweeted the comment, adding: “Boom.”
Ronan Farrow is a relatively recent invention. He was born Satchel Farrow, named after the Hall of Fame pitcher Satchel Paige. At his birth, Mr. Allen joked, “The only problem is, he looks like Edward G. Robinson.”
His parents had met at Elaine’s in 1979 and become one of New York’s defining couples, making 13 movies together in 10 years. They never married, and lived on opposite sides of Central Park, Ms. Farrow with her pets (“two cats, a canary, a parakeet, several chinchillas and assorted tropical fish,” as of 1991) and her ever-expanding brood of children — now four biological and eight adopted, many from extreme poverty and far-flung countries.
In January 1992, Ms. Farrow discovered nude pictures of Ms. Previn taken in Mr. Allen’s apartment. In the nasty and transfixing custody battle that ensued, every aspect of the family’s life was aired in court and in the news media, including Satchel’s recalcitrant behavior toward Mr. Allen, who was limited to supervised visits with his son. A social worker testified that the boy would wipe away his father’s kisses and ask questions like, “Why don’t you give mommy money?”
Mr. Allen lost custody, and since then Mr. Farrow has kept his distance, later telling an interviewer, “He’s my father married to my sister. That makes me his son and his brother-in-law. That is such a moral transgression.”
After the trial, Ms. Farrow moved her children to Frog Hollow, her home in rural Connecticut. Diane Sawyer, a family friend, recalled the “tumbling around and racing and kid cacophony” of the Farrow household, describing young Satchel as “watchful,” with a “wicked sense of humor.” (A former nanny once called him “an old soul in a goofy little body.”)
By 1999, Satchel was going by the nickname Seamus and studying Latin and biology at Simon’s Rock. Six years younger than most of his classmates, Seamus would be driven to campus each day, sometimes by his mother. A female student, whom he was reportedly sweet on, said at the time, “I think he’s adorable, but he’s just a little too young for me.”
He soon transitioned into college classes at Bard, including a sophomore-level literature class taught by the biographer Elizabeth Frank. “Everyone liked him and admired him and respected him enormously,” Ms. Frank said, recalling a “wonderful” paper he wrote on Huckleberry Finn. “He just had this normality about him.”
Around the same time, he embraced his mother’s humanitarian concerns. As a youth spokesman for Unicef, he traveled to Angola and Sudan and exhibited his photographs back at school. Mr. Farrow often describes his multinational family as the basis of his diplomatic interests. “I grew up across the table from Moses, who has cerebral palsy, and next to my sister Quincy, born of a drug-addicted inner-city mother, and Minh, who is blind,” he told Vanity Fair, adding: “I saw problems and needs, so the next thing you think is: O.K., what are you going to do about it?”
By the time he entered Yale Law School, he was going mostly by his middle name, Ronan. (Seamus was too easily mispronounced.) His first year in New Haven, he took a class on international business transactions taught by Amy Chua, author of the child-rearing manifesto “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.”
“I was told somehow that he was 16, but honestly I just quickly forgot about that,” Ms. Chua said. “He was incredibly precocious. I don’t think anybody noticed, which is amazing, because we have students at Yale Law School who are in their 30s and 40s.”
- When the subject of his origins came up, he was reticent. “He has been almost adamant from the beginning about not ever riding on the coattails of either of his parents,” Ms. Chua said. (Asked if Ms. Farrow qualified as a tiger mother, she said, “Absolutely!”)
When Mr. Holbrooke became President Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2009, he took Mr. Farrow with him to the State Department. After spending two years in Kabul, Islamabad and Washington, Mr. Farrow began working on a task force for Secretary Clinton (which became the Office of Global Youth Issues) aimed at engaging young people in more than 40 countries.
When he wasn’t busy navigating world events, he was adding some panache to the Washington social scene, often appearing at political fetes with Jon Lovett, a former Obama speechwriter and a co-creator of “1600 Penn.” Still, despite his waggish social-media presence, he is guarded about his private life, suggesting a persona more carefully calibrated than he lets on. (He has been bombarded with interview requests and, through an MSNBC spokeswoman, declined to be interviewed at length for this article.)
That persona will be tested at MSNBC, where, as the only solo host in his 20s, he will again be the youngest in the room. “He’s a man beyond his years,” said Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC, who seems to be positioning Mr. Farrow as the network’s in-house millennial.
