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Rape is so Gauche a Term; How About Artistic License?

.....not when she's 13, shit heel

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, September 30, 2009.

It’s fun, sometimes, to jump on the bandwagon and emote for the ages without having any particular insight into the issue at hand. Of course, I’m referring to the Roman Polanski scandal, now entering its fourth decade. Polanski is a gifted director and has made some great movies, including Rosemary’s Baby, which I hated, and Chinatown, which I liked. That said, the scandal doesn’t involve me, oddly enough, and the scandal is this.

Reduced to essentials, a little less than ten years after his wife Sharon Tate had been murdered while with child and friends by the Manson gang, Polanski drugged a thirteen year old child at a photo shoot and raped her every which way. He was charged, pled guilty to lesser charges than rape, and then – when it looked like the fix was not entirely in – he ran to Europe and away from extradition treaties, living almost entirely in France and Poland.

In the interim, the girl grew up and waxed philosophical, saying she thinks he’s sorry and it was regrettable and that she’s moved on and it would be nice if everyone else could as well, given Polanski is now 76. But he recently made the error of visiting Switzerland and, coincidently, the paperwork from the US got there in time and he was arrested and faces return to serve his sentence plus time for running away, etc.

In the interim, a film about the case highlighted malfeasance by both the judge and the prosecutor, and it’s certainly possible that the original verdicts might be thrown out and a retrial ordered. Except, it’s unlikely the victim would testify or participate. But Polanski, not surprisingly, doesn’t seem gunned to find out. Nobody really does.

What’s annoying to me about all this is that the guilt or innocence of the man is based upon irrelevancies. That he’s a great artist is true, but so what? That the judge and prosecutor were probably corrupt is relevant to the case but not to his guilt, which he admitted and the victim was certain about. Many, including Woody Allen, have demanded that the case be dropped and Polanski allowed to live out his life bathed in the glory of Hollywood. Even the President of France intoned that he found it bizarre that such a great artist should be hounded by his inferiors, those provincial hicks that don’t understand the worldly sophistication of, say, Europe.

Right. He’s married to Carla Bruni; he can afford some compassion.

Underlying all of this is the misogyny and male ego that permeates similar cases, say the institutional rapes and corruptions of the Roman Catholic priests and their enablers - whose protection of criminals who make Polanski look like a piker in such matters - is as complex and ingrained as its protection of Nazis and other thugs secreted to South America after the Second World War. Although nobody is saying the young girl ‘asked for it’, there is the issue of a mother using her child to pose for a European magazine at that age, no doubt as a substitute for herself and exhibiting the female counterpart delusions to Polanski’s. In fact, the victim herself seems to be the healthiest and most mature and honest participant in this orgy of hypocrisy, not denying the crime but contending that the criminal, in her mind, has paid. The first thing one suspects is that she’s been bought off, but there’s no evidence of that, and she sounds sincere and wants the turmoil over. But she is, if of sound mind, the only person that can grant forgiveness.

There are those who claim, like me, she is unable to do so because the thirteen year old is gone, and children are different and this is the sort of thing that cannot be tolerated no way, no how. And, further, by stare decisis, you cannot let the rich and gifted escape the punishment that is meted out by small town prosecutors going for the law and order and morality vote, even in those communities where Morman splinter groups marry the underage and use them as payment for devotion to cult leaders by the husband. And there are those who claim, in much of the world, that thirteen is a perfectly acceptable age for a girl to have sex with men thirty years older. Natural, in fact. And there are those who want to ridicule the western nations like the US and England which are, indeed, never more ridiculous and hypocritical than when they’re on a morality crusade.

But it is hardly a suppression of rights, only of another’s base desire, that children, whether in your care or actually yours, are not subjected to these violations. People have the right to a childhood, erring on the side of caution concerning its duration, and it should not be legally invalidated by the talent, divinity, fame, or mere convenience of presence of the rapist. That’s as valid in LA as in The Sudan.