the polanski thing

I don’t get the outrage at Polanski’s arrest. The guy got a 13 year old drunk, drugged her, and forced her into having sex (both vaginal, and then worrying about the fact that she wasn’t on the pill, anal). Yes, his trial was botched. But here’s my read on it. Polanski got a ridiculously sweet deal because he was famous. And when it became clear that he should not have gotten such a deal because he was famous — that he might be treated like everyone else, he fled. Now people from Martin Scorsese to David Lynch to Woody Allen (!!!) are signing petitions to defend him. The LATimes story (linked above) does well to walk through the interview transcripts of the victim. I don’t know what I’m missing.

11 thoughts on “the polanski thing”

  1. Happens all the time – charisma/fame –> we stop using our brains. This is morally and legally a slam dunk. The guy should serve time, as would any other person charged and *who plead guilty* would.

    Perhaps the sociologically subtle point is about the mobilization of networks. Perhaps Polanski’s defenders know he’s done great harm, but they are satisfying a social obligation. Except Woody Allen – definitely self-interest at work.


  2. He should go to jail for raping a child and fleeing from justice. Actually, i don’t care about the latter. Just that he raped a 13 year old. Living in exile, my ass.


  3. I’m not sure if this is taken out of context but CNN reported “Whoopi Goldberg says Polanski didn’t commit ‘rape-rape,’ whatever the hell that means.”

    Seriously? I’ve lost all respect.


  4. trf1 @4. What Whoopi probably meant is that there are degrees of what may be called rape and that the word usually evokes images of the most serious — the sort of thing depicted in a movie like The Accused– and that is different from what Polanski did.

    I guess it depends on whether you want to distinguish between what Polanski did and what the rapists in that incident did. Whoopi does; others don’t.

    What Polanski pleaded guilty to was not “rape.” It was something like “unlawful sex with a minor.” We don’t know why the state did not try him on more serious charges of rape, but it’s possible that one of the prosecutors’ considerations was that weren’t sure they could prove that crime.


  5. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say for myself that I wasn’t at at all confused about what Whoopi Goldberg meant, I just found it utterly repulsive.


  6. jay,
    i think the most charitable interpretation of Goldberg’s statement is not that she holds out the designation “rape-rape” for a gang rape involving a pinball machine, as compared to merely sodomizing a child who is saying “i want to go home” and “i don’t want this,” but that Goldberg bought into the sometimes explicit sometimes implicit pro-Polanski position that there was no forcible/intoxicant rape (as appears in the grand jury testimony) but “only” statutory rape (as appears in the plea bargain). you see the same thing with some of the European/Hollywood defenders of Polanski who use terms like “morals charge” or “so-called crime.” it’s not that i consider Harvey Weinstein, Whoopi Goldberg, or Frederic Mitterand to be exemplary arbiters of morality, but I just can’t imagine that anyone could possibly say that what happened wasn’t “rape-rape” unless they were under the (almost certainly false) empirical premise that what happened was consensual sex with a young girl.


  7. Gabriel, We don’t know what Whoopi meant. If she’s issued a clarification, I haven’t heard about it ( maybe because I haven’t tried very hard to find it), and I don’t know her well enough to call her up and ask her. But my guess is that she didn’t mean that it was merely statutory rape.

    I can’t believe that she would go on her show knowing that the topic would come up and be completely uninformed. I assume she read the grand jury transcript. I also find it very difficult to believe that anyone could read that transcript and think that the sex was consensual. So she was trying to make a distinction between degrees of force and brutality and maybe even degrees of non-consent. That’s my guess, and as the saying goes, your guess is as good as mine, maybe better.

    Final ironic coincidence: in glancing through the TV listings, I noticed that IFC is showing Woody Allen’s film Manhattan tonight. (For those who do not know – could there be such here?– Allen signed the pro-Polanski petition, and in the film plays a man in his forties who has an affair with a high school girl. Consensual of course, but then, Allen was the one who wrote the script.) The film was released in 1979; the Polanski plea was in July 1977. I think it takes a couple of years from the time you start writing a film till the time it gets released. Just wondering.


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