Tuesday, September 29, 2009

But he's an auteur!!!

Something about the whole Roman Polanski case really bothers me. I don't understand why the California authorities have waited until now to try to get Polanski extradited to California. But I really don't understand why so many people are so quick to defend the guy.

The folks at the libertarian magazine Reason seem to share my puzzlement, and I can't help but think it's pretty damning if a bunch of libertarians think you should go to jail for a sex crime. Sure, the details have been muddled (probably deliberately by those taking Polanksi's side), but it seems clear that as part of a plea bargain deal, prosecutors dropped more serious charges in order to get a swift conviction on the statutory rape charge (and not have to put the accuser on the stand), and that it was only when Polanski thought the judge might give him "too stiff" a sentence that he fled the country. Personally, I do tend to have a mistrust of prosecutors, especially when they seem to prosecute cases for political reasons, but if anything the Polanski case seems like one where his celebrity got him a less bad sentence than a normal person would have gotten.

The feeling I get is that there's a good portion of the Culture War involved in the defense of Polanski. You have people -- especially in Europe -- who want to portray the Americans as horrible sexual puritans. Not only that, but Polanski is an artist, and who goes after Hollywood artists? It's those wicked right-wing whack jobs. (As the Reason article points out, would Polanski be getting this sort of support if he were a Catholic priest?) Some of the defenses of Polanski have been downright ludicrous, such as the idea that Polanski suffered enough because he lost relatives in the Holocaust, or because he wife (actress Sharon Tate) was brutally murdered -- albeit at least a half-dozen years before the rape case.

That having been said, Polanski isn't the only sex offender/moviemaker out there. 15 years ago, when Disney released the movie Powder, there was controversy over the fact that the director, Victor Salva had been convicted of sexual misconduct involving the young star of one his earlier movies.

Perhaps the best way to deal with Polanski would be for him to serve a brief portion of the setence in order to allow the authorities in California to save face, like Paul Muni in I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang.

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