Weighing in on Polanski

So, a lot of people are talking about Roman Polanski right now, and one could reasonably argue that I don’t really need to add my voice to the din. I’ve linked to some good commentaries from people I greatly respect, and they have pretty much said what I would say, only more elegantly, and on much more widely-read platforms. That said, I have actually decided that it is important that I articulate my position, not just on Roman Polanski, but on the way we deal with heinous crimes perpetrated by people who enjoy a prominent position in society.

The facts, as best they can be reconstructed, are these: in 1977, Roman Polanski raped a 13 year old girl. He plied her with drugs and alcohol, and raped her. She repeatedly said no and asked him to stop. That’s rape under any definition you care to name.

In 1978, Polanski fled the United States, because he did not want to do jail time for his rape. There’s a bit of a dispute here: he had spent some time in jail while waiting for trial, and supposedly was under the impression that he would get a short sentence and credit for time served. Then, it was made apparent that this would not happen, and that’s when he skipped town and became a fugitive from justice.

Once Polanski fled the United States, he hardly lived like one might think a fugitive should. In fact, Hollywood continued to welcome him from afar with open arms even after his rape of a 13 year old girl. He made a number of films, accepted awards, worked with very prominent people, and generally enjoyed a good reputation. During this time, it’s not really clear how aggressively American law enforcement worked to catch him and bring him back to the United States for justice. What is known is that he is now in Switzerland, awaiting the outcome of an extradition order.

Extradition is a bit tricky; the important takeaway is that it’s not automatic. Switzerland has to decide whether or not they think the order is reasonable, and if they think it is, he will be taken to the United States. What’s going to happen then is anybody’s guess.

Now, Polanski has had a rough life. He lived through the Holocaust and his wife was murdered in a very brutal and highly publicized way. But, this does not excuse the fact that he raped a 13 year old girl, and, according to numerous accounts, may have also raped and molested other young women in Hollywood during his tenure there. People who have rough lives and then choose to rape and abuse children are put in prison all the time, because that is where they belong.

Some people appear to be experiencing some moral handwringing because Polanski makes films, some of which are widely regarded to be very good. Apparently, if you are an artist, you are allowed to be a rapist. Indeed, many of the excuses being made for him include his “artistic temperament” and the fact that artists throughout history do not really have the greatest track record on refraining from child rape. But, again, in case I have not said it enough times, Roman Polanski raped a child, and having a hard life and being an artist does not mean that he should not be punished for it.

Even Polanski admitted it when he pled guilty to the crime. It’s important to distinguish here, because some people seem to be confused: whether consensual or not, sex with people who are underage is considered statutory rape. When sex is not consensual, no matter what age anybody in the situation is, it is rape. You can commit both statutory rape and rape, which is what Roman Polanski did. There aren’t degrees of rape, as people seem to think (Oprah Winfrey Whoopi Goldberg referred to Polanski’s action as “not rape-rape,” whatever that means). You have either raped someone, or you have not, and in this case, Roman Polanski did not just rape someone, he raped a child.

One of the most disturbing things about this situation, in my eyes, is that many liberals and most of Hollywood have expressed support for Polanski. Poor, oppressed Roman Polanski, being asked to receive punishment under the justice system for raping a child. He’s served his time, they say. Well, actually, he hasn’t, because if he had, there wouldn’t be an extradition order with his name on it. It wasn’t really rape, they say. Yes, it fucking was.

It was fucking rape, and I am disgusted and horrified and sickened by the fact that many liberals are drawing all of their facts about the case from a highly skewed documentary which is clearly biased in his favour. I am horrified that so many people are justifying the actions of a rapist on the grounds that he is famous and talented and had a hard life. I don’t care who you are, if you rape someone, you should be brought to trial for it, and if the verdict is guilty, you should be punished appropriately under the law.

People demanding that Polanski be punished are not demanding vengeance or indulging in some kind of vendetta. All we are asking is that he serve his time, just like every other rapist who gets caught in America. So few rapists are caught that I think we are entitled to demand that when they are, they be punished for their crimes.

