Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Fall of Roman

I'll try to make this quick.

Roman Polanski needs to come back to the United States and face his conviction for drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977. Period.

Why? Because he intentionally ran out on the justice system in the country where he committed his crime and has never been held accountable for what he did by standards that weren't his own. Simple as that.

Now, does he deserve prison time? Does he deserve mercy? These are questions for others to debate so I'm not going to bother getting into them, but one byproduct of the admittedly surprising arrest of Polanski in Switzerland really is worth exploring, because it's something that should leave a bad taste in the mouth of just about everyone, yet strangely doesn't. I'm talking about the idea that Roman Polanski should somehow be considered above the law because he's a talented artist.

It took all of a few hours after Polanski's arrest in Zurich for the notoriously pompous European artist community to rush to his defense, claiming outrage and indignation at the notion that Polanski could be impolitely busted while visiting Switzerland to receive (gasp!) a lifetime achievement award for his filmography. They're calling it a "provocation." The implication is crystal clear: There is often an unnavigable gulf between the artist and his work and, dammit, that's okay; you can honor the man's abilities without letting your paean be tarnished by any of the nastier realities of who he is or what he's done. If this kind of nonsense sounds familiar, it's because we all just lived through weeks of it when Michael Jackson died. Although it's never wise to willfully trample on someone's grave, you can't simply pay tribute to an artist's talents without recognizing that there's a very real person who may be guilty of very real crimes at the center of your love-fest.

And yet Europe's artistic community -- specifically French, Swiss and Polish filmmakers and cultural trendsetters -- seem to truly believe that Roman Polanski's abilities should amount to a Get Out of Jail Free card. That it's okay if the stereotypically tortured artist broke a few eggs along the way as long as the omelet came out looking like The Pianist. That in the end, the greater good was served by having Polanski free to make movies.

Just some of the reaction to the arrest: "(Polanski was) thrown to the lions," says says French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand, melodramatically. "In the same way that there is a generous America that we like, there is also a scary America that has just shown its face."

"(He has) atoned for the sins of his young years. 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," says Jacek Bromski, head of the Polish Filmmakers Association.

You're kidding, right? Roman Polanski has paid for raping a kid by not being able to live in Hollywood and being forced to make his movies -- and his vast fortunes -- in France? A comment like that is just shocking in its detachment from the reality you and I call home.

It's true we let talented people -- from musicians, to actors, to athletes -- get away with quite a bit more than the Average Joe in our society. As Chris Rock famously said, if OJ Simpson had been simply "Orenthal the Bus Driving Murderer," he would've been in jail twelve years ago. But there's a difference between admitting that we can occasionally be starstruck blind and literally making excuses for someone's criminal behavior because they happen to entertain us with their music, movies, etc. Once again, I'm not arguing whether or not Roman Polanski belongs in prison; I'm saying that he shouldn't be able to avoid prison just because he's Roman Polanski.

We can let our entertainers get away with being assholes -- but not rapists. In a case like this, you can't separate Polanski the man from Polanski the artist. And it's reprehensible to even try.


Deacon Blue said...

Well, I already said it on my own blog, but "time spent" is not the same as "time served."

And he has spent the time these many years living well. Very well indeed. And without the scars and memories of being raped as a youth by an asshole artist.

That said, he IS a great artist. I admire that. I would like to admire him through the bars of a prison cell for the remainder of his life though.

Maybe he can bunk with Bernie Madoff....

Kristyne said...

I was holding my breath anticipating your commentary on Polanski.

You did not disappoint. From the celebrity outrage (you are aware Woody Allen---GUFFAW!--signed a petition for his release), to the every day Joe comments found on Huffpo, I have been absolutely appalled at the implications.

I actually read--repeatedly--statements saying the girl consented all the way through how much he's enriched our culture thus it shouldn't matter.

Thank you for being a voice of reason.

I can still love The Fearless Vampire Killers with all my heart and despise the fact he ran from justice after drugging and sodomizing a 13 year old. Why are some not able to make this distinction?

Chez said...

I love Woody Allen. Love him more than almost any other single filmmaker and he had an impact on what I find funny that almost no one else can compare to. Doesn't mean his personal behavior hasn't thoroughly creeped me out.

Kel said...

Dear Mr. Bromski:
He wasn't kicked out of Hollywood, he fled the country to avoid prosecution. And he could have returned at any time, to face the charges. His exile was of his own choice.

I guess that when your business is make-believe, you can create whatever reality you like.

Juan said...

Not that I don't completely agree with the rest of the post, but I have to object to your comparison of Michael Jackson (and all excesses that followed his death) and Roman Polanski (and all the pathetic apologies that his supporters are making up). Michael Jackson gave me the creeps, big time, but he went through the judicial process and was found not guilty.

I'm aware that it's just a tiny point, but hey, from reading assiduously your blog I might be turning into a bit of a wiseass myself. ;P

Benoit from Ottawa said...

Chez, wasn't there some "going back", by the judge, on the sentence agreed to by the prosecution and the defence (which would be his prerogative, but is unusual)? This as a sidelight to his "serving his sentence".