His pivot to broadcasting seems to signal a willingness to embrace his celebrity — on his terms. “This is just a moment where he is able to use his voice,” said Ms. Sawyer, who has advised him on the “the kind of layered people” he needs to support his fledgling TV career. “I’ve told him, ‘If there is anything you want to do that I have a cautionary tale about, I’ll be there.’ ”
His comfort in the spotlight was evident at the Blue Card benefit, where he received the Richard C. Holbrooke Award for Social Justice. He spoke of Mr. Holbrooke like a father — as if he needed more — who interviewed him for the State Department from the shower. “That was a classic Richard Holbrooke power play,” he joked, working the gray-haired crowd like a self-assured bar mitzvah boy.
“Part of what he taught me is that you have to fight to take a stand no matter what adversity you face,” Mr. Farrow said onstage. “And you have to take adversity and turn it outward toward the world, to educate others and to right wrongs.”
Certainly, he has taken that lesson to its extreme, turning his adversity-filled early childhood into a platform for various causes — and, increasingly, for himself. Later, as the wait staff cleared the main course, there was a conspicuous empty chair at the front of the hall.
“Ronan Farrow had to leave,” the M.C. announced. “He’s going to be on ‘Morning Joe’ tomorrow.”
- [quote]"I'm very proud of him," Ms. Farrow said, cradling a glass of red wine.
Also a hot mug cradler, no doubt.
- And once again, the NYT is unable to use the word "gay" in print.
- Is he in fact gay, R4?
- yes, isn't he gay and out?
- Oh, I actually didn't know he was gay.
- He's gay, but I hadn't thought he was out publicly?
- Well there go my hopes for him to be President of the United States by 2024!
Ronan Farrow's future hubby
- I have nothing against Ronan Farrow. He obviously is quite accomplished, bright, and good natured.
Still, I can't help feeling all these children of privilege who get these high profile gigs--Luke Russert, Meghan McCain, Abby Huntsman, Jenna Bush, etc.--leave less room for the voices and faces of valuable people who aren't part of the elite. People who have worked really hard and deserve a shot are left out.
Nobody expects the likes of Ronan Farrow or Luke Russert to start in the mailroom, but a cub reporter or beat writer isn't too much to ask of them, to work their way up if they want a media career.
All this breathless coverage of Farrow feels like logrolling.
- ...and all hired by NBC where the N stands for "nepotism" at this point.
- Could Sinatra really get it up in the 1980s?
- He really does resemble Sinatra. Much more so than Woody Allen.
r10, it seems media and entertainment have always been riddled with nepotism. People like Maddow seem to be more and more rare. In the postwar years the culture/job market got more democratic. We're veering back to the days when the US was run entirely by the elite.
- Agree with r10. I used to like reading about this guy. Now, not so much.
- Yeah, I also agree with R10.
I wish the guy well and all, but he's another instance of our star-fucking, nepotistic, privilege-begets-privilege, fucked up society.
- [quote]In June 2012, he tweeted, “Happy father’s day — or as they call it in my family, happy brother-in-law’s day.”
That would be "brother's-in-law," boy genius.
- It doesn't say much for your life, r16, that you relish the opportunity to point out a minor mistake from over a year ago.
- Oh, and I'm looking forward to Ronan's show and am sure he will do a terrific job.
- Brother's-in-law is plural. Brother-in-law's is possessive.
Ronan was correct and r16 is wrong.
- Brother-in-law's is correct.
- Something about him gives me the creeps. He reminds me of the protagonist in one of his (likely) dad's best flicks: The Manchurian Candidate. Totally molded by his mom...a strange collusion that serves her anger.
Why wouldn't "brothers-in-law" be plural? Why is the apostrophe necessary?
Mom was a an English prof. I'm an engineer...sorry.
- Yes, R10. He would be considered 1%, NYC "elite", celebrityclub, globalist, illumini - never mind...wouldn't he?
- I think he's the anti-Christ.
Mia Farrow really did get RAPED by Satan.
- [quote]Dressed in dark-blue velvet, she was talking with Kati Marton, the widow of the ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke, an early mentor of Mr. Farrow.
Wasn't she also Peter Jennings' ex-wife? I tell you, Woody Allen notwithstanding, celebrity culture is so incestuous!
- Please stop trying to make this bastard happen.
