Warning: This post is outside the usual purview of this blog. But I've heard one too many people defend Roman Polanski.
And another warning: there will be no censoring of language for tender ears. I’ve been keeping my potty-mouth under control on this blog, but right now, if you can’t handle the F-word, change the channel.
Polanski apologists defend him on the following grounds:
1) He’s a different man than he was thirty-two years ago, when he raped a thirteen-year-old girl.
2) His mother died in Auschwitz.
3) His pregnant wife was killed by Charles Manson followers.
4) He’s a great artist.
5) The judge was about to go back on the plea bargain and send Polanski to prison.
6) The victim’s mother served her daughter up to Polanski on a silver platter.
7) He was drunk/on drugs at the time.
Let’s consider these points one at a time. In a minute. First, let me say, ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?
Point One. He’s a different man than he was back when he raped a thirteen-year-old girl.
I’m sure this is true. Polanski is now seventy-six years old, and probably has an entirely different perspective on most things than he had thirty-two years ago. One would hope that perspective would include the awareness that he did something very wrong. And that fleeing the country instead of facing the music was not only illegal but irresponsible.
Since one of the arguments Polanski apologists are using is that even the victim wants it all to end, I have to add that if Polanski had accepted a sentence—and he did deserve a sentence, not a plea bargain for RAPING A THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD GIRL—this case would long ago have faded from the public eye, and he would long ago have been released from prison. (In fact, he probably still would have directed ‘The Pianist,’ which, I dunno about you, but WHEW! How would the world have survived without ‘The Pianist’? I mean, it was a lovely film, but c'mon.) That this case has been dragged out for decades is entirely Polanski’s fault. His victim would have been able to move on decades ago if he had allowed her to. Instead, he ran.
For thirty-two years. And would still be running if the Los Angeles D.A.’s office and the Swiss hadn’t suddenly grown some balls. The ongoing media circus is on Polanski’s shoulders alone.
And now, the apologists say, Polanski is no longer the same person, so he should no longer be held accountable for the crime. Here’s my question: Are we, then, to apply the Polanski Rule to all crimes? Do we say, ‘Yo, fellas, feel free to rape/murder/rob/assault/extort whoever you want, just don’t get caught for thirty-two years’? What happens if a criminal undergoes a personal transformation and becomes “a different person” in only five years? Does the Polanski Rule still apply? I see this one going all the way to the Supreme Court.
Point Two. His mother died in Auschwitz. And Point Three, his pregnant wife was killed by Charles Manson followers.
First, let me say that I am the bleeding-est of bleeding heart liberals. I do believe that people’s past struggles should be considered when they’re being tried and sentenced for crimes. I have tremendous empathy for anyone who’s lived through war and/or victimization of any kind—whether in Germany or Rwanda or tree-lined Suburbia or a street corner in Compton.
But Roman Polanski raped a thirteen-year-old girl.
And if he weren’t white and famous—or maybe just famous—this case would have had a very different outcome. Need proof? Consider the seventeen-year-old black young man who was sentenced by a Texas court to TEN YEARS in prison for getting a CONSENSUAL BLOWJOB from a fifteen-year-old girl. (Although, frankly, it sounds like that young man was no angel, either.)
Consider almost anyone in prison, in fact. I think it’s safe to say a huge percentage of people in prison have close relatives who were victims of violence at best and murdered at worst. And many people in prison were seriously abused by parents or others when they were children. Many were on drugs at the time they committed their crimes (Point Seven, but I’ll say more on that subject later). For the most part, the legal system’s response to these extenuating circumstances is a resounding “Who gives a shit?”
In this case, I have to agree. Obviously, what happened to the people Polanski loved is incredibly tragic. It’s unbearably sad. It’s a pain I hope I never understand.
But he still raped a thirteen-year-old girl.
And then, instead of giving the legal system a chance to work, he ran. Nothing in his past, or anyone's past, makes that okay. (Polanski apologists say that in this case, the legal system wasn't working-- but we'll get to that in Point Five.)
Moving on to Point Four. He’s a great artist. SOTHE FUCKWHAT. Talent does not make him exempt. It makes him rich, and therefore able to do things like flee the country and live a very comfortable life in France. But exempt? No.
Point Five. The judge was about to go back on the plea bargain and send Polanski to prison. Apparently there was a whole documentary (I haven’t seen it) about how the lawyers and judge involved in the Polanski case engaged in misconduct. That may be true. It may not be true, too—one of the main culprits of the alleged misconduct recently said he overstated his actions to the documentarians in order to make himself seem more important.
But let’s assume it is true. Let’s say there was a big ‘ol conspiracy to get Polanski to actually serve some time. Hoo. Fucking. Ray. Okay, that’s my glib/rageful response. My intelligent response is this: that’s why we have something called THE APPEALS PROCESS. Know what’s great about the appeals process? If you’re white and rich, things usually go your way! And given that (unfortunately) most child molesters receive minimal sentences, and (shockingly) sometimes only get parole, most likely Polanski wouldn’t have been behind bars for long anyway.
And remember this: There’s no question that Polanski raped this girl.
I read the transcripts of her testimony, which were disturbing to say the least. If anyone has any doubts about whether this girl was raped, read the transcripts. That’s all you have to do. Read the transcripts.