Also, doesn't exercising the arrest warrant now, rather than over the last two and a half centuries (kidding), somehow give rise to the French's and the Swiss's general positions? If it were a righteous arrest due to moral indignation, where have the cops been for, lo, twenty years plus? (Gees, almost 30 years actually!) Little wonder Europeans (who always seee 'politics' behind events) aren't applauding at this arrest out of the blue. (Of course the timing of his arrest in itself would create a hubbub, given the lifetime award he was about to receive. But my argument stands, I think.)

Far be it from me to defend one of the creepier white men around (second only to that "wall of sound" creature now behind bars), but even the victim of the rape says the cops should lay off (or so I read; I didn't see her interviewed).

Certain aspects may be cut and dried, but the situation is more complex than you make it, IMO.

Developments may well be interesting.

Ciao, B

Sean said...

Benoit -- If the documentary Wanted and Desired is to be believed then yes the judge and DA did back out of deal which was signed off on by all three parties involved. The judge was such a media whore and so image aware he actually tried to rehearse exchanges between the prosecutors, defense and himself -- all to save face. Polanski was indeed going to get off with just the 42 days served for psychiatric evaluation and some probation time -- but when word of that leaked out the judge started to renege on the deal and that's when Polanski bolted. He was guilty as guilty can be and deserved jail time but -- again if the documentary is accurate -- a deal was set, agreed upon by all parties involved and then yanked because the judge didn't want to look bad. That's when he bolted. The whole affair was a disgrace -- from the moment that girl's mother dropped her off at the house, throughout the entire investigation and prosecution -- and it continues to stink to this day.

dammitjanet said...

It's about damn time. Polanski has been scot-free for far too long....time to face the music. Although, I did find a weird symmetry to the timing of his arrest and the death of the "Manson girl" responsible for murdering his wife and child. Kooky.

Still, artist or not, talented or not, he has to face the music. If my beloved Pete Rose had to pay the price for his gambling (which is still UNFAIRLY keeping him out of the Hall of Fame...another rant) Polanski should be taken to task for what he did. It was wrong. He could have given up years ago, served his time, and this would have all been behind him. Instead, he thought time was on his side, and decided to hide until, well, I guess he died. Sorry to ruin your plans, there, Roman, but the piper is calling.

celery said...

most people aren't aware of the repulsive details of the crime, like that he raped her, then found out she wasn't on the bc pill and sodomized her.

and i'm tired of hearing that the victim wants him to be free. the fact that she found her lord and saviour jesus christ and then decided to forgive her attacker is irrelevant for determining whether he should face a legal trial. perhaps she should speak to sentencing at said trial (if he's found guilty), but her current state of mind has nothing to do with whether a trial is warranted/required.

Anonymous said...

He anally raped a child. Instead of actually sticking around to contest any sentencing he fled the country. He should be held to the same standards as any other child rapist. He raped then ran and now he should rot. No one is above the law.

Anonymous said...

Pieces like this are one of the many reasons why I love you.


Anonymous said...

Bloody hell - a voice of reason amongst the insanity. He committed a crime - there is no statute of limitations for violent sex offences. As far as I'm aware.

Jeremy said...

Amen. I've been saying from the get-go (and taking considerable heat from some inexplicable Polanski apologists) for countering their various arguments with the fact that his age, troubled past, tragedy of his wife, contrition, willingness to pay-off a victim who has thankfully moved on with her life, etc. -- all of this is irrelevant.
What matters is he skipped out before he could be sentenced. He used his considerable financial resources to subvert justice. And that is a crime in and of itself.

Too often rich guys just buy their way out of crimes. That can't happen with this. As for the argument that it was a "one time moment of weakness", who is to say that a man of Polanski's obviously tortured passions won't have another "moment of weakness" the next time a loved one passes, or as he faces his own impending mortality?
I'm sure as heck not qualified to say.
It could be that only a qualified psychologist is. But we won't know until he faces the music.
No matter what a wonderful dinner guest he was or how much Whoopie Goldberg wants to quibble about the definition of the charges.

No one denies he committed the crime. It's time he owned up to it like a man.

Jeremy said...

As with all other arguments, the time that has passed it irrelevant. One acquaintance talked of how he owned a home in and had traveled to Switzerland before with no problems. But private trips are different from public trips where you trumpet your intention to visit. In this case, Polanski, as a fugitive from justice, was basically thumbing his nose at the US judicial system by traveling so publicly, and it came back to bite him in the ass.
Serves the child molesting scum right. (And before anyone gets onto me for the harsh language, the man's guilt in drugging and raping a 13 year old has never been in question.)

Lisa said...

He should be held accountable for his actions.

cameronreilly said...

In America, talented artists are not above the law and must be held accountable for their crimes. Only ex-Presidents, and their staff, and the people who did their torturing for them, are above the law. Only in their case should we "look to the future" and forget about the past.

Go back to sleep, America. Your government is in control. Here - watch American Gladiators and shut the fuck up.

Jack said...

If creative talent justifies a Get Out of Jail Free card, what level of misdeed should other directors' talent let them get away with? Directors' Get Out of Jail Free Card survey