Letters From Hollywood: Roman Polanski's Rape Of Child No Big Thing

Illustration for article titled Letters From Hollywood: Roman Polanski's Rape Of Child No Big Thing

"Does being an 'artist' trump being a rapist?" asks Melissa Silverstein of Women & Hollywood. According to 138 people in the film industry who signed a petition demanding the immediate release of Roman Polanski from Swiss custody, yep!


And they're joined by another group of writers and artists Bernard-Henri Lévy is rounding up! On his roster: Salman Rushdie, Milan Kundera, Neil Jordan, Isabelle Adjani, Isabelle Huppert, Mike Nichols, Diane von Furstenberg, and Paul Auster, among others. As for the other petition (launched by French film industry association SACD), in addition to the signatories posted at The Wrap last night (Pedro Almodovar, Wes Anderson, Darren Aronofsky, Monica Bellucci, Stephen Frears, Tilda Swinton?!?), new big-name rape apologists are signing on all the time! Today, we can add Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Terry Gilliam and — wait for it — Woody Allen to the list.

Woody Allen, people. It would be kind of funny, if it weren't a big fucking list of celebrities who support a child rapist.

Also, let us not forget Whoopi "rape-rape" Goldberg, and of course Debra Winger's statement as president of the Zurich Film Festival jury. As Variety reported:

Winger... on Monday demanded Polanski's release and criticized Swiss authorities for their "philistine collusion" in arresting Polanski as he entered the country.

"This fledgling festival has been unfairly exploited, and whenever this happens the whole art world suffers," Winger said in a statement on Monday, standing together with the other four international jury members who wore red badges reading "Free Polanski" as they announced plans to continue the fest.

That's apparently what this is about, in the minds of all these great artistes: Philistinism. A failure to appreciate A) Polanski's genius and B) the sanctity of international film festivals. No, I am not even kidding about the second part. From the SACD petition:

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.

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.


Yes I can totally see how arresting a fugitive child rapist is a slippery slope toward censorship. If I were a creative professional, I'd certainly be concerned about the authorities coming after me and my work! Except, I am a creative professional, and I'm not worried, because unlike Roman Polanski, I have neither raped a child nor jumped bail and evaded capture for three decades. See how that works? Don't rape a child and flee sentencing for it: Enjoy your personal and artistic freedom! Rape a child and flee: Get arrested! (Eventually.) Is there something I'm missing here? Like the part that explains how arresting a fugitive child rapist has fuck-all to do with festivals traditionally being a haven for controversial filmmakers? Is that really supposed to mean they should also be a haven for known felons?

I guess so. The petition continues:

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.


How - HOW - are people writing and signing shit like that with a straight face? Might I remind you, film industry, that the extradition will be "heavy in consequences" and take away his freedom because he raped a child and fled the country over thirty years ago? We're really just supposed to skip over that detail? Really? And in fact, we should more properly be outraged that this happened in a country "where he assumed he could travel without hindrance" — an assumption made because he's been banging around Europe for three decades, making movies, winning awards, living as a free man, on account of how he skipped bail after pleading guilty to statutory rape? On what planet is, "But he didn't think he'd get caught!" a legitimate excuse for going easy on a fugitive child rapist?

Fugitive. Child. Rapist. Just keep saying it until it sinks in. I'll wait.

And I'll keep waiting while Lévy and company give the same exercise a shot. Perhaps when they're done, they'll appreciate the absurdity of a statement like, "Apprehended like a common terrorist Saturday evening, September 26, as he came to receive a prize for his entire body of work, Roman Polanski now sleeps in prison."


Correction: Polanski was not actually arrested like a "common terrorist." He was arrested like a common fugitive child rapist. Actually, he was arrested like a distinctly uncommon fugitive child rapist, what with being on his way to pick up a lifetime achievement award for a body of work largely completed while he was evading being sentenced for raping a child. That's really not how things play out for most fugitive child rapists, as I understand it. I'm pretty sure only the white, wealthy, well-connected ones are ever permitted to make such a mockery of justice for so long, let alone be assured that, as the SACD petition puts it, "Filmmakers, actors, producers and technicians — everyone involved in international filmmaking — want him to know that he has their support and friendship." I'm guessing, in fact, that Roman Polanski could most accurately be described as a unique fugitive child rapist.

