I’m wondering how long it will take for some idiot to make a hysterical YouTube video begging the justice system to “LEAVE ROMAN ALONE!…uh uh uh.”
Flippant, I know. It’s hard to talk about Roman Polanski’s arrest with any of the gravity it deserves. It’s even harder to keep a straight face when I see famous people whose work and hotness I admire (et tu, Monica Bellucci?) try to present an act of professional solidarity as a noble fight for justice. Seriously, check out the wording in this petition that people like Bernard-Henri Lévy have been signing:
Apprehended like a common terrorist Saturday evening, September 26, as he came to receive a prize for his entire body of work, Roman Polanski now sleeps in prison.
Like a common terrorist! Everyone knows that prison is for peasants, not Oscar-winners.
I wonder if these smart, talented people – people like Milan Kundera and Mike-freaking-Nichols – even realize that they’re actually inspiring the rest of the world to despise Polanski with rhetoric like this? How out of touch do you have to be if you sign your name below something like this?
Of course, it’s hard to blame Polanski’s friends. I know two people who have known him since he fled to France, and they all describe a charming and intelligent man who does not strike you as the type of dude who could drug and sodomize a little girl. “He has changed,” people say. He’s married to a woman whom he, by all account, loves. They have two children together. One of those children is a daughter.
Yet Polanski has steadfastly refused to pay his debt to society. Despite the fact that the victim has repeatedly stated that she wants to move on – and who could blame her? – accolades and a brilliant mind don’t change the fact that he admitted what he did and then fled the country. Any legal shenanigans that surrounded his case can and should be dealt with – but as judge Espinoza ruled in 2008, fugitives do not get to dictate anything to the courts. Want to deal with the situation? Turn yourself in.
The culture of celebrity worship often reminds me of the worship of particular gods. Gods, as you may know, demand their sacrifices. For the people vigorously defending Polanski, that sacrifice is a pretty thirteen-year-old girl. It’s not the woman that Samantha Geimer, née Gailey, has become – it’s the way she was then, a child whose mother wanted her to make it in Hollywood. Hey, Polanski was a genius, man, he made “Chinatown,” dude, and she was just some jailbait. She wasn’t even a virgin, and everyone knows you can’t rape a slut.
The fact that Hollywood takes pretty young women and does horrible things to them is taken for granted. Samantha Gailey is not viewed as anything special, in that sense. Most girls who have this happen to them never report it. Hell, you don’t have to stray into Hollywood to get raped – most women don’t report it as a kind of rule. In the entertainment industry in particular, though, people see it as a way to pay your dues. Got a tight, young body? Well, great, little girl, but so do thousands of others and you have to work extra hard to stand out from the rest, if you know what I mean.
I sympathize with Samantha, because I could never sit through a court case that revolved around any of the men who have made my life what it is today (I don’t want to be dramatic – I do alright – but I’ve also had to accept the fact that I was changed irrevocably by my own experiences and not all for the better). It would be too much. At the same time, I realize that simply not doing anything in regards to Polanski sends a clear, and disturbing, message.
I liked what Sylvia Peay said in regards to special treatment of Roman Polanski:
Bureaucratic incompetence in the criminal justice system is unworthy of comment by Hollywood when it affects people in lower classes, people of color, people addicted to drugs, and people with mental illnesses. But when the system goes after a celebrated white male artist, the gloves come off and the bureaucracy of the criminal justice system is egregiously insufficient.
It’s true, you know. A plea bargain happened, mostly because the prosecution wanted to spare Samantha the pain and humiliation of a lengthy trial. The facts of the case, however, are out there for anyone to see. Samantha’s testimony is a horrible, brutal thing to read. While I fully believe that the U.S. criminal justice system is, as an old professor used to say, a criminal justice system, becoming a celebrated fugitive in France is not the way to deal with any of it.
I believe that people can change, but I also believe that we must all face the music every once in a while. Polanski has certainly faced a lot of music already in his life – the Holocaust, the murder of Sharon Tate, his pregnant wife – it’s a lot for one person to take. I have no idea what I would have become, had I gone through half of that. None of us do – until it happens to us. But there is genuine human sympathy, and then there are shrugs and excuses.
Dostoevsky once brilliantly showed us how a court of law cannot necessarily determine human guilt or innocence. In reading Lauren’s post on the subject of being raped at 13, however, I’m struck by the human need to get something right everyone once in a while, dammit.
If I was Roman Polanski’s friend, I would tell him to go face the music, again. And that I would be waiting for him on the other side.