- [quote] People who have worked really hard and deserve a shot are left out.
Ridiculous. 99% of the people in any high profile profession are not the children of wealthy parents.
- Is he a gay gay or a "he's pretty so he's gay" gay?
- A gay president of the US of A? LIIIIIIES!
- [quote]Totally molded by his mom...a strange collusion that serves her anger.
Bingo. He's brilliant, yet so blind to his mother's control over him.
- r21, the fact that you have molded a theory of Mia's twisted mother-love and mentioned your own mother in the same post make me think you are projecting.
That said, I agree with you.
- They are already trotting him out on a number of MSNBC shows. I've seen him on Morning Joe and Chris Hayes this week. I just don't think he has it to be the host of his own show.
- [r19] plural is brothers-in-law
- Ronan also gives me the creeps too. His looks are fading fast as well. And Mia Farrow is fucking nuttier than nuts.
- He's a Trojan horse.
- “Miley Cyrus is basically our generation’s Simone de Beauvoir”.
This guy is supposedly so brilliant and he's opting to become a TV talking head? Depressing.
- Technically, is it nepotism? I thought nepotism involved being directly advanced by a blood relation. Favoritism might be a better word.
I really don't have an issue with Farrow getting his own show. Yes, he's been exposed to and known all the right people in his life, but he does have education, intelligence, and experience (though not as a journalist) that will enable him to do the job. And a good nature and personality which is probably more than half the battle won for a broadcaster. I think he'll do a fine job. Russert, the other hand, I have a problem with. The guy's an oaf who was ill-prepared for the job who got his job right out of college and it showed and still shows. At least Farrow has been out in the world for four or five years.
- Is it possible that he's the antichrist? They're already saying he will be president some day. And it will be around the time they will be forcing us to put a computer chip in our body (mark of the beast) to buy and sell things.
- [quote]Technically, is it nepotism? I thought nepotism involved being directly advanced by a blood relation. Favoritism might be a better word.
Not nepotism. Not favoritism.
- I think Ronan looks more like his grandfather John Farrow than he does Frank Sinatra.
- If Farrow ever did want to get into politics again in the future, is having worked in the field of journalism a strike against him. I'm trying to think of a person who made that switch but can't come up with one...
- R37 OMG, he's Rosemary's Baby!
- "His looks are fading fast"? Oh, honey. Whatever helps you sleep at night.
Btw it is an utter false equivalency to compare Ronan Farrow to Meghan McCain, Luke Russert, or other celebrity children who obtained jobs solely on the basis of their last names. In case you somehow failed to read the NYT article posted above, Farrow IS LITERALLY A GENIUS and has an ABSOLUTE FUCKLOAD OF WORK EXPERIENCE, including working for the State Department on the ground in Kabul and Islamabad for two years.
As for his orientation: he's certainly not gay and out, and we don't even know for sure if he's gay. Sure, there are plenty of rumors to the effect, and even The Times mentioned that he's "out and about" with Jon Lovett, his alleged bf, all the time, but as The Times also noted, for the moment he's mostly guarded when it comes to his personal life. Whether that'll change once he starts working for MSNBC, we don't. In any event, judging from this "Morning Joe" clip from earlier this week, he doesn't particularly "ping," if that still even means anything (and from the photos I've seen of Jon Lovett, he's exceptionally poorly groomed and dressed even by straight male standards, let alone gay).
- I agree, r42. Farrow may not have been as visible without his famous parentage, and he may not have been able to have risen so quickly and successfully without it, either. Or, without his stunning good looks.
But having the opportunity and the face, and making something of them besides an easy gig, are two different things. Farrow made something of it, and then some. He's incredibly, incredibly accomplished, based on his own hard work, at his young age.
I hope his new show succeeds.
- RF is apparently more brilliant than I dare say we ALL can fathom.
It's about time someone of his caliber was on MSNBC.
- R36 Ronan Farrow does have experience as a journalist. He's written for The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times and the International Herald Tribune and The Atlantic to name a few. There's a more detailed list of the various articles on his Wikipedia page. Farrow has written extensively on problems in Africa including Darfur, where he's spent a lot of time.
He's a hardworking guy who hasn't been sitting on his entitled arse riding on the coattails of his famous relatives.
- Ah, thanks R45. I just believed posters who said he doesn't have any journalistic experience.
