This case, however, is irresistible for its strange twists and turns, as well as a whiff of both Polishness and uppity elitism with its abominable hypocrisy. I'm talking of course about the saga of Polish director Roman Polanski, who was finally arrested in Switzerland on Saturday and faces extradition to USA. Or maybe not, as his lawyer vows to fight it.
For those who live underwater and away from mass media, a brief recap of Polanski's situation: in 1977 he drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl, and was able to plead guilty to a lesser charge of unlawful sexual intercourse. Afterward, the judge in his case, one Laurence Rittenband, allegedly reneged on his plea deal, which scared Polanski enough to flee to the welcoming bosom of Mother Europe. Polanski was on the run from justice for over 30 years. For more background on Polanski's case, see this.
What's surprising, among many surprises here, is that he periodically lived in Switzerland, undisturbed by authorities, so questions are being raised about the timing of his arrest. Some clear-eyed observers even suggested that this is a gesture of good will on the part of the Swiss, intended to placate Americans angry about Switzerland giving financial shelter to our domestic financial
Polanski's arrest has ignited an international debate again, and many law experts and film buffs have weighed in with sympathetic opinions, hoping his case will be dismissed. Among those pleading for leniency is his victim, now 45-year-old Samantha Geimer (previously Gailey), who settled with Polanski, years after her rape, for somewhere around a quarter of a million dollars for "emotional distress." Geimer has asked numerous times for the case against Polanski to be dropped, saying that dredging it up causes her undue stress and pain.
But Polanski never really admitted to his crime, claiming both that the victim lied to him about her age and that the "sex" was consensual. Of course he never expressed any remorse. In fact, he has absolved himself of responsibility, as seen in the footage of the documentary about him, where he says, defiantly, I like young women, let me put it this way. I think most of men do.
Maybe. But a 13-year-old girl is not a woman, not psychologically, and certainly not legally. Polanski knew this very well when he drugged and raped Samantha. He was 44 at the time and very much attracted to young teenage girls. This is what Samantha looked like as a teen (left).
As to consensual, a 44-year-old man who drugs a 13-year-old (or anyone, for that matter) and forces himself on her, while she is crying and protesting, can hardly make this claim. See this for a transcript of Samantha's testimony in court.
It is not unreasonable to suspect that Gailey was not the only child who fell victim to Polanski's forbidden urges. Pedophiles are not reformable, and are known to be repeat offenders. Not long after his escape to Europe, Polanski was photographed parading around in company of very young, likely underage, females.
Another twisted aside: Polanski's wife, French actress Emmanuele Seigner, is younger than his victim. Seigner (below right, with Polanski in Paris, 2007) was an adult of the ripe age of 23 when they married. Polanski was 56. They have two children together, a son and a daughter.
The documentary I mention above, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, directed by Marina Zenovich, paints an extremely sympathetic portrait of Polanski as a victim of miscarried justice. While Zenovich seemingly acknowledges the awfulness of his crime, she is clearly in awe of Polanski's talent and less than objective in her assessment. She calls him misunderstood and endlessly fascinating.
As Bill Wyman of Salon.com writes, In "Wanted and Desired," Zenovich casts Polanski, whose face repeatedly fills the screen with a Byronic luminosity, as a tragic figure, a child survivor of the Holocaust haunted by the murder of his wife, the actress Sharon Tate, at the hands of the Manson family. His friends are uniformly supportive: "This is somebody who could not be a rapist!" one exclaims.
When interviewed about the movie, Zenovich made this strange statement: If it was a violent rape I wouldn't have made this film. She added that it was a tragedy for all involved. It's not for me to judge.
I am dumbfounded. So, say, if knives, ropes, and swinging fists were used, it would have been a reprehensible rape for Ms. Zenovich, enough so that she would not make an apologetic movie about the perp. But since it was only alcohol and drugs, it was acceptable enough? Besides, how was it a tragedy for all involved? And how is it not for her to judge? She is deluding herself if she thinks that she is not offering a judgment by showing such a one-sided portrayal of the story. This is as an advanced and incurable case of celebritis as I have seen.
