“Child rapist finally caught.” “Fugitive pedophile now in custody.” Why haven’t we seen these headlines in the days following Roman Polanski’s arrest in Zurich?
In 1978, the director admitted to the statutory rape of a 13-year-old. Prior to sentencing he fled the U. S. to live as a fugitive in European luxury. I mean, exile. So why isn’t anyone calling him a pedophile or a rapist?
His arrest gained him martyr status at the Zurich film festival, where many artists are wearing badges and signing petitions to “Free Polanski.” One filmmaker compared Polanski’s arrest to the crackdown on Hollywood Communists in the McCarthy era. Actress Debra Winger believes authorities exploited the festival and now “the whole art world suffers.” Clearly, they have a flair for the dramatic.
Frankly, I think the timing of the arrest—as Polanski was to be honoured with a lifetime achievement award—shows the authorities have a good understanding of the literary device called “irony.” Surely moviemakers can appreciate that.
One petition signatory is Woody Allen, a fellow cradle robber who had a sexual affair with the young daughter of his longtime lover Mia Farrow. His justification? “The heart wants what it wants.” Polanski’s activities suggest it’s a sexual philosophy he can believe in.
French politicians were shocked to discover that there’s no statute of limitations for a crime that President Nicolas Sarkozy’s office calls “a misdemeanour.” The French culture minister said it reminds him that America “scares us,” and the foreign minister simply found these events “not nice at all.” Ah, the French.
Even real people—Americans—are confused. Internet polls suggest that only 75 per cent think Polanski should be punished as a rapist; why don’t the other 25 per cent? (Mind you, there’s comfort in one poll where 15 per cent support castration as punishment.)
Is it because he’s famous? Would there be this moral confusion if he was a plumber? Or are we reluctant to punish those who sexually exploit children? If so, we should support the former Roman Catholic bishop who Ottawa police just charged with possessing and importing child pornography. If the moral confusion relates to length of time since the offense, then why don’t these same artists stand up for all the priests who committed lewd acts years ago?
If Polanski’s talent is what sets him above the law, then I admit that few priests could match his creative genius. But they must’ve been somewhat creative to think about, and carry out, such acts.
People need to get beyond Polanski the director, and focus on Polanski the rapist. The grand jury testimony of the 13-year-old victim is available online (and its recent release may have spurred authorities to act).
In short, Polanski told the girl’s mother he was on assignment for French Vogue magazine and wanted to photograph her daughter. He plied the young girl with Champagne and drugs. He shot some topless photos; then subjected her to oral, vaginal and anal sex.
This is statutory rape—defined as unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. But even then, Polanski’s fame brought him favour. In a plea deal, prosecutors dropped more serious charges (rape, drugging and sodomy) to reduce a possible life sentence to the 42 days already served. Given these ludicrous terms, Polanski was probably right to fear the judge would toss the deal out and send him to prison. So he fled.
In his 1984 autobiography, he claimed the sex was consensual. But a 13-year-old (who’s been drugged and liquored up) can’t give consent to anything.
Much has been made of the victim wanting this case dropped. But don’t most rape victims? Especially in high-profile cases?
This is a shocking glimpse into Hollywood’s hedonism and its continued attempts to push society’s moral standards to the limit, while convincing us that reprehensible conduct is the norm. We’re all in trouble if our cultural elites have the power to diminish our collective will to punish someone who drugged and sodomized a child.