Thursday, October 1, 2009

"Sex," Fame, and Polish (but not only) Hypocrisy

I try to stay away from celebrities and tawdriness as much as possible, mainly because of my pretentious and uppity elitism, but also, to a lesser extent, because the affairs of celebrities are supremely boring.

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 terrorists whiz kids. A strange coincidence no.1: Polanski's arrest came two days after the death of Susan Atkins, who murdered his second wife, Sharon Tate, during a Manson-led and inspired drunken orgy in 1969. A strange coincidence no.2: one day before Polanski's arrest, Poland adopted a new tough law requiring castration for pedophiles (more about it later).

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 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.

To put things in perspective for Ms. Zenovich, Ms. Goldberg, and other celebrity-stricken Polanski's defenders, let's recall what the man did exactly:

(...) 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.


  1. I suspect that underlying the rationalizations we are hearing from some celebrities (and others) is the notion that rape isn’t a sexual crime but rather an act of pure violence. De-sexualizing one’s definition of this horrid act (and this binarism is something one finds even in some feminist writers – as when they say, “rape isn’t about sex, it’s about violence”) tends to have the effects Elizabeth describes: unless a rapist literally beats and savages the victim, it becomes alarmingly easy for apologists to say, “well, it was bad or confused sex, not rape.” But surely the crime need not involve main force (i.e. the victim need not be taken per vim), and it should be obvious that the motive of a rapist, rage or other twisted emotions aside, is partly sexual gratification. What I’m taking aim at is the sort of either/or thinking that leads not to clarity but rather to a disturbing brand of moral relativism, one that encourages the naïve and cynical alike to tell us, “well, he didn’t beat her up, so it’s not so bad.”

  2. I have been outraged by the new defenders of this child rapist. To see this whole thing dragged back up is an outrage. That Polanski was ever allowed to leave the country 30+ years ago when he was so obviously a flight risk was an outrage. And now a grown woman must relive the brutality of her rape as a child and read all the blather blaming her for what happened.
    Solidarity? Does Lech even remember what that's supposed to mean any more?
    Today, I stand in solidarity with Samantha Gailey Geimer, a victim of a horrendeous crime. And all the other victims of rape and abuse.
    Too often the victims are victimized over and over again by those too callous or perhaps a little to sympathetic and "understanding" of the perpetrator.
    I don't blame Samantha for wanting this to be dropped; look what a circus her life is becoming! But Polanski needs to be held accountable even if it is 30 years late. But he should be charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution and so leave her out of it.
    I don't care how brilliant he is, I have not seen a Polanski film since this all happened. I wouldn't put an extra nickel in his pocket.
    I'm disgusted with Whoopie Goldberg and all the other apologists amongst the "beautiful" people. They just got a bit more uglier.

  3. There is that moral relativism associated with the use of violence during sex crimes, Dino, yes. In fact, most cases of child sexual abuse are non-violent. This does not make them any less vile, damaging, or criminal.

    In this case, there would be no doubts about the severity of the crime if the perp was Stan The Painter or other unknown person. Since it is the "genius" filmmaker surrounded by his many powerful friends (and pardon my cynical nature, but I can't help and wonder how many of them are pedophiles themselves), we are told it is not serious at all. In fact, it's the girl's and/or her mother's fault. Poor Polanski is just an innocent victim of entrapment here.


  4. Too often the victims are victimized over and over again by those too callous or perhaps a little to sympathetic and "understanding" of the perpetrator.

    Amen, Rockync. This kind of "compassion" that aims to forgive the perp or absolve him/her of responsibility without acknowledging the suffering of the victim is misguided and re-traumatizing.

    And my list of the filmmakers and "stars" whose movies I will not watch has also grown longer now. Woody Allen paved the way. No major loss, but it is despicable that people who can blather on about social justice, human rights and other high-falutin' ideals, have come out, en masse, in defense of a child rapist, and, what's more, are proud of it and consider it another noble cause.

  5. Elizabeth, there is a lot time, research and thought evidenced in your post. Great job!

    Although not as familiar with the details of this case as you are, there is one troubling detail that escapes me: Why was a 13 year-old child in the house of Jack Nicholson that fateful night? Was she there alone? Did the mother bring her? What was the occasion?

    As the father of three girls, now adults, one always keeps this public service advertising slogan in mind: “Do you know where your children are?”

  6. Octo, thanks. Three daughters, you say -- that must have been fun, no? I always wanted daughters, but ended up with sons. Not that I'm complaining. :)

    Back to Polanski and the Nicholson's house: Samantha was there for a photo session. It was her second photo shoot with Polanski. She was an aspiring model, an ambition that either originated with her or her mom, or both. Polanski was known for his "golden touch" (ugh) in finding and promoting young female movie stars -- he "discovered" Nastasja Kinsky, with whom he had an affair (she was only 15).