- [quote]Btw it is an utter false equivalency to compare Ronan Farrow to Meghan McCain, Luke Russert, or other celebrity children who obtained jobs solely on the basis of their last names. In case you somehow failed to read the NYT article posted above, Farrow IS LITERALLY A GENIUS and has an ABSOLUTE FUCKLOAD OF WORK EXPERIENCE, including working for the State Department on the ground in Kabul and Islamabad for two years.
He's also pretty witty -- which is rare these days in anyone, but particularly a guy in his twenties.
- [quote] If Farrow ever did want to get into politics again in the future, is having worked in the field of journalism a strike against him. I'm trying to think of a person who made that switch but can't come up with one...
- r44, what am I chopped liver?
- "I think Ronan looks more like his grandfather John Farrow than he does Frank Sinatra."
I think John Farrow looks more like Sinatra than Ronan does.
I know a couple of Rhodes scholars and a bunch of people who did pretty well at Yale Law.
Most of them are successful, but none of them had this kind of gig, and this kind of exposure, at 25.
Don't try to sell me that RF's connections have nothing to do with his success, cause I aint buying it.
- [quote]Most of them are successful, but none of them had this kind of gig, and this kind of exposure, at 25.
How many of them started at Yale Law at 16?
- None of them, Mia.
And guess what? They all went to public high schools, too.
- [quote]None of them, Mia.
Which is my *point*, dear. Almost nobody else even *finishes* Yale Law by 25, let alone already has an impressive resume (as a Rhodes Scholar) at that age.
- An accomplished young man to say the least. I think it's great when wealthy sons and daughters go into professions that help people beyond themselves. Anderson Cooper is another one who chose a "humanitarian" profession.
- And *my* point, dear, is that "ordinary" Rhodes scholars and Yale Law types go to "ordinary" public schools, and follow the ordinary schooling trajectory available to their ordinary parents.
It is of course possible that RF is truly some once-in-a-generation genius. But I'd bet that he's a smart kid with very hard-pushing, and very connected, parents.
- Where are you getting that Ronan is gay? I haven't heard that anywhere.
- He's looking better these days...looks like he lost weight.
He's definitely gay, but no longer dating Jon Lovett...that tidbit was just used to highlight his rising profile over the course of the past few years.
- There is way too much Mia Farrow news on DL. She hasn't been relevant since the 80s imo. But mostly, I just don't like her. She said a lot of stupid things on twitter about Anderson Cooper coming out. Someone here claimed she has an openly-gay kid, but I still think seems uncool on the subject. When pressed, I'm sure she says the PC thing, but I'm not going to forget her asshole behavior on twitter that day. I already brought it up in one of her threads and I'm not getting into it again.
- R57 [quote]Where are you getting that Ronan is gay?
Are you new here? EVERY man is gay unless proven otherwise (and even then ...) on Datalounge.
- R59 = Woody Allen
- [quote] I already brought it up in one of her threads and I'm not getting into it again.
- He resembles Mia Farrow in a remarkable way. It's hard to see anyone else's genes in his face/head. He does resemble Frank Sinatra Jr a bit in having sorry of a lupine mid face, but his nose looks Jewish in profile and his head is oddly shaped, like Woody Allen's.
- [quote]Are you new here? EVERY man is gay unless proven otherwise (and even then ...) on Datalounge.
Only the pretty ones.
- Please provide us with the proof that he's hetero, oh wise r60.
- R65 I never said anything about his sexuality. I was commenting on the overall Datalounge attitude.
- He's gay on the Datalounge because we want him to be.
- That would be the point, Mia r43, DUH.
And BTW: Your knowing a Rhodes Scholar or ten doesn't indicate your actual GRASP of HOW THEY THINK. You don't so grasp, you can't, and they, if not you, know it.
- Why do we have to keep having this entitled little shit with ravaged lips pranced before us? I hope Woody does a movie where a character rips this asshole's schtick. Christ. Enough.
- Isn't he too smart to be a Sinatra?
- Sorry to say but I agree with R69.
- Sinatra wasn't dumb, he was just a paranoid alcoholic.
- Take it easy on him. That's my future husband you're talking about.
- Sinatra wasn't dumb. He was very intelligent and actually a voracious reader.
- And when it came to pussy, he was a voracious eater.
