Ronan Farrow looks small, probably from being weighted down by his achievements. I went to see him last night at the Bluma Appel Theatre on Front St. in Toronto, in conversation with no-slouch of a journalist herself, Robyn Doolittle of the Globe and Mail. He was late and it was great, because Doolittle had time to answer questions on the award-winning Unfounded series she wrote for the Globe and Mail about police power to decide hundreds of women's claims of sex assault did not happen and they did not need to investigate them.
Farrow is the New Yorker investigative journalist behind the uncovering of Harvey Weinstein as a serial predator, which lit the fire of the #MeToo movement and has led to abrupt disappearances of other powerful men in media and other industries. Among the scarier costume T-shirts for Hallowe'en this year was "There's a call for you: it's Ronan Farrow.” He said so, laughing about the absurdity of it.
Farrow is also the author of a book, The War on Peace, an account of his years with Richard Holbrooke of the State Department and the shift from diplomatic to military solutions to world problems. He has just submitted his Ph.D to Oxford University, where he was previously a Rhodes scholar. In 2009 he graduated Yale Law School. From 2001 to 2009 he worked for UNICEF and the Genocide Prevention Network. He was an advisor to Hillary Clinton and worked for the Obama administration in international affairs. He has hosted his own news series on television, written essays for most major international newspapers and done voiceover work for animated films. He was voted one of Time' most influential people in the world this year.
He is 30 years old.
He was sometimes hard to watch. Not him, personally, but in front of us at the Bluma Appel Theatre was an infatuated couple that could not keep hands off each other. A woman next to them rearranged her coat rather obviously, hoping to alert them that they were at a public event. Others of us looked at one another, including my daughter, who mouthed Oh My God but prevented me from finding a cup of cold water to accidentally throw over them both. Finally I covered the eye that couldn't avoid watching his hands and watched the stage with the other.
It was an exhilarating discussion. Farrow and Doolittle exchanged serious talk about ethics and investigation which made us former journalists very proud, and bantered over what to do about interview subjects who a) hate you, b) ignore you or c) phone you up every week a couple of years after your story has been published just to say, "Hi Ronan! How's it going?" He spoke of the affairs of the world with compassion and clarity, although I could only see him from one eye.
Lest you hate him for being superhuman, Farrow is the son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen, who caused pain and suffering for the family in all ways from selfish to hideous, including his marriage with one of Farrow's sisters. In June of 2012 there was a small glimpse of that in Ronan Farrow's tweet: “Happy father's day -- or as they call it in my family, happy brother-in-law's day.” But for the most part, he just goes about his outsized life and, last night, seemed grateful for it.
On December 19 he turns 31. Happy Birthday, Mr. Farrow, or as they call it in my family, I really could be doing more with my day.