    It's reported that Samantha's mother (and perhaps Samantha herself) hoped that being photographed by Polanski would be a step toward a movie career. It is not clear whether her mother knew about the Polanski-Kinsky affair.

    Polanski was commissioned by a French Vogue's version for men to take a series of photographs of adolescent girls (yep), and Samantha was one of his subjects. He met with her at her house first, and then the second time, about a month later, he took her to Nicholson's house, to continue the photo shoot. That's where he raped her.

    You can read a synopsis of these events at Wiki or, with more details, here.

    I don't think any reasonable mother today would let her 13-year-old daughter go alone on a photo shoot, no matter how respectable the photographer/director would be. But I'm not sure whether it was true 30 years ago. It seems to me that we -- and I mean "we" in general -- were much more innocent and unaware of sex crimes against children, especially those perpetrated by trusted authority figures -- and Polanski was seen as such by Samantha's mother and everyone else, it appears.

  7. Elizabeth,

    A truly enlightening post!

    Personally, I have troubles with Polanski's marriage as I do in all cases where someone much younger is married to someone much older...

    As I say, " just ain't right..."

    So, a 13 year old? The desire is beyond my comprehension. I may be a simpleton but rape is something that occurs between adults, against the will of one. With a child it is something much worse than rape.

    Of course at 51 'a child' is anyone under 30.

    As far as Samantha and her mother goes...well, lets not forget the parents who allowed their children to socialize/spend the night with Micheal Jackson...

    Not real sure about the 'world' known as Hollywood.

  8. Elizabeth: “… no matter how respectable the photographer/director would be. But I'm not sure whether it was true 30 years ago.”

    Thirty years ago, ethical and legal standards with respect to underage models were more lax than today, but they DID exist. Reputable modeling agencies (such as Ford and Zoli) and production companies required parental consent before accepting any underage subject. Most went even further. When I was in the industry, for instance, a parent and/or legal guardian was required to be present on the set at all times. Proper forms of model release and liability release were also required.

    Inasmuch as cosmetic, fashion, and hair product clients were especially finicky about image, a production crew of artists and stylists was always a necessity. No reputable filmmaker or photographer ever worked alone.

    Maybe this is the point: The predator is the one who chooses to work alone, and let there be no doubt that Roman Polansky exploited his fame and notoriety to predate young girls.

    I should point out one source of moral relativism. Predatory behavior cuts both ways. There were also models, for instance, stalking directors and photographers to get “The Job.” I recall this experience: One enterprising Ford model suckered my secretary into giving her my home telephone number. There is also such a thing as the Lauren Hutton School of Self-Promotion.

    Knowing the sleazy underbelly of the industry, I never allowed any of my daughters to even consider such a career.

  9. Elizabeth - I only read about half of your post - I couldn't handle the rest, to be honest - at least not without hurling my pc across the room. This story has had me seing red for years. The apolgizing for this man's actions - contiunally over the years - turns my stomach. It has set back the ongoing struggle of rape politics YEARS! I admire your ability to address it so comprehensively.

    In recent years I have professionally spent much time researching the protrayal of rape in film - films made by the same industry now waxing poetic about how a person's artictic abilities should lessen the impact of his criminal behavior. It is research that is quite painful at times - I am committed to it and eventually writing and publishing it - though at times it is hard going. THIS MAN's crime all over the news again and the apologizing of the film industry for this man's actions and its deliberate blurring of non-existent boudaries within rape politics is fueling my academic flame to get my damned article done!

    Hollywood needs to a reality check on gendered politics on ALL levels - rape especially. Apparently many are buying into the utter nonsense portrayed by their own industry.

    Sorry - I'll take my grumpy, squidly self out of here before I rant on and on . . .

  10. Tao, thank you. Yes, I too have problems with Polanski's marriage in general (he was 33 when she was born...) and in particular (it is Polanski the pedophile we are talking about). Of course I would be considered a stuck-up prude (and then some) in many "enlightened" circles -- and, in fact, this may be true to some extent.

    Any parent that would allow their child spend time alone on a "photo shoot" or any other occasion with another adult should have his or her head examined. There is a possibility (a remote and unthinkable one, to me, one that I cannot contemplate without a risk of exploding) that Samantha's mother indeed pimped her out to Polanski in hopes of material gain and/or fame or what have you. That would be horrific, of course, but still would not absolve Polanski of responsibility and change the fact that he did rape the child.