- We're mostly gay here on Datalounge. And our experience in the real world is that everyone presumes our heterosexuality no matter how flaming we are. That presumption of heterosexuality has lessened over time. But it's still the prevailing attitude ESPECIALLY if the person in question has made any notable contribution to society. Because god forbid some queer made the world a better place.
So for those of you little quisling bitches or hetero shits who don't like the presumption of homosexuality: shove it up your ass.
Thanks in advance.
- Not that it means he's gay, straight, bi, animal, mineral or vegetable but the NY Times piece article mentions that he had a crush (my word) on an older female student while in school.
- Holy shit! Why is it so provocative to assume Ronan is gay when he spent most of last year physically attached to an openly gay screenwriter (former Obama staffer)???
- oops- Ny Times article. Forgot to delete piece.
- Della I had many crushes on women too when I was a youngster. Yet, I am gay, gay, gay.
I was thinking Jon Lovett the comedian. Isn't there a Jon Lovett? Or is it Lovitz? That would've been something!
I can't imagine how gross and self hating I would feel knowing that Woody Fucking Allen is my Dad. Es.
- R76...I LOVE you!!
- He has an interview on YouTube where he says that his blind sister thinks he's an Asian woman. So I think he probably gets that he reads gay.
- He appears in this video (7:20) at a book party launch for Chris Matthews last week, and they have a nice little back and forth in front of the whole room.
- He just tweeted "Like, buy me dinner before demanding my DNA."
I love this kid.
- Sorry, the exact tweet is "I mean, buy me dinner before demanding my DNA."
- Good catch, R24.
- Thank you Dr. Nazi @r63.
- How come no one has mentioned that he speaks he sounds like he's just inhaled all of the available Helium in the free world?
He makes Michael Jackson sound like a ghetto thug.
- DOES IT MATTER THAT RONAN FARROW IS GAY?
By Christopher Glazek
On Sunday, the New York Times published an amusing profile of Ronan Farrow, son of Mia Farrow and either Woody Allen or Frank Sinatra. In a lengthy feature on the Farrow clan in Vanity Fair earlier this month, Mia tantalized readers with the possibility that Ronan is actually the son of Sinatra, her first husband and intermittent lover. In any event, Farrow is a cherubic 25-year-old boy-genius who graduated from Yale Law School at the age of 21, won a Rhodes scholarship, served as a diplomat for the Obama administration, signed a major book deal with Penguin, and is now hosting a weekday show for MSNBC.
He’s also gay, according to friends of mine who have slept with him, but you wouldn’t know that from reading either Vanity Fair or the New York Times. Why the reticence? Neither publication seems very interested in protecting Farrow’s privacy—the articles reveal bracingly personal details about Farrow and his family, including lurid speculations about paternity and painful references to the drawn-out custody disputes with Allen. Why a veil of secrecy for this particular detail? Is “outing” even a thing that publications worry about anymore?
In December of 2010 and January of 2011, the New York Times and New York magazine each published major profiles of wealthy media magnate Martin Peretz, the former publisher of the New Republic. The articles went into detail about Peretz’s then-recent divorce—but failed to mention that Peretz left his wife for a man. That seemed like clear journalistic malpractice, a problem exacerbated by the fact that, as Gawker pointed out, the articles included dog-whistle hints—noting, for example, that Peretz lives in a high-rise with a 26-year-old Israeli ex-soldier—so that insiders could read between the lines.
It's not as obvious to me that Farrow's sexuality needed to be mentioned in the Times profile, though again there's a dog-whistle issue: "When he wasn’t busy navigating world events, [Farrow] was adding some panache to the Washington social scene, often appearing at political fetes with Jon Lovett, a former Obama speechwriter”; and "he is guarded about his private life, suggesting a persona more carefully calibrated than he lets on." OK, maybe that's a little louder than a dog-whistle. It’s possible that the piece’s author, Michael Schulman, who often writes about gay celebrities, couldn't get anyone to verify Farrow's sexuality on the record. Farrow himself didn’t cooperate with the article, so the omission was not part of some brokered deal to get access. According to Google, Lovett is Farrow's long-time boyfriend, though for all I know the situation is more complicated and Farrow and Lovett are in a four-way relationship with an older woman and her female cat.
