Last night on Jay Leno's new show, Chris Rock put on blast some of the attitudes surrounding director Roman Polanski, ripping into the rhetorical dances being done around what Polanski actually did - which was rape a thirteen year old.
The conversation around Roman Polanski has been a hard one to follow. Part of it is annoyance - it is unnerving to see how certain celebrities fall under scrutiny for consorting with minors and others can make it seem like an unfortunate lapse in judgment.
Jill at Feministe points out how many actors seem to feel that this is just peachy:
What I don't understand is why so many people are signing this petition. On the most basic level, it's especially disappointing when the signatories are people whose work I like and respect. Pedro Almodovar. Wes Anderson. Natalie Portman. Kristin Scott Thomas. Darren Aronofsky. Diane von Furstenberg. Julian Schnabel. Martin Scorsese. Tilda Swinton. Gael Garcia Bernal (there goes my biggest crush). Penelope Cruz.
But they are, after all, just entertainers. It's absolutely heartbreaking when the support comes from someone who should really know better - like the founder of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
"My personal thoughts are let the guy go," said Peg Yorkin, founder of the Feminist Majority Foundation. "It's bad a person was raped. But that was so many years ago. The guy has been through so much in his life. It's crazy to arrest him now. Let it go. The government could spend its money on other things."
Lauren over at Feministe brings her experience into the narratives around Polanski, noting:
Rape is not the only assault. Around rape is a large segment of the population that questions the victim, a culture that looks down on victims for allowing themselves to be victimized, or keep them victimized, questions about the victim's credibility, questions about the legacy of rape and how bad it is, because how bad is rape really? Rape, because various levels and forms of sexual assault are systemic and pervasive across all societies, exists alongside one's experiences of unwanted touching, wanted touching, sexual objectification, sexual desire, sexual harassment, incest, love, leering eyes, cat calls, roaming hands, consent, confusion, tits, vagina, rectum, penis, mouth, rape and not-rape, all of it loaded, all of it veering at rape's ugly legacy, co-mingling, the legacy that tells us to be more careful, to dress more conservatively, to BE BETTER AT BEING VULNERABLE, or BE MORE POWERFUL, or BE MORE FEARFUL, or GET OVER IT ALREADY. Rape leaks into healthy, consensual experiences. It lingers. It pervades.
Roman Polanski initiated sexual contact with someone he knew to be underage, persisted after she said no, pled guilty to unlawful intercourse with a minor, and fled the country when he feared he would go to prison anyway.
What's so disturbing about the articles isn't that people are claiming our legal system is flawed. It's that people - be they in Hollywood or your average citizen - are grasping for all kinds of ways to twist this back on the victim and to exonerate Polanski by denying this crime ever happened. So you want him to walk on a technicality? Fine. Admit that! But why are we denying that the rape ever happened?
It did happen.
Polanski admitted as such. So are people so invested in the idea that if we pretend it isn't "rape-rape" then the matter will be resolved?
As Rock says at the end of the clip: "The United States, we want to capture Osama Bin Laden, and murder him. We don't want to rape him - that would be barbaric!"
Rape is a barbaric act.
And I'm amazed it took a comedian to say it outright.
Whoopi On Roman Polanski: It Wasn't 'Rape-Rape'
This Roman Polanski Thing? International Clusterfuck
Letters From Hollywood: Roman Polanski's Rape Of Child No Big Thing
Are Anti-Polanski Celebs Afraid To Speak Up?