November 22nd, 2011

Ronan Farrow, 24-year-old son of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, is one lucky guy

Why do I say he’s lucky? Well, he could have inherited father Woody’s looks, but instead he strongly takes after mother Farrow.

In addition, his original first name was Satchel, but when his parents parted ways, that was dropped in favor of second name Ronan, an improvement (what is it with these celebrities and their penchant for giving their kids strange monikers?)

But his achievements are only partly luck (having a good brain); they’re mostly a combination of luck plus a lot of hard work: he’s a prodigy who graduated from college at 15 and Yale Law School at 21 and has done quite a bit in the short years since, and has just been named a Rhodes Scholar. Yes, he seems to be politically liberal (no surprise there), but his work has been mainly in the field of human rights in the third world and especially the plight of children in Africa.

So, who does Ronan take after? Neither parent was much of a scholar, although he’s clearly following in his mother’s footsteps in his interest in Africa and children. But it’s father Allen who was a prodigy of sorts, although not the same sort as Ronan. Did you know (I didn’t) that Woody Allen was already a professional joke writer, making more money than his own parents combined, when he was still in high school? And that by the age of 19, a college dropout, he was writing scripts for such well-known TV personalities as Ed Sullivan Show and Sid Caesar, who paid him the princely salary (this was in 1954, remember) of $1500 a week?

Ronan even seems to possess the moral compass that his father lacks. Here’s the son on the subject of the union of his father with Soon-Yi Previn, Farrow’s adopted daughter and Ronan’s half-sister:

He’s my father married to my sister. That makes me his son and his brother-in-law. That is such a moral transgression. I cannot see him. I cannot have a relationship with my father and be morally consistent… I lived with all these adopted children, so they are my family. To say Soon-Yi was not my sister is an insult to all adopted children.”

Despite Ronan’s lifelong access to money and fame, it could not have been easy when his parents split up when he was five years old and fought a highly visible and bitter custody battle over him. I say “when his parents split up,” because they never divorced—because they had never married, although they’d had a relationship for twelve years, and one biological and two adopted children. I wouldn’t have placed much money then on the chances of Satchel/Ronan turning out this well.

15 Responses to “Ronan Farrow, 24-year-old son of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, is one lucky guy”

  1. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    I am always amazed at the cluelessness and narcissism of Hollywood/entertainer types, who give their kid some weird personal name that sentences the child to suffer at school, if not most other places growing up, odd names that, you would think, would also have to have a tremendous negative impact on their self-image; the examples that come first to mind are—“Moon Unit” and “Dweezel” Zappa.

    But “regular” people do it too, for instance, the child named by his parents—great admirers of the Fuehrer– “Adolph Hitler,” and currently embroiled in a custody dispute, has recently been in the news.

  2. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Does anyone beside myself see the resemblance to Frank Sinatra/Mia Farrow? Mia was married to Sinatra prior to Allen. Could it be that she was still close with old Blue Eyes during her time with Allen? Could we have some DNA testing done here?

    That said, the young man is impressive in his intelligence and commitment to the family he grew up in. Overcoming the name – well maybe that’s why they gave him a goofy name; To give him an obstacle to overcome.

  3. The Den Mother Says:

    Soon-Yi isn’t Ronan’s stepsister. She is his half-sister, since they share (legally, though not biologically) a mother but not a father. It sounds as if he doens’t put much stock in the “half” part, which makes sense if they were raised together.

  4. neo-neocon Says:

    Den Mother: Right; I’ll fix it.

  5. CV Says:

    I seem to recall reading that Satchel was named after Woody’s favorite baseball player, Satchel Paige.

    Didn’t realize that Ronan and Satchel were one and the same.

    what’s really hard to believe is that more than two decades have gone by since he was born.

    He looks like Neil Patrick Harris (and yes, fortunately for him, not at all like his father.)

  6. rickl Says:

    I generally agree with your comment, but I’m inclined to give Zappa a pass. He pretty much had his head screwed on straight and had a very well-calibrated BS detector. He probably taught his kids not to give a crap what anyone else thinks or says.

  7. Scott Says:

    6 years lapsed between graduating from college and graduating from Yale Law School? What a slacker!

  8. Anita Says:

    re: Ronan Farrow Allen

    You don’t really mention he has inherited his fathers brains. It would be best for his personal development if he forgave both parents, neither one being very good as parents and having serious personal flaws. Most parents have failings and found to be not ‘perfect’. Getting over this discovery is our biggest challenge in life. Recovering from childhood is a life’s work.

    It would be good for him to just accept them as they are and to take away the good sides of their natures and love them for those attributes and allow they are not perfect. Also to forgive Soon Yi.

    Mia was in a rage for years and years, it is sad she instilled hatred into the young boy and didn’t allow him to love his Father.

    I doubt he could be Frank Sinatra and Mia’s child … where would he have inherited the ‘brains’.

    I hope he does well inspite of the rough and challenging start.


  9. neo-neocon Says:

    Anita: No, I don’t think he inherited his father’s brains. Woody Allen is gifted in some ways, but academically he was a complete washout.