  11. Octo, thanks for the interesting insight to the workings of the industry. I had no idea that such standards existed -- I am glad they do.

    I have no doubt that there are aspiring models/actresses who do not hesitate to do what it takes and more to get into the business, no matter how distasteful, questionable, and harmful such behaviors may be.

    But when an adult is dealing with a 13-year-old (or any child and young person), it is *always* the adult's responsibility to set and maintain proper boundaries, no matter what. Yes, it really is that simple. Even if, say, a sexually active 17-year-old is trying to seduce an adult, it is still the adult's job to be responsible and remain, well, an adult. And the younger the child, the less gray the "seduction" issue becomes.

    Speaking of which, this is the favorite defense of pedophiles -- that they were "seduced" by a child into sexual activity. As in, "Your honor, the 5-year-old slut was all over me, she really wanted it -- what was I to do?" Unbelievably, for years this was a legit defense strategy in courts. (And perhaps still is here and there.)

  12. Squid, I hope you write up your article soon -- it's much needed. Yes, I can imagine how painful the research must be.

    I too have had the Polanski's crime on my mind for years and yes, it has absolutely colored my perception of his films. I just cannot watch them without having the thought and image of what he did coming to the fore.

    I was introduced to Polanski's films way back, during my university years in Poland by a friend who was a huge fan of his. (An aside: the friend ended up in the BDSM "lifestyle" shortly after, on the DS side -- and, as she stated repeatedly, very happy with her choice.) She raved about Polanski's understanding of women (something not uncommon -- see this, for example),
    but I could not see it. First, I did not think that Polanski's films indeed showed some unusual insight to women's lives and psychology, and, second, his rape of this child was on my mind at all times.

    I can no longer watch any Woody Allen's movies, and now have a whole list of artists whose products I will not buy, etc. There are two things (OK, more than two, but these two are very much on the top of this hierarchy) that make me absolutely livid: child abuse and animal abuse. I cannot comprehend (as in, I don't have the mental capacity to do it, even if I tried) how anyone can overlook or minimize abuse of kids and animals just because those who engage in it are talented, well-known, respected, what have you. I just can't. This is an intellectual skill that eludes me. (And I don't say it with some major self-satisfaction or moral superiority here; I have tried to grasp this more nuanced kind of thinking, occasionally prodded on by some of my worldly and sophisticated friends, but I just lack the proper apparatus, whatever it may be.)

    BTW, and I wanted to say this earlier in my comments: we focus on the age of the Polanski's victim -- and rightly so; but even if she were 40 and, say, a prostitute, what he did would still be a rape.

  13. Response to this episode from far too many people in Hollywood, the art world, Poland etc., who should no far better is appalling.

    But it underscores a basic truth.

    Never seek moral instruction from entertainers or athletes.

  14. Fra Angelico would disagree with you, Arthurstone. ;-)

  15. Arthurstone: or politicians. Or clergy. Or... That list goes on.

  16. Elizabeth said:

    Or... That list goes on.


    The idea of allowing people from a virtually any walk of life whom we only 'know' at some remove through media to become 'role models' is absurd.

    I talk about the really important stuff with Eliot my cat.

  17. I have to give Chez Pazienza props for being the first to respond to all the Polanski-love on Huffington Post. That was very necessary.

    My entire view of Polanski can be summed up as: "The Tenant was great. Go to jail." Fame, particularly movie fame, has never been an absolution. Riches are always a protective shield against the law, but with limited utility. The sad truth is that France is the critical factor in this ugly saga; they should never have protected him. That they did has fed into all kinds of negative narratives about France and Europe in general.

  18. Elizabeth - I've been thinking about your comment since yesterday. I have only seen a few of the man's films- though now, based on what people have said to you about his sensitivity to women in his films I am going to have to watch them - analyzing such things is what I "do" (trying not to give too much away here) - but I can tell you that in none of the feminist film crit that I have read have he & his films ever been mentioned.

    I am torn about Europe's attitude towards him - because in all of my feminist film watching I have to say that a number of European film makers are much more "with it" with regards to sex and gender than those in Hollywood cranking out endless gender stereotyping drivel. So this whole European (French) nonsense over RP has me bothered in this respect. I feel like I'm missing something.

    As for your "world and sophisticated" friends - championing artistic skill over moral integrity has nothing to do with being "worldly and sophisticated" - it has to do with having a serious blind spots to the reality of the situation.

    And yes - age does determine who is a rape victim. You are exactly right.



