Sunday, 29 November 2009


One of the interesting things to become apparent recently is that quite a large number of people live in an alternate universe where there is one law for the famous and another for ordinary people.

Roman Polanski raped a thirteen year old girl. That his victim was underage at the time exacerbates the crime, but had she been twenty-two year old, it would remain a crime. It remains a crime even thirty-two years later. There are no excuses or mitigating circumstances.

Now that the Swiss authorities have done the right thing and arrested him, a huge number of people from this alternate reality have stumbled into ours and said some rather ridiculous things. The common undercurrent is an indignation that such a virtuoso of cinema would be subjected to something as common as arrest, and a weird paranoia that Polanski is somehow being "singled out" for being famous. It's true that the trajectory of his case has been affected by his fame - but only in the sense that a non-famous criminal doesn't get to escape to France, remaining untouched by the authorities there.

Rape, when committed by someone sufficiently famous, is apparently a mere faux pas, and to arrest Polanski for it impinges on his tremendous dignity as an artist. But there is no way his dignity could be damaged by his arrest, because he already threw it away when he forced himself on Samantha Geimer.

One common apologist tactic is to ignore the fact that the sex was clearly non-consensual and concentrate on the Geimer's age at the time, and to then argue that a charge of pedophilia is unfounded, as Geimer wasn't really a child. But this is beside the point. Let me reiterate: Polanski raped her.

As for the people why cry "hasn't he suffered enough" - the Boston Globe hits the nail on the head, writing: "By reminding us that he lived through the Holocaust and his wife’s 1969 murder, Polanski’s apologists insult other survivors. Being a victim of genocide or violence needn’t engender and never excuses more violence".

Polanski currently remains under detention in Switzerland, though he has just been granted bail. Given that the last time he was granted bail he ran away to France, this sounds less than sensible, though he is being fitted with an electronic tracking bracelet to prevent this from happening again.

What can you do? Well, for starters, don't listen to the apologists, and don't let them spout their garbage unchallenged. If you are a fan of Woody Allen, Whoopi Goldberg, Pedro Almodovar, Wes Anderson, Natalie Portman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Darren Aronofsky, Diane von Furstenberg, Julian Schnabel, Martin Scorsese, Tilda Swinton, Gael Garcia Bernal or Penelope Cruz (etc) - you may want to reconsider your fandom. Or send them a letter expressing your disappointment.


  1. Why don't you ask all of those individuals how they feel about Polanski's crime instead of assuming that all of them are apologizing for it instead of petitioning for Polanski's release. You can avoid sweeping generalizations that way. There is nothing in that petition that says anything about forgiving Polanski for his trangressions.

  2. My beef with the petition is not how they feel about his crime or whether they forgive him. My point is that he must face the consequences of his acts just like any other human being, famous or not. So far, he has not, which is why he needs to be extradited and finally put on trial.

    I cannot conceive of a chain of thought that starts with Polanski as guilty and still ends with wanting to let him evade justice again. If there is such a chain of thought, I would genuinely like to see it spelled out.

  3. It seems unreasonable that anyone can commit a crime like this - a direct attack upon another's person - and not receive punishment. He has been found guilty following trial and is now evading punishment, suported by high profile 'celebrities' because he has been punished enough.

  4. I wrote a little about this on my blog, although I was only drawing attention to other people's presentations of the facts as I hadn't read much into it myself. I was referred by one commenter to look at the probation report to see how it was not such a clear cut case. This is my response:

    "By leaving the country whilst under criminal charge and before he could serve whatever punishment the court was to impose for the offence that he admitted he made his choice. He chose not to benefit from a positive probation report, and now he's left himself in the situation where he must face contemporary attitudes now.

    In particular I was interested by the explanations of how his background was a reason for his "misjudgment" of the situation, his more liberal attitude was excused as being a different culture.

    If his error of judgement was down to inate characteristics or cultural differences, how then could the probation officer say it was a one-off situation and he wouldn't do it again? Surely what they are suggesting is that it's his nature and surely that means he's very likely to do it again. And again.

    The report doesn't follow logic quite frankly."