But of course Zenovich is not alone in putting lipstick on this particularly ugly pig. During a discussion about the case on The View, Whoopi Goldberg said this:
I know it wasn't rape-rape. I think it was something else, but I don't think it was rape-rape.
Boy, I tell ya... And people wonder why Janes and Joes Schmoes don't trust and don't like the Hollywood types. The gulf between the librul, rotten-to-the-core Hollywood and non-nonsense Main Street has just widened with the Polanski's case, probably to unbridgeable proportions.
(...) Roman Polanski gave a 13-year-old girl a Quaalude and champagne, then raped her… Before we discuss how awesome his movies are or what the now-deceased judge did wrong at his trial, let’s take a moment to recall that according to the victim’s grand jury testimony, Roman Polanski instructed her to get into a jacuzzi naked, refused to take her home when she begged to go, began kissing her even though she said no and asked him to stop; performed cunnilingus on her as she said no and asked him to stop; put his penis in her vagina as she said no and asked him to stop; asked if he could penetrate her anally, to which she replied, “No,” then went ahead and did it anyway, until he had an orgasm.
I dunno, to me it sounds and looks like rape-rape.
The bizarre, if not downright psychopathic, reaction of the political and artistic elites to Polanski's arrest continues. The French are up in arms:
French foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner (co-founder of Doctors without Borders, EM) and Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand both sharply criticised US and Swiss authorities over the arrest, which came as the Franco-Polish director arrived in Zurich to receive an award.(...) Mr Mitterrand said on Sunday that Polanski, director of Rosemary's Baby and an Oscar winner for The Pianist, had been "thrown to the lions over an ancient affair that doesn't make any sense." To jail him, he added, was "absolutely dreadful." Mr Kouchner said: "This affair is frankly a bit sinister ... Here is a man of such talent, recognised worldwide, recognised especially in the country where he was arrested. This is not nice at all."
Huh? I'm as uppity an elitist as they come, so I can tell you what's absolutely dreadful, sinister, and not nice at all: drugging and raping kids (or anyone, for that matter), and not feeling any remorse for it, that's what.
But of course the French (who may have other motives for defending Polanski) are not alone. The film community (which has been silent about many pressing issues facing our nation), has spoken loudly and clearly on behalf of the pedophile and law-evading fugitive.
As Reuters reports, the Zurich Film Festival jury accused Switzerland of "philistine collusion" with U.S. authorities and wore red badges reading "Free Polanski," and Debra Winger, president of the Festival, which was to give Polanski an honorary award, said the following: We hope today this latest order will be dropped. It is based on a three-decade-old case that is all but dead but for minor technicalities.
Whoa. One would think Polanski is some human rights advocate, imprisoned for standing up for the voiceless and dispossessed. A Gandhi, almost. So let's just remind ourselves, again, before we start shedding tears here, that he is an unrepentant pedophile, who drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl and then ran from justice.
Joining Polanski's apologists are other Hollywood (and not only) big names, who have prepared a petition demanding his release. The petition is signed, so far, by 138 celebrities and industry people, including Woody Allen (now there is a surprise), Harvey Weinstein, Pedro Almodovar, Martin Scorsese, Monica Bellucci, Tilda Swinton, David Lynch, Jonathan Demme, John Landis, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Wim Wender, Salman Rushdie, Bernard-Henri Levy, Milan Kundera, Isabelle Huppert, Diane von Furstenberg, and is backed by France's Societe des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques (Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers). It states, in part:
"It seems inadmissible (...) that an international cultural event, paying homage to one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers, is used by the police to apprehend him. (...) The arrest of Roman Polanski in a neutral country, where he assumed he could travel without hindrance ... opens the way for actions of which no one can know the effects."
