I read a few movie Web sites, and the last few days they've been hot with rhetoric regarding the arrest in Switzerland of Roman Polanski to be extradited to the U.S. Of course he fled the country back in 1978 after copping a plea for having sex with a thirteen-year-old-girl (the original charge was rape) and has not been here since then.
The level of vitriol on both sides of the argument has been extreme, and it's kind of fascinating to examine where the animosity comes from. My opinion is that Polanski should be extradited back to Los Angeles, and then given a commuted sentence. I don't relish the prospect of him spending time in jail, especially since the victim has chosen to forgive him.
However, I'm perplexed by the level of passion for those who are defending him. There are lot of disturbing elements to this. There are those, like journalist Jeffrey Wells, who think that since he's an "art god" (a ridiculous term) he should be cut some slack. There's also the argument that he's already suffered enough, and that his difficult life--growing up during the Nazis, and the murder of his wife by the Manson family--are extenuating circumstances. A phalanx of Hollywood types have signed a petition declaring their outrage over the matter, including being upset that Polanski was nabbed while going to a film festival. Apparently they feel that film festivals should be some sort of sanctuary.
All of this rankles me to no end. In none of their protestations do they acknowledge that Mr. Polanski is a child rapist. His troubles are no excuse for drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl, and time does not diminish his actions. There is no statute of limitation involved--that involves the state filing charges against him, not the distance of time lapsed after his plead. His crime was not victimless--it wasn't a pot bust. There is no moral equivocation here. What he did was despicable and against the law, and he plead guilty for it.
The victim has forgiven him, and I think that means a lot when it comes to sentencing, but it is meaningless when it comes to the prosecution of the case, which is Polanski vs. Los Angeles. I have no beef with a district attorney who feels burned by his flight. They have an open case on the books, and see the guy living the privileged life of a hot-shot director in Europe. I'd want to get him, too. But then we have people like Jonathan Rosenbaum calling this a "lynch mob," which is defecating all over the memory of those who really were lynched (no one is calling for Polanski's hanging). A particularly louche segment of the French elite are also aghast, including Bernard-Henri Levy, who calls Polanski's crime a "youthful mistake." He was 44!
I'm also fascinated by the Polanski defenders who are women. I'm not saying that all women have to tote a party line, but when Awards Daily's Sasha Stone comments on how the young girl should have been more careful, I really have to wonder what's in Ms. Stone's head, and recommend she watch The Accused again. Thankfully there are feminists who see this much more clearly, including Kate Harding, who wrote forcefully on Salon and Jezebel.
Again, I have no axe to grind against Polanski. I have seen some of his movies since 1978, and have no problem with him winning an Oscar. I just think he should be treated the same as anyone else. Actions have repercussions, and his standing in the film community shouldn't count for anything. He hasn't paid for what he has done, and he should.