The victim in the case has since withdrawn the charges, and claims that she wants it all to be over. A lot of people seem to be reading this to read that she’s recanting or some such nonsense. It’s pretty clear, though, that this stems from fatigue over being in the public eye. While she may have opted to publicly identify herself, I think she didn’t realize how much attention the case would attract and would continue to attract. I can’t put words in her mouth, but I suspect that she would probably like to see Polanski imprisoned and she would like the media circus to be over.

And, you know, hats off to her for not only publicly admitting that she is a rape survivor, but openly naming her victim and discussing it. Many people who experience rape are not open about it, because there is still a great deal of stigma about rape. And a fair amount of judginess that goes on, like the idea that it only counts as “rape” if you are “the right kind of victim.” The fact that she was a model, for example, is held against her, with the suggestion that she probably had drunken drugged sexual encounters all the time because that’s what models do, or what people did in Hollywood in 1977. Newsflash: even if that were true, she said “no” to this particular drugged sexual encounter, and that makes it, wait for it, RAPE!

I’ve written before about liberal sexism and its pernicious effects on our society. This case is a classic example, with numerous liberals blatantly stating support for a rapist, indicating that they hope he is not punished for being a rapist, and in some cases even actively slandering the victim. Said liberals are also repeating erroneous information which has been clearly, demonstrably proved to be wrong to support their assertions.

There’s this tendency among people who don’t want to give up their toys to try and justify the ownership of their toys. People don’t want to stop liking films by Roman Polanski and the numerous members of Hollywood who have supported him, so they decide that Roman Polanski cannot be a bad man. Can bad, even terrible people make great, even beautiful things? Yes, yes they can, because people are complicated. Can people make a conscious decision not to consume those things, so as not to be providing tacit support to, say, child rapists? Yes, yes they can.

But, you know, it’s ok to say, as Kevin Smith did: “Look, I dig ROSEMARY’S BABY; but rape’s rape. Do the crime, do the time.” It’s ok to admit that you like Polanski’s work despite the fact that he is a child rapist and I am not going to judge you for it, because I respect that point of view. It’s also ok to view his work in light of the fact that he is a fugitive child rapist, and to, you know, talk about it, and acknowledge the fact that many people think that it is good, and talk about what that means, in a social and artistic sense. And to ask larger questions about how we feel when we consume things produced by terrible people.

Apparently these people who stridently proclaim support for Polanski in every imaginable forum are bothered enough by the fact that Roman Polanski is a rapist to try and justify him, but not actually bothered to the point where they are willing to condemn a rapist. He’s one of their own! He’s arty and bohemian and tormented! To admit that he is a rapist, straight up, would be to question their own belief system, so it’s better to pretend that nothing is wrong.

6 Replies to “Weighing in on Polanski”

  1. Excellent post, and I agree with you. Just one minor quibble: I’m pretty sure it was Whoopi Goldberg who said the “not rape-rape” thing, not Oprah Winfrey.

  2. You are, in fact, right! Thank you for the correction, that was a serious brainfart (had an article up about Oprah in the other window while I was working on this and some transference complete with bonus racial overtones obviously occurred).

  3. Some random internet folks did start counterpetition, but it’s an online petition (which nobody takes seriously), and the 400-some signatories are, of course, composed entirely of random internet nobodies.

    I think it was a post you linked here recently that got me noticing the wording in articles — “had sex” instead of “raped”. All rather wtfy.

  4. Having lived and worked in the general Los Angeles area (and having a husband who did forensic pediatrics), I have to say that this sort of thing is not so uncommon as we would like to believe. What is uncommon is that this young woman stepped forward and said something, especially at a time when disclosures were not well received. And it is also uncommon that the prosecutors pursued this. BTW, this does show what perception of status and preoccupation with fame can do to the public’s ability to deal with actual facts.

  5. It’s been a problem up here for years as well. I think this case is especially tragic because it was one in which the victim was brave enough to step forward and law enforcement/DA was willing to pursue, and no justice was served.

    I think the general public is resistant to facts.

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