Sigh. Actions of which no one can know the effects? Folks, the guy drugged and raped a 13-year-old and then fled the country to avoid prison. He should be held responsible for his crime, period. What mysterious effects do you have in mind? Unless by this you mean that predators and criminals cannot hide in supposedly neutral places and evade the law forever. But that should be no mystery to you or anyone, I hope.
Meanwhile, Harvey Weinstein is trying to recruit more supporters for Polanski. As his company told CNN, We are calling every filmmaker we can to help fix this terrible situation.
Again, and I know I repeat myself and bore you to death, the only terrible situation here is that an admitted and unrepentant pedophile has been on the run for over 30 years, enjoying freedom, fame and wealth, and abusing who knows how many other victims. Was Mr. Weinstein trying to fix that in the past 30 years? No, I didn't think so.
One of the many bizarre twists of this case is the fact that Mia Farrow, who starred in Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, and years later accused her own long-time boyfriend, Woody Allen, of sexually abusing their adopted children, has consistently defended Polanski in the media.
But wait, there is more.
Joan Shore, co-founder of Women Overseas for Equality(!) and a Polanski fan, wrote a blog post for HuffPo titled, Polanski's Arrest: Shame on the Swiss -- read it, it's a full-blown apologia for the perp and a classic example of blaming the victim.
Another HuffPo blogger, writer and film critic John Farr wrote a post titled, Leniency for Polanski. In it, he argues, unbelievably, but predictably, that Polanski should be forgiven because 1. he is a genius, 2. he's suffered so much in his life, 3. his victim wants him released; 4. he's paid for his crime (no explanation how), and 5. he is reformed (i.e., is married and with no other accusations of abuse -- as if that ever mattered in cases of pedophiles). Oh, and 6. it was a long time ago.
Under the onslaught of critical comments from HuffPo's readers, Farr has revised some of his most egregious statements already, including one about "seduction" that supposedly took place on that fateful day in 1977.
Perhaps the most mind-boggling, to me, reactions to Polanski's arrest have come from the Polish political and artistic circles. Polish politicians have spoken on Polanski's behalf:
Poland and France intend to make a joint appeal to Switzerland and the United States to have Polanski released from his detention, Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski told the Polish news agency PAP. Sikorski said he and French counterpart Bernard Kouchner also plan to ask Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to offer Polanski clemency.
A semi-relevant aside: Radek Sikorski is a Polish neocon, who worked, for years, for American Enterprise Institute and The National Review. He is married to American journalist, Anne Applebaum, who penned an impassioned piece in defense of Polanski for The Washington Post. It is relevant to mention it since neocons tend to be socially conservative and one would expect them to condemn a child rape and its perpetrator. One would be wrong.
Among Polish luminaries speaking out in Polanski's defense is film director Krzysztof Zanussi, who called Polanski's rape victim a "young prostitute," and Polanski, a victim of a sinister plot concocted by the "prostitute" and her mother to extort money from him. In a Polish TV talk show, Zanussi said the following (translation mine):
Zanussi: If (Polanski) were not so famous, the fact that over thirty years ago in Los Angeles, which is a city of particularly loose morals, he used services of some underage prostitute, because that's what it likely was...
Interrupted by a female journalist, Monika Olejnik: No, no. This was a 13-year-old girl, she was not a prostitute. It was not for money, so it was not prostitution.
Zanussi: In this world, there are many things that are done not for money but for fame, for career. (...) I know (Polanski) as a man who escaped the ghetto, who is tragic and has those "dark chapters" in his life. I think if he were not famous, this matter would not have had any traction today. (...) I don't believe in the victim's innocence. She does not appear to have been there by accident. In this circle of people, who would do anything for career and money, it seems that the intent of the mother, who was involved in it, was an attempt at blackmailing Polanski. At taking anything from him that he could give. And he did not give it, and that was his mistake. He could have paid them off and he didn't. Maybe he was too proud for it, too Polish.
