On ROMAN POLANSKI
As I’m sure you’re also aware, an online petition, instigated by Harvey Weinstein and signed by over 100 movie luminaries, has been mounted in opposition to Polanski’s arrest. Among the signatories are Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, David Lynch, Harrison Ford, Guillermo del Toro, Michael Mann, John Landis, Terry Gilliam, Jonathan Demme, John Milius, Tilda Swinton and Asia Argento.
This in turn has inspired a veritable internet lynch mob. Anti-Polanski editorials and petitions are rampant. Even in France, where Polanski has been living the past 31 years, popular sentiment is against him: in an online poll by the French newspaper Le Figaro 70 percent of the participants said Polanski should face justice. The French filmmaking community isn’t entirely on his side either, as evinced by the following quote from the prominent Gallic moviemaker Luc Besson: “There is one justice, and that should be the same for everyone…I have a daughter, 13 years old. And if she was violated, nothing would be the same, even 30 years later.”
There have been calls to boycott not only Polanski’s films but those of the petitioners, with the IMDB message boards of Scorsese, Lynch et al filled with postings about the case. And the outrage doesn’t end there: celebrities who DIDN’T sign the petition have also been hit with boycott demands. Jodie Foster and Meryl Streep, for instance, kept their names off the petition and have absolutely nothing to do with Polanski or the case at hand, but (according to a poster on Deadline.com) are apparently “guilty by their silence.” Also feeling the brunt of the outrage are those who’ve befriended Polanski in the years since his conviction, such as director Brett Ratner, who must be “shunned” (so claims a thread on Polanski’s IMDB page). Ditto all the actors who’ve appeared in Polanski’s post-1976 films (producers and crewmembers apparently get a free pass), such as Johnny Depp, Frank Langella, Hugh Grant and (even though he’s been dead for some time) Walter Matthau.
I’ve refrained from commenting on the case thus far because, frankly, I have little to add--and what I do have to say will likely offend people on both sides of the argument. Also, my job (so to speak) is to write about Mr. Polanski’s films and not his life. In this case, however, that life is far more interesting than most, and anyway, seemingly everyone else on the internet is giving their two cents regardless of whether they know the facts or not, so why shouldn’t I?
Essentially, I agree with majority: I feel Polanski (who happens to be among my top 5 favorite filmmakers) should face justice for his crimes. You might say I “support” Polanski more than any of the petition signers, since I believe he should return to the US and get this sordid mess over with. His reputation is beyond repair, savaged irretrievably by two incredibly bad decisions, but Polanski does at least have a chance to finally sort out his legal woes.
And no, I won’t be boycotting the films of Polanski or any of the petition signers. I know many of you will, of course (as you’ve been claiming in various message boards and chat rooms). Seeing as how I’ve aligned myself with this very crowd, I feel it incumbent to point out a few things in the interests of reason and clarity. I’m sure my efforts will be futile, but I’ll try anyway…
Get The Facts Straight
Yet reading the many internet rants I was surprised to learn many things I didn’t previously know. I was unaware, for instance, that Polanski was a “Satanist” who “mutilated” his “8-year-old” victim after raping her, for which he “didn’t spend a day in jail.” Also, he “probably rapes his own children” as well as “the entire cast of (his 2005 film of) OLIVER TWIST.”
Seriously: I think the above misconceptions (likely of the willful variety) illustrate how the specter of child molestation can reduce any discourse to name calling and hysteria (see my thoughts on the McMartin case below). Outrageous factual distortions won’t help the case against Polanski, and “probablys” and “must-haves” don’t count as evidence.
Quit Blaming “All of Hollywood”
I have no problem with Hollywood-bashing, but let’s keep the facts straight.
Defending the Nazis and the Manson Family is WRONG
Examples (taken from actual newsgroup postings): “The Nazis should have killed his ass along with his mother!” and “Too bad the Manson Family didn’t get Polanski along with his whore wife!” Reminds me of Amok Press’ THE MANSON FILE (1988), a pro-Manson book that insinuates Sharon Tate deserved what became of her because of the debauched lifestyle she shared with her husband. A pretty questionable idea, but so is cheering on the Nazis or the Manson family in their insanity.
Stop the Politicizing!
Please! I know quite a few liberals who claim they’d like nothing more than to see Polanski fry (see this Huffington Post entry), while there are conservatives who actually support him (David Lynch, a staunch Ronald Reagan supporter and onetime darling of the NATIONAL REVIEW, is nobody’s liberal, and the right-leaning ideals of fellow signatory John Milius are legendary). Then there are the politics of Roman Polanski himself, who according to biographer John Parker is a “right wing reactionary” who’s anti-union and hates feminists. In short, someone Rush Limbaugh could call one of his own.
In the interests of fairness, there has been similar badgering from the left. In a recent Atlantic Magazine interview Gore Vidal branded Polanski’s victim a “hooker” and claimed the rancor is based on anti-Semitism. Clearly he hasn’t listened to the Howard Stern show lately: just last week Stern and Rosy O’Donnell, Jews both, gave Polanski a sound bashing, and anti-Semitism didn’t enter into it.
The point? This isn’t a liberal-conservative (or anti-Semitic) issue, and making it out as such won’t help your case one way or the other.
Don’t Misrepresent the Motives of Polanski’s Defenders
One thing I don’t believe is that the petition signers are “supporting child rape,” as many have claimed. I can’t speak for every individual whose name graces the petition, but I do know that David Lynch, Martin Scorsese and Terry Gilliam all have daughters, and so probably aren’t too thrilled with the idea of child rape.
Remember the McMartin Trial
Here’s the thing: as one who didn’t attend the McMartin preschool but knew many kids who did, I have reason to believe untoward behavior by the McMartins DID occur, and that justice was NOT served by letting them off. Yet I also decry the insanity that overtook the trial, and the entire city--but that’s a whole ‘nother essay. Suffice it to say that I believe the truth in this case was obscured due to hysteria and false allegations. Sound familiar?
Follow Through on Your Threats
On a related note, it helps to have a viable target for your boycotts. This is to say that the genius who recently emailed me demanding I “boycott Miramax” because Harvey Weinstein supports “Polansky” should take into account that Weinstein is no longer with Miramax--and learn to spell while he’s at it!
Furthermore, the present details of the case are much like those of the original 1976 conviction. Back then (as now) it initially seemed Polanski was going to beat the rap, and (as now) he got plenty of support from his famous friends--as one commentator said of a pro-Polanski meeting, “Not since Renaissance Italy has there been such a gathering of creative minds in one locale.” That support, however, eroded (as now), leading to…well, you know what. Yes, history appears to be repeating itself in many ways, although I doubt Polanski will evade justice this time. Also, maybe this time around the media and online commentators will actually demonstrate some tact and intelligence in covering the case…and maybe pigs will fly.