    (I'll get back to you once I've watched some more of his films - give me a month)

  20. I talk about the really important stuff with Eliot my cat.

    Maybe I should get a cat then, Arthur. I have frequent conversations with my mutt -- they are rewarding (mostly because he doesn't interrupt and agrees with me on everything), but I can't tell I'm learning much.

  21. Matt, that's the right approach to Mr. P, I think.

    Squid, I agree that European cinema has a more realistic approach to women in general (not sure about sexuality -- no, really, I'm not sure, not just casting doubt).

    But as to Polanski's purported special insight to women, well, I just don't see it. I don't understand why people-in-the-know say this. My BDSM friend raved about Polanski's grasp of women psychology, but I suspect this has a lot to do with her being involved in the BDSM lifestyle.

    I just wrote a comment about it on my blog (in response to someone else's observation), so I'll shamelessly cut and paste it here:

    I am especially puzzled by the claims that somehow Polanski "understands women" (because he understands men... I'm not making it up -- see this).

    In his films, women are tormented victims of their circumstances and unscrupulous men, doing rather desperate things to regain, without success, some control over their lives (Repulsion, for example), or just drifting along with whatever their men and their fate have in store for them (and it usually isn't good).

    But they don't come across as likable and relatable, full-bloodied people; more as empty vessels created to absorb Polanski's own projected fears and perversions. The themes of rape, incest, and very young, sexually precocious females are frequent there.

    Kim Morgan who wrote the stunning sentence (link above): "Roman Polanski knows women because he understands men," also goes on raving about his gift of emotional perceptiveness, supposedly obvious in his works. The way she does it, I think, says a lot about our confusion about art, the role of values (as in moral values, yes) in it, and some seriously twisted, though not necessarily articulated ideas about artistic genius in general, and Polanski's genius in particular.

    For example, she writes,

    Polanski's removed morality is exactly why he is often brilliant: He is so empathetic to his characters that, like a trauma victim floating above the pain, he is personally impersonal. He insightfully scrutinizes what is so frightening about being human, yet he doesn't feel the need to be resolute or sentimental about his cognizance.

    Ay... That's some really sophisticated version of evolved empathy. Polanski is so empathetic that he manages to be personally impersonal(?) when faced with pain and suffering of his characters (and perhaps not only). Doesn't feel the need to express that empathy, that's how deeply he feels it.

    This very convoluted reasoning is probably typical for many of those who are so impressed with Polanski's creations.

    Unfortunately, a more obvious explanation may be in order: that he does not express empathy because he really does not feel it. Nor do we, watching his movies. It's no accident. You can't convey what's not there.

    And just as he had no empathy for his real life victim (or remorse for his crime), he does not have any for his movie characters, at least not the female ones. I think sometimes we need to pay attention to the obvious and acknowledge it as such, without mythologizing people and events that do not deserve it.


    OK, that's my 2-cents. I will look forward to your opinion, Squid, in a month or whenever.

  22. Elizabeth, enjoyed your comment just above about art and morality. Anti-morality or amorality is by now as threadbare as its obverse, an excessive and narrow concern over the moral status of art that often leads to calls for censorship. It seems to me that too many supposedly cutting-edge films have long been trading in facile assertions of superiority by rejecting the very concept of ethics or even humanity as antiquated, mystified, and downright embarrassing. Some of it strikes me as no more than false profundity coupled with a superb grasp of technics. The same charge of false profundity might be leveled against some of the criticism written in praise of it: I mean, really, why should RP’s (or anybody else’s) films say anything about him at all? It’s perhaps not a bad point to suggest that an author or director represents something difficult or painful and avoids diminishing its effect by means of sentimental or moralistic narrative, but I don’t see why that necessarily connotes deep empathy or any other such quality on the filmmaker’s part. It might just mean he doesn’t give a damn, or that he thinks people who do are idiots. I can’t say. For my part, I would favor the arguments of a theorist such as Antonin Artaud over calls for cinematic detachment as a mark of superiority.

  23. Dino,

    You hit the proverbial nail on the head with your reference to the "supposed cutting edge" nature of certain films today. I think this is because we blindly value and promote (media) the APPEARANCE rather than the SUBSTANCE of innovation - something that Artaud would have been simply appalled by. He would have considered this a tiresome Bourgeois failing. Artaud was a rare western theorist who seemed to value a stronger spiritual sensibilty between art and morality and the ongoing course of civilization. For him, innovation had to have a higher purpose, community based purpose other than just being different for the sake of being different or for the working out of one artist's own personal demons.

    As Artaud vehemently argued -

    "Once and for all, enough of this closed, egoistic, and personal art."

    Ah yes, what would he make of R. Polansky and his apologists? UTTERLY FASCINATING to consider!!


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