Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Look. The Man Drugged and Raped a 13-Year-Old Girl.

I had been working on a post about all those who have rallied to defend Roman Polanski since Swiss police apprehended the acclaimed director this weekend in Zurich. But that post wasn't going to be finished anytime soon. In the meantime, I found this excellent already-written piece at Salon by Kate Harding that says everything I was working on saying better than I would have said it:

Roman Polanski raped a child. Let's just start right there, because that's the detail that tends to get neglected when we start discussing whether it was fair for the bail-jumping director to be arrested at age 76, after 32 years in "exile" (which in this case means owning multiple homes in Europe, continuing to work as a director, marrying and fathering two children, even winning an Oscar, but never -- poor baby -- being able to return to the U.S.). Let's keep in mind that Roman Polanski gave a 13-year-old girl a Quaalude and champagne, then raped her, before we start discussing whether the victim looked older than her 13 years, or that she now says she'd rather not see him prosecuted because she can't stand the media attention. 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 . . . .

You can read the details at Salon.

(I'm glad that Harding specifically dealt with this piece by Huffington Post blogger Joan Z. Shore, which is the most ridiculous defense of Polanski I've encountered thus far. Shore actually writes: "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!]" The age of consent for sex in California is 18 and has been since 1913. It hasn't been 14 since 1897, and it certainly isn't 13 now. Bloggers have a responsibility to check facts that are germane to their arguments, especially those facts that can be verified in less than two minutes.)

The claim that the judge in Polanski's case acted inappropriately is legitimate. And if Polanski were a kid from the streets who lacked the means to hire a decent attorney and who wasn't actually guilty of the crime he was being charged with, I'd feel sorry for him. As it were, the United States has mechanisms for dealing with prosecutorial and judicial misconduct, and these mechanisms tend to work for defendants who have lots of money (and therefore good lawyers). And, as it were, no one denies that Polanski drugged and had sex with a child.

I also understand that Polanski has had a rough life, that he escaped the Holocaust and that his second wife was brutally murdered by the Manson Family. For these tragedies Polanski gets my sympathy; and because of these tragedies I'm willing to excuse some bad behavior. I am not, however, willing to excuse drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl.

I don't think that Roman Polanski is a danger to society, and I don't know that society will benefit from putting the 76-year-old back on trial. But I reject the Hollywood meme that Polanski has been persecuted unjustly or that he was apprehended unfairly. Again, to quote Harding's piece in Salon:

Roman Polanski may be a great director, an old man, a husband, a father, a friend to many powerful people, and even the target of some questionable legal shenanigans. He may very well be no threat to society at this point. He may even be a good person on balance, whatever that means. But none of that changes the basic, undisputed fact: Roman Polanski raped a child. And rushing past that point to focus on the reasons why we should forgive him, pity him, respect him, admire him, support him, whatever, is absolutely twisted.


Blogger Mary @ The Writer's Block said...

Great post, Josh. I agree.

7:57 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Totally agree. Thanks for posting this.

9:50 PM  

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