Lévy's next argument is that Polanski's victim, whom he refers to as "the plaintiff," wants the charges dropped, so what's the big deal? Yesterday at Salon, I explained why, despite my deep sympathy for the victim and the media circus she's been subjected to, I don't think her wishes should take precedence over the law. So today, I'll only point out that the victim is not the plaintiff in the criminal case. She was the plaintiff in the civil case she brought against Polanski, for which she was awarded a settlement. Now, it's Los Angeles County's score to settle, on behalf of the people, not the victim.


Of course, many of the celebs standing up for Polanski are people of Los Angeles County. Let's just hope the authorities remember that although those might be the loudest ones, they're hardly the only ones. And the public interest is, in fact, better served by punishing people who rape children and flee the country than it is by bowing to famous and powerful people who somehow believe that really good films make up for felonies — or that living, traveling, and working openly in your chosen profession for 30 years, just on a different continent, is "punishment enough." (But the poor man was always looking over his shoulder! Yes, because he was a fugitive child rapist. Do you see how it always ends up there?)

I'm just sickened to see some of the names on these lists — people I've long admired, and whose work I've shelled out for on multiple occasions. But at the same time, I'm glad the names of unapologetic child rapist supporters are being made public, so I can consider their stance on art vs. child rape when choosing how to spend my entertainment dollars. Last summer, Tiger Beatdown's Sady Doyle proposed that we join her in a game she likes to call "Don't Give Money To The Rapist."

Basically, most rapists have jobs. Sometimes they're really good at their jobs! But if, for example, a rapist is someone who makes movies which you want to see, you have to balance what you don't know with what you know. Here's a little breakdown, as far as this relates to noted rapist Roman Polanski, and the film Rosemary's Baby:

WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW: Whether or not you are going to enjoy Rosemary's Baby, a film made by noted rapist Roman Polanski. It could go either way!

WHAT YOU KNOW: Roman Polanski raped someone.

Now, ask yourself: is it worth contributing, in any way, to the well-being of a rapist? Probably not!


I think that sounds like a superfun game, and I also think I'd enjoy one called, "Don't Give Money To People Who Think Rapists Deserve Absolution, Sympathy, Freedom and Regular Public Tongue Baths."

Unfortunately, playing it basically means you can never watch a movie again.

Does Being An "Artist" Trump Being A Rapist [Women & Hollywood]
Filmmakers Demand Polanski's Release [CNN]
Petition For The Release Of Roman Polanski [The Wrap]
Artist Rally Behind Polanski [HuffPo]
Euro Outrage Over Polanski Arrest [Variety]
Reminder: Roman Polanski Raped A Child [Salon]
Perfect Disguise: Isaac Brock, Samantha Shapiro, And The Ethics Of Journalism In Rape Culture [Tiger Beatdown]


Earlier:Whoopi On Roman Polanski: It Wasn't 'Rape-Rape'



The undeniable genius behind "Rosemary's Baby," "Chinatown," and "The Pianist" not withstanding, Polanski should be freed not as a luminary artist but as a man flawed as any other. He was invited to Switzerland to accept an award for his latest film and his arrest for a crime committed 32 years earlier demonstrates how vengeful the US incarceration complex can be.

Consider that the convicted child rapist also: lost much of his family during the Holocaust, was cheated on by his first wife, had his second wife murdered by followers of Charles Manson, and has already served 42 days of his 90 day sentence for a crime over 30 years ago. Seriously, jailing a man with a wife and two kids who is clearly not an imminent threat to society serves no purpose other than to assert the uncaring might of the state. Let us not forget that plaintiff Samantha Geim has reconciled with Polanski and wants the charges dropped. This is no longer a civil case but one that pits Polanski solely against the government.

I realize this is a difficult position to take and is likely to be met with protest, but I think Polanski's life is worth considering with empathy rather than calculated judicial prosecution.