Monday, 5 October 2009

The NY Times on Roman Polanski

I was talking to a friend recently about the arrest of Roman Polanski. My friend hadn't been following this story but had been aware that several high profile people, including Whoopi Goldberg, had come out in support of releasing Polanski. So my friend assumed that the situation must have been unclear somehow, ie, that he thought she was really 16 etc. However, obviously the crime to which Polanski confessed was one that seems indefensible: the premeditated drugging and rape of a 13-year-old girl. Who could support such a person?

This article from the New York Times seeks to explain some of the support that Polanski has received, particularly from the French "intelligentsia" who have been prominent in calling for his release. The writer situates Polanski in a tradition almost of intellectuals who have committed terrible crimes and have been "forgiven" by polite society, including the philosopher Louis Althusser who murdered his wife in 1980.
France is a nation that worships aesthetes and philosophers, and some moral tension arises from this. Art and philosophy test boundaries. Artists demand their own social compass. Taken to its extreme, the argument implies that simply being an exceptional artist or intellectual can mitigate even criminal behavior.
The writer is most definitely not seeking to defend Polanski and goes on to make the point that newspaper polls in Poland and France have found that "ordinary people" overwhelmingly say that Polanski should not be released.

More than 70 percent of 30,000 respondents to an online poll by the right-leaning newspaper Le Figaro said Mr. Polanski should face justice. Hundreds of letters poured in to the magazine Le Point condemning the director’s defenders. One of them lambasted “the crypto-intelligentsia of our country,” which in France is something like the ultimate insult. The letters sounded like the bloggers and right-wing commentators in America who heaped scorn on Hollywood figures like Mr. Weinstein and Ms. Goldberg, who was parodied on “Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update Thursday,” just as Mr. Mitterrand had been on the French show. It was almost possible, from their comments, to think France and America were alike, after all.

The article finishes with a depressing story about a rock star who murdered his girlfriend in 2003 and whose supporters referred to his good politics (he apparently opposed the Iraq war) when defending him.

I don't know much about France so I find it difficult to imagine how widespread and influential these views might be. I find it incomprehensible that a moral climate exists in parts of both the US and France in which people believe that such terrible crimes can be shrugged off as the forgivable transgressions of great men.


Amnion said...

Did you read this one?

Dominic Lawson: Let's not forget what Polanski did

When is a crime not a crime? When you are loved in Hollywood.

sas said...

i am so angry that his achievements as a director is getting more press than the fact that he admitted he raped a child.

the brilliant also has a round-up here

Anonymous said...

I have been so triggered by this case because of the similarities with my own rape at 13. I wish the idiots defending him would shut up. They should go and read a book on the impacts of being raped as a child and then maybe they would think twice before opening their stupid traps.

verbis ardens said...

I find it possibly more disturbing that people are trying to hem and haw more about the "cultural differences" in re: sexual activity at younger ages, completely ignoring the DRUGGED and FORCED aspects. Call me insensitive to the plight of raped children, but I would be equally dismayed if the girl in this case had be 16, 18, whatever. This was an abuse of power, period.

Anonymous said...

I'm with verbis ardens on this one. Her age shouldn't really be a factor into how much anger we fell over the fact that he raped someone.