After 32 years in exile, Polanski was arrested last week in Switzerland to face rape charges in California.
So, after 32 years, director Roman Polanski was finally arrested for having unlawful sex with a 13-year old girl and skipping out of the country before he was sentenced for the crime. Since 1977, he's been "in exile" in France and Switzerland, making movies -- including the Oscar-winning "The Pianist" for which he received the Academy Award for Best Director. .
What do his fellow members of the cinematic creative community do in reaction to this news? Give an outpouring of support for this poor, oppressed artist being bullied by agents of law-enforcement!! Some 138 directors, producers, actors and others signed a petition "demand[ing] the immediate release" of Polanski:
"It seems inadmissible to them that an international cultural event, paying homage to one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers, is used by the police to apprehend him," said the petition, backed by France's Societe des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques (Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers).
"The arrest of Roman Polanski in a neutral country, where he assumed he could travel without hindrance ... opens the way for actions of which no one can know the effects," said the signatories, who also included actresses Monica Bellucci and Tilda Swinton and directors David Lynch, Jonathan Demme, John Landis, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Wim Wenders.
What are these people thinking? Why not get a note of approval from Woody "Marrying my ex-girlfriend's daughter was a great idea!" Allen while they're at it? Oops! Too late, Allen is one of the petition signatories!
And what a quaint phrase on the petition -- "opens the way for actions of which no one can know the effects." What does justice denied for more than 30 years open the way to? Polanski committed a horrible crime. He was a 43-year old man; the girl was 13. But it wasn't merely "statutory" rape. The full details are heinous, as Salon's Kate Harding forcefully articulates. And, considering a contemporaneous interview, he had very little regret.
Nonetheless, because Polanski is a great "artiste," the man has defenders who manage to find prestigious platforms from which they can squeeze out a defense:
I make no apology for feeling desperately sorry for him. The almost pornographic relish with which his critics are retelling the lurid details of the assault (strange behavior, one might think, for those who profess concern for the victim) make it hard to consider the case rationally. Of course what happened cannot be excused, either legally or ethically.
But [the victim] wants it dropped, to shield her family from distress, and Mr. Polanski’s own young children, to whom he is a doting father, want him home. He is no threat to the public. The original judicial procedure was undeniably murky. So cui bono, as the Romans used to say — who benefits?
Who benefits? How about justice?
The disgrace isn't that this talented filmmaker is being punished just as he's about to get some lifetime achievement award. The disgrace that it took the state of California this long to finally nab him. That delay doesn't make him the victim of justice denied. It's true that the wishes of the victim should be considered in the prosecution of a crime; but in the U.S. criminal justice system, the offended person is, legally, not the actual victim. The offended party is the state. That the now-woman who's life Polanski grievously abused wants the matter dropped -- out of concern for her and her children's privacy should be factored into how the prosecution proceeds. But it shouldn't determine whether there is a prosecution at all. Victims have their views; but the state has responsibilities to tell its citizens that no one is above the law.
As for the Hollywood petitioners, no wonder they make such perfect targets for conservative politicians and activists. They have sympathy for a 76-year old man. Faux sympathy for the 45-year old woman who says she wants the matter dropped -- but not an iota of empathy for the 13-year old girl whose innocence a 43-year-old man stole with drugs and violence. They live in a far different world than the one inhabited by the people whom they depend upon to see their movies.