Holy crap... First of all, there isn't anything "Polish" about this behavior, I just have to say this. At least I hope there isn't -- because if that's Polish, then Poles are screwed (no pun whatsoever).
(Another aside: I can tell you from personal experience of having grown up in Poland that there is -- or was, back in my day -- a pedophile on every street corner. And those who do not operate on street corners can be found in doctors' offices, schools, churches, and in any other place frequented by young people. Yes, I'm talking about the abusers in position of authority, who remain as untouchable as their victims stay nameless, bearing silent scars for a long time, if not forever.)
Second, it is painfully obvious that Zanussi, who, btw, is one of the most renowned and respected Polish film directors, has no clue about details of the Polanski's case (at least I hope so, because if he does know the details and still says these things, it makes matters worse). That does not stop him from offering his unequivocal defense of his friend and smearing the reputation of his child-victim. That's not Polish, any of it.
But then one wouldn't know it perusing Polish media. For Zanussi is not alone in his ignorant and harmful defense of the famous pedophile. A well-known Polish actress, Dorota Stalinska, said this (translation mine):
First of all, it was not rape, but consensual sex with an underage girl. We know that a 13-year-old girl may look 20. I have a 20-year-old son. He could tell you how 13-year-old girls behave and how they provoke and jump into beds not only of 20-year-olds, but of 40-year-olds. 13-year-old girls seduce grown men. It's the same in Poland and everywhere else. Zanussi is right.
And then there is Lech Wałęsa -- you may remember him as the founder of Solidarity, the first president of post-socialist Poland, and the Nobel Peace Prize winner. Wałęsa too defends Polanski:
(Polanski) is a great person, he's done so much for Poland and the world. He also could have sinned. Make sure he really did sin. If he did, you can forgive him this one. I will do everything I can to defend him. (...) I am his friend.
How Christian, to forgive the sinner and forget the victim. Ugh.
This is disheartening. I can see that not much has changed in Poland in matters of sexual abuse and treatment of the victims. In these respects, Polish social mores, if not the law, are still in the Middle Ages.
This quote, however, really takes my cake:
Polanski has already "atoned for the sins of his young years," Jacek Bromski, head of the Polish Filmmakers Association, told The AP. "He has paid for it by not being able to enter the U.S. and in his professional life he has paid for it by not being able to make films in Hollywood."
Um... You're kidding, right? Not being able to make films in Hollywood is the heart-breaking punishment for child rape and 30+ years of evading justice?
But, wait, it gets stranger yet.
The day before Polanski's arrest, Poland approved a law making chemical castration mandatory for pedophiles in some cases, sparking criticism from human rights groups. Under the law, sponsored by Poland's center-right government, pedophiles convicted of raping children under the age of 15 years or a close relative would have to undergo chemical therapy on their release from prison.
"The purpose of this action is to improve the mental health of the convict, to lower his libido and thereby to reduce the risk of another crime being committed by the same person," the government said in a statement.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk said late last year he wanted obligatory castration for pedophiles, whom he branded 'degenerates'. Tusk said he did not believe "one can use the term 'human' for such individuals, such creatures.Therefore I don't think protection of human rights should refer to these kind of events.".
So there we have it, a curious -- or not -- double standard. Pedophiles are considered degenerates in Poland now, undeserving of human rights. Except when they are famous filmmakers with powerful friends, that is.
An inescapable lesson from Polanski's saga so far: if you are going to rape a child, don't be a plumber or auto mechanic; be famous and rich. Then justice will be slow and lenient for you, and people will forgive your crime. Nah, they'll be clamoring to speak out in your defense.
P.S. In yet another strange twist to this already twisted story, one of the defense witnesses in Polanski's case, interviewed by Zenovich for her documentary, recanted his statement regarding Judge Rittenband.
Cross-posted at The Middle of Nowhere.