At the height of the AIDS epidemic, when "silence equaled death," there were good arguments to be made that staying in the closet was actually killing people and that “outing” was a moral imperative, despite the havoc it could unleash on someone’s professional life. The stakes today are not as elevated for either individuals, who in most cases don’t have much to lose, or for society at large, which arguably doesn’t have much to gain: the kids will be all right without a Ronan Farrow It Gets Better video.
Still, in the context of a profile, sexuality is a pretty big puzzle piece to miss. If Martin Peretz had left his wife for a 26-year-old female Israeli soldier, I suspect the press would not have been so timid—the story of their relationship would have been recounted in titillating detail. Gay readers deserve to be titillated, too. As a gay man, I find Farrow's sexuality highly relevant—he's literally the gay Mia Farrow! It’s only by accepting a homophobic logic that we can perform the mental acrobatics required to decide sexuality should be off the table. It’s just as interesting as any other detail, and no more embarrassing.
As a New York court ruled last year, outing is a banality—identifying someone as a homosexual never qualifies as defamation, even if it isn’t true.
One might wonder why anyone who was young and famous and liberal would want to stay in the closet, but maybe that's naive. Nate Silver remained in the closet all the way through the 2008 and 2010 elections, arguably for good reason. There can be no doubt that the loony right would have made an issue of his sexuality, as if gayness could somehow discredit statistical analysis. Better to slam dunk twice in a row, he might have considered, before giving anyone an excuse to kick you off the team. Is it possible that Farrow worries the public will take his political commentary less seriously if it knows he's gay? Unlike Rachel Maddow, Andrew Sullivan, or Anderson Cooper, Farrow has worked as a diplomat in the Middle East and Africa, and may do so again. Even if you accept that his sexuality isn't a liability in the US, it might be a different matter abroad.
When the profiles of Martin Peretz came out, I remember thinking that the New Yorker, where I was working at the time, might have fired a reporter for missing or covering up such a big part of the story. When I discussed the profiles with an editor, though, he said he sympathized with the dilemma faced by those reporters. “We have the same issue with the Scientology piece,” he told me, referring to a 20,000-word article by Lawrence Wright. “Do we publish the rumors about John Travolta?” I replied that if we were publishing a profile of Travolta, then yes, it would be crazy not to mention rumors about his sexuality; a piece about Scientology, though, didn’t need to go there. (In the event, mention of Travolta’s sexuality didn’t make it into the magazine version of Wright’s piece, though it does figure in Going Clear, the book that grew out of it.) Another editor said he felt that outing was only called for in cases of hypocrisy. “It’s not as if Martin Peretz opposes gay marriage,” he pointed out.
But this seemed to utterly miss the point. The motivations for outing aren’t only moral or political—they’re also narrative. While it’s true that allowing celebrities to remain closeted probably enhances the stigmatization of homosexuality at the margins by making it appear rare or shameful, what was shocking about the Peretz pieces was how two different reporters managed not only to bury the lede, but to completely erase it. In comparison, the issue with Gawker's "exposure" of Fox News anchor Shepard Smith last week was simply that Shepard Smith himself is uninteresting, not that homosexuality is—a point lost on David Carr in his recent analysis of the incident in the Times.
Ronan Farrow has every right to try to hide his sexuality, just as he has every right to try to hide the embarrassing fact that his real first name is Satchel. The press, though, is primarily obligated to the truth. Do we discover something pertinent about Farrow and his motivations when we learn that he’s gay? Does it reveal something about his character—whether slipperiness, self-loathing, a knack for grand strategy, or simply immaturity—that he chooses to hide it? Maybe, maybe not. But those are determinations that readers deserve to make on their own.
- President? Adrian would be so proud.
- Sorry, but I have to call bullshit on the Vice writer. "As a gay man, I find Farrow's sexuality highly relevant - he's literally the gay Mia Farrow!" Well, bully for you, but it's still really not your fucking business. Ronan Farrow is still *barely* a celebrity. I don't mean this as any sort of insult or implication that the two are in the remotest way alike, but even Rumer Willis is still more famous than him! Once he is at least *formally* a journalist, meaning his MSNBC has actually been *created* and given a launch date, not merely "announced," then Vice and Gawker and DL can begin the cycles of endless speculation about his sexuality and lovers.
- A relevant article in Vice, in response to the NYT article quoted:
- Hear Hear, R76!
- R93 here, sorry that I posted the link to the Vice magazine article without realising someone else had already done so. Mea culpa...
- I forgive you, r93.