In today’s Huffington Post there’s two excellent examples of the Roman Polanski celebrity fan club. They think he’s being persecuted. He’s rich, he’s charming, he made a lot of movies. The survivor of the assault he committed thirty years ago wants a normal life, and has kept her privacy.
Polanski, on the other hand, invited a documentary filmmaker to show his side of the story, and these two Huffpo writers watched it. What more do they need to know?
This from Joan Z. Shore, Women Overseas for Equality…
But there is more to this story. The 13-year old model “seduced” by Polanski had been thrust onto him by her mother, who wanted her in the movies. The girl was just a few weeks short of her 14th birthday, which was the age of consent in California. (It’s probably 13 by now!) Polanski was demonized by the press, convicted, and managed to flee, fearing a heavy sentence.
This astounding piece of victim-blaming leaves me wondering whatever ‘Women Overseas for Equality’ stands for.
It’s pretty much the line that the press swallowed in the 1970’s when the poor, troubled film director succumbed to the conniving nymphet who seduced him. And in Shore’s version it’s not rape, or even seduction. She ‘seduced’ him. Jeeze, maybe they should put her in jail instead.
One of the nasty aspects of this crime is that Polanski used his famous charm to deceive the mother and daughter to get the child alone. I can’t imagine the guilt and shame, the damage to the relationship, that resulted. Parents who trusted their children with priests, camp counselors and other authority figures that betrayed them do know.
For an alternate view, the Huffpo has ‘John Farr– Leniency for Polanski’.
Watching Wanted and Desired, I did not get the impression that the now-adult lady Polanski seduced, who after all bears the most right to carry a grudge, would herself want to see the aging director slapped behind bars at this stage. (Perhaps others who saw the film had a different impression.)
Well, Farr watched the movie too. And the fact that Samantha Geimer has not devoted her life to seeking revenge is taken as evidence that she was not wronged. Her life wasn’t trashed enough to satisfy people who expect their victims to display bruises. If she is able to forgive that is very much to her credit. But Polanski has never acknowledged his real crime, or asked forgiveness.
If this were happening in Rhode Island, I wouldn’t want our tax money to pay for three squares and a cot for this loser. We have more offenders than our parole officers can keep track of and we don’t need to import them from France.
I guess he would end up in a court in California. He could appeal to a Governor who himself is from the movie business. Who himself has faced allegations of sexual bullying and sex with a minor. Who as governor pleases his constituency with a tough stance on offenders. That would be interesting to watch.
A majority of Californians decided to give Schwarzenegger a pass on his dubious history. Americans in general are more tolerant of consensual adult sex and less tolerant of exploitation of children than we were in the 1970’s. But we still revere power and hate to deal with the messy contradictions of human nature.
Florida puts its sex offenders under a bridge. We don’t know what to do with people who are fine with adults, but a danger to children or the vulnerable. The press, especially the film industry, doesn’t want to put the scarlet ‘P’ for perp on one of their own. But what do you do with a story like this? It’s not a satisfying narrative where justice wins out. It’s just messy reality. It’s discouraging to see the same distortions and evasions thirty years later, after all we should have learned.
Update– Samantha Geimer wants the case dismissed. Polanski’s thirty year game with the US legal system has ensured that the whole story will keep on coming back to haunt her and her family. Her wishes should be respected, and understood. The enabling press will take a dismissal as exoneration, but she has a right to try to put an end to the notoriety. Polanski, on his part, should stop trying to justify himself and do his best to make amends by leaving her alone.
Another View– Salon has a strongly worded post on why the case should not be dismissed. Dodging justice is not just an offense against a victim, but an offense against the law.
And besides that– the Wikipedia entry for Nastassja Kinski says that Polanski ‘had a romantic relationship’ with her when she was 15.
An opposing view–Mary Elizabeth Williams argues that the legal process of reporting a sexual assault is so traumatic to the victim that justice would be served by letting Polanski go. Williams doesn’t condemn a legal system that is hostile to victims, she seems to take is as a given, like the weather. You could apply her logic to all personal crimes and conclude that none of them should ever be prosecuted.
Too Hot for Salon– just noticed at 6:50pm they have taken Kate Harding’s toughly worded post off the front page and left Mary Elizabeth Williams’ ‘If you want justice for Polanski, let him go’ up. What, is someone there afraid they won’t eat lunch in Hollywood anymore? What is aggravating is that Harding is very blunt in telling it like it is, where Williams says that really, it’s ‘all of us’ who harmed Polanski’s victim. That must be the theory of dispersed culpability that fogs up the painful truth.
More of What’s Not on Salon– okay, this is a year old. Bill Wyman’s analysis of the bias in the documentary, ‘Wanted and Desired’ and the distortions in the press. Tough reading, as it includes testimony from the victim. An ugly crime.
More Links– on Feministing links to opinions on the case. It’s just such a relief to see so many discussions that take it as a given that there was an actual crime.
Not Singing With the Choir–Anna Wainwright short post on Salon just so it’s not all about how the poor guy is being persecuted.
Turns the Tables– Nina Burleigh at Huffpo calls out Polanski’s defenders who think that the genius of the Great Man is worth the sacrifice of a few nobody girls.
Doubletalk–Salon’s Glenn Greenwald calls out the Washington Post for putting mushy untruths on its editorial page and then criticizing ‘the left’ for the same thing.
Priesthood of Fame–Eve Ensler, author of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ questions the defenders of Roman Polanski’s crime.