Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Not Getting It

I’ve never really bought into the argument from some conservative commentators about the “Hollywood” mentality and how out of touch some people in the film community can be with public opinion. It’s always been easy to blame celebrities for excesses or playing off our human fascination with the rich and famous. But in the case of Roman Polanski, I think they might have a point.

The facts are pretty straightforward: in 1978 Mr. Polanski raped a 13-year-old girl, was arrested, worked out a plea agreement, but rather than face punishment, took it on the lam to France where he has had a flourishing career directing films ever since. Now that he’s been arrested in Switzerland on the outstanding warrant, people who worked with him or are his friends are saying he’s the victim here and they want him released from jail. They are saying there were mitigating circumstances, the judge who agreed to then reneged on the plea deal was biased (and is now dead), that the girl who was raped doesn’t want him to face punishment, etc. etc.

None of that — time passages, deaths, forgiveness — changes the facts, and I’m disappointed that the people who are defending Mr. Polanski don’t get it. And for all of the accusations of being “liberal” and “feminists,” the people who are petitioning for Mr. Polanski’s freedom are sounding an awful lot like the people who make excuses like “we’re at war” for bending the law as if that’s a good enough reason to get away with it.

I can understand the natural instinct to support a friend or colleague when they get in trouble, but I also think that it would be a lot more understandable if Mr. Polanski had taken his punishment and done something a little more meaningful to make amends than just keep making movies. Being an artist — or anything — doesn’t make you above the law, and I’m sorry people like Woody Allen and Whoopi Goldberg don’t get it.