    And in the matter of Soon Yi, he thought with the small head.

    I don’t ascribe to the fact that children must always forgive parents. Most of the time I agree with you that it’s best, but it depends on the extent of the offense. Allen’s behavior was, as Ronan seems to know, too much of an affront to the entire family, not just to Mia.

  10. Eric Says:

    From Allen’s bio: Although depicting himself as nerd in his movies, he was a popular student and adept baseball and basketball player at high school.

    For me, as a baseball fan, Satchel is a revered name. Allen is also a baseball fan. I imagine Woody Allen named his son Satchel after the best Negro League pitcher of all-time, Leroy “Satchel” Paige.

  11. I R A Darth Aggie Says:

    well maybe that’s why they gave him a goofy name; To give him an obstacle to overcome

    Well, shoot, if you’re gonna do that, you might as well name him Sue.

  12. Daniel in Brookline Says:


    I don’t ascribe to the fact that children must always forgive parents. Most of the time I agree with you that it’s best, but it depends on the extent of the offense.

    In this case, I think it’s relevant that this is not a long-ago, stuck-in-the-past offense. Woody Allen’s offense has been ongoing, and as far as I know, he’s been totally unrepentant about it.

    Under those circumstances, Ronan basically has two choices: he can find a way to make his peace with his father and what he’s done, or he can avoid dealing with him altogether. It sounds as though he’s chosen the second path; I wish him the best of luck in dealing with a rotten situation.

  13. Sky Says:

    Dear Scott, it did not take Ronan 6 years to get thru law school. He was accepted and could have gone directly out of college and graduated while still in his teens. But he took time off to do humanitarian work (as I recall).

  14. VictoriaSchmictoria Says:

    A year has gone by since the last post, which allows me more insight, perhaps.
    To Scott with regard to his “slacker” comment: if your CV contained the amount of work done between undergrad and grad studies that this young man’s does, I think you’d have to apologize for your slacker comment.
    To Neo-neocon: Einstein was a bit of an academic “washout,” too. Would you say he wasn’t gifted intellectually? If you are going to gage intellect by one’s education then Steven Jobs and Bill Gates would be considered intellectually inferior to …me and many others who have college degrees. I think Ronan looks just like his mother–not Sinatra–and has his father’s (a man I see as an intellectual) intellect.
    As for the name Satchel, what’s wrong with naming your child after someone you think highly of? As someone already stated, Allen was a fan of Satchel Paige. Many unusual family names are often given children. How is the name “Ronan” better? Spelled differently he’d be named for a Samurai of sorts.
    I agree that Allen made a transgression with Soon-Yi, but then I also wonder how someone can feel romantically toward one’s father–if he was indeed treated as her step-father. On the other hand, if he had always been seen as her mother’s boyfriend, how is that different than a sister stealing another sister’s boyfriend? The sick part would be their age difference, but lets face it, powerful/famous men often date/marry much younger women. Does that mean the greater transgression is Soon-Yi’s?

  15. neo-neocon Says:


    It’s fine to name someone after a person you admire. But “Satchel” is an odd name that conjures up a suitcase (if anything) for most people of Satchel/Ronan’s generation, the great majority of whom have never heard of Satchel Paige. That sort of name is often a reflection of the namer’s narcissism, rather than thoughtfulness about how the child will experience the name. The name “Ronan” is actually a traditional Celtic and/or Irish name.

    That’s a myth, by the way, about Einstein and schooling. He did very well indeed in school in the subjects that interested him, and was recognized early on as quite gifted in mathematics and science. He didn’t like language much, was a late developer re language, didn’t do well in it, and didn’t apply himself in that area.

    As for Soon Yi—if you don’t know the difference between a sister and a mother, I’m afraid it would be a waste of time to explain it to you. Let’s just say there’s a big difference.

    What’s more, although Woody Allen was a stepfather figure to all of Mia’s children, he had differing degrees of closeness to different ones. Everyone agrees that he and Soon Yi were not especially close prior to the time he started cultivating a “special” relationship with her, when she was in her later years of high school.

    At the time they started seeing each other (he took her out to basketball games in the role of stepfather), she had never dated another boy. She was either seventeen or eighteen at that time, and he was in his fifties.

    Naive and inexperienced high school students have a lesser responsibility in these matters than a worldly, sophisticated, experienced 50-something-year old. It is Woody Allen who had a greater responsibility towards Soon Yi as a quasi-stepfather, authority figure, and full adult. Again, if you don’t see that, I can’t help you.

    Yes, indeed, however, there were two betrayals here: Woody Allen betrayed Mia Farrow, and Soon Yi betrayed Mia Farrow. But his betrayal was far greater because of his greater position of responsibility as fully grown adult and stepparent. He also betrayed the other children, including and especially the ones he acknowledged as his, either adopted (Dylan, Moses) or supposedly biological (Satchel/Ronan). Soon Yi was their sister, and Allen’s behavior disrupted the family in a very deep way.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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