Moving on to Point Six. The victim’s mother served her daughter up to Polanski on a silver platter. Some people are under the impression that the victim’s mom actually brought her to Jack Nicholson’s house for Polanski. That didn’t happen. Polanski picked the girl up from her home, chose the clothes she was to wear, and drove her first to one of his friend’s homes, where he took some pictures of her, then brought her to Jack Nicholson’s house, where he took more pictures, then raped her. Polanski did that—not the mom. This is not to say the victim’s mother deserves any parenting awards. She clearly exhibited terrible judgment in allowing her young daughter to even be in Polanski’s presence alone. It seems as if she was blinded by the potential opportunities a famous director could provide for her daughter.
But as soon as her mom found out about the rape? “All hell broke loose,” the victim says.
Just for the shits and giggles, let’s say the mom was fine with Roman Polanski raping her daughter. Is the argument, then, that if the girl’s mom is okay with it, rape is okay? I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that particular amendment to the Polanski Rule won’t even make it to the Supreme Court. A lower court will toss that one out on its staggeringly moronic ass.
Which brings me to Point Seven. Polanski was drunk/on drugs at the time. This falls in the sothefuckwhat category for me, except for this: Polanski used alcohol and drugs to make it easier to rape his victim. How anyone can use the drug/alcohol argument to excuse him is utterly beyond me. In fact, the drug and alcohol element of the crime is part of what makes it so egregious.
Okay. So, after all that, we finally arrive at The Thing That Is Making Me Crazy.
Let’s talk about the “Free Roman Polanski” petition.
Now, I don’t expect any better from Woody Allen, but Martin Scorsese? Wes Anderson? Natalie Portman???? Seriously? I swear, some of these names make me want to cry.
Why? Because this is the kind of insanity/blindness that gives right-wing conservatives ammunition when they argue that Hollywood is damaging to America and children and whatever else it is they think we’re damaging to. Every signature on that petition is a validation of right-wing accusations that Hollywood is a value-less wasteland. When people like Harvey Weinstein say “Polanski has served his time,” (42 days, by the way, is how long Polanski was in jail before he fled) conservative pundits everywhere are justified in vilifying liberals as knee-jerk and morally rudderless.
So, why are people putting their names on this thing? Does Debra Winger really believe that arresting Roman Polanski for rape is a form of censorship? Here is the actual content of the petition:
We have learned the astonishing news of Roman Polanski's arrest by the Swiss police on September 26th, upon arrival in Zurich (Switzerland) while on his way to a film festival where he was due to receive an award for his career in filmmaking. (I'm with you so far: like you, I'm astonished. But I think we're astonished about different things...)
His arrest follows an American arrest warrant dating from 1978 against the filmmaker, in a case of morals. (It was actually a case of rape. But do go on.)
Filmmakers in France, in Europe, in the United States and around the world are dismayed by this decision. It seems inadmissible to them that an international cultural event, paying homage to one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers, is used by the police to apprehend him. (He wasn’t arrested for his filmmaking, folks.)
By their extraterritorial nature, film festivals the world over have always permitted works to be shown and for filmmakers to present them freely and safely, even when certain States opposed this. (Yes, when the issues involved are, say, creative and political freedoms, which are, indeed, valiant and noble ideals. Rape, on the other hand? Not so much.)
The arrest of Roman Polanski in a neutral country, where he assumed he could travel without hindrance, undermines this tradition: it opens the way for actions of which no-one can know the effects. (Holy smoke! The world is going to fall apart over this? I had no idea! Silly me, thinking global warming was the real threat.)
Roman Polanski is a French citizen, a renown and international artist now facing extradition. This extradition, if it takes place, will be heavy in consequences and will take away his freedom. (Well, when you put it that way. We certainly don’t want to take away the freedom of an “international artist!” Phooey to that old rape case!)
Filmmakers, actors, producers and technicians - everyone involved in international filmmaking - want him to know that he has their support and friendship. (Good to know. Thanks for sharing.)
On September 16th, 2009, Mr. Charles Rivkin, the US Ambassador to France, received French artists and intellectuals at the embassy. He presented to them the new Minister Counselor for Public Affairs at the embassy, Ms Judith Baroody. In perfect French she lauded the Franco-American friendship and recommended the development of cultural relations between our two countries. If only in the name of this friendship between our two countries, we demand the immediate release of Roman Polanski. (They do remember that whole Freedom Fries debacle, don’t they?)
As a member of "the Hollywood community,” I am embarrassed by and ashamed of each and every person who signed the “Free Roman Polanski” petition.
And then you should spend a few solid hours thinking about your daughters and nieces and sisters and grand-daughters, and then ask yourselves if it is EVER okay for an adult man to have sex with a thirteen-year-old girl. And I’m not even talking about rape—though it was, very clearly, rape. For the moment, let’s just think about sex. With a thirteen-year-old. Is that EVER okay?
If your answer is no, and it better be, you must remove your name from the petition. And as soon as you’ve done that, feel free to give an enormous amount of money to the rape-victim charity of your choice.
Since he is “a different person” now, how can Polanski show that he regrets raping a thirteen-year-old girl? By, finally, being a man. By willingly coming back to the United States and standing up in a court of law and expressing his sincere remorse.
What should he NOT do? He should not act like he is the victim. He is a man who raped a thirteen-year-old girl. It’s that simple. He raped a thirteen-year-old girl and then he fled the country.
After thirty-two years, it’s time for him to come home and face the music.