Roman Polanski raped a child. Let’s just start right there, because that’s the detail that tends to get neglected when we start discussing whether it was fair for the bail-jumping director to be arrested at age 76, after 32 years in “exile” (which in this case means owning multiple homes in Europe, continuing to work as a director, marrying and fathering two children, even winning an Oscar, but never — poor baby — being able to return to the U.S.). Let’s keep in mind that Roman Polanski gave a 13-year-old girl a Quaalude and champagne, then raped her, before we start discussing whether the victim looked older than her 13 years, or that she now says she’d rather not see him prosecuted because she can’t stand the media attention. Before we discuss how awesome his movies are or what the now-deceased judge did wrong at his trial, let’s take a moment to recall that according to the victim’s grand jury testimony, Roman Polanski instructed her to get into a jacuzzi naked, refused to take her home when she begged to go, began kissing her even though she said no and asked him to stop; performed cunnilingus on her as she said no and asked him to stop; put his penis in her vagina as she said no and asked him to stop; asked if he could penetrate her anally, to which she replied, “No,” then went ahead and did it anyway, until he had an orgasm.
Joan Z. Shore at the Huffington Post, who once met Polanski and “was utterly charmed by [his] sobriety and intelligence,” also seems to believe that a child with an unpleasant stage mother could not possibly have been raped: “The 13-year old model ‘seduced’ by Polanski had been thrust onto him by her mother, who wanted her in the movies.” Oh, well, then! If her mom put her into that situation, that makes it much better! Shore continues: “The girl was just a few weeks short of her 14th birthday, which was the age of consent in California. (It’s probably 13 by now!) Polanski was demonized by the press, convicted, and managed to flee, fearing a heavy sentence.”
Wow, OK, let’s break that down. First, as blogger Jeff Fecke says, “Fun fact: the age of consent in 1977 in California was 16. It’s now 18. But of course, the age of consent isn’t like horseshoes or global thermonuclear war; close doesn’t count. Even if the age of consent had been 14, the girl wasn’t 14.” Also, even if the girl had been old enough to consent, she testified that she did not consent. There’s that. Though of course everyone makes a bigger deal of her age than her testimony that she did not consent, because if she’d been 18 and kept saying no while he kissed her, licked her, screwed her and sodomized her, this would almost certainly be a whole different story — most likely one about her past sexual experiences and drug and alcohol use, about her desire to be famous, about what she was wearing, about how easy it would be for Roman Polanski to get consensual sex, so hey, why would he need to rape anyone?
… Second, Polanski was “demonized by the press” because he raped a child, and was convicted because he pled guilty. He “feared heavy sentencing” because drugging and raping a child is generally frowned upon by the legal system. Shore really wants us to pity him because of these things?
But what of the now-45-year-old victim, who received a settlement from Polanski in a civil case, saying she’d like to see the charges dropped? Shouldn’t we be honoring her wishes above all else?
In a word, no. At least, not entirely. I happen to believe we should honor her desire not to be the subject of a media circus, which is why I haven’t named her here, even though she chose to make her identity public long ago. But as for dropping the charges, Fecke said it quite well: “I understand the victim’s feelings on this. And I sympathize, I do. But for good or ill, the justice system doesn’t work on behalf of victims; it works on behalf of justice.” It works on behalf of the people, in fact — the people whose laws in every state make it clear that both child rape and fleeing prosecution are serious crimes.
… Roman Polanski raped a child. No one, not even him, disputes that. Roman Polanski may be a great director, an old man, a husband, a father, a friend to many powerful people, and even the target of some questionable legal shenanigans. He may very well be no threat to society at this point. He may even be a good person on balance, whatever that means. But none of that changes the basic, undisputed fact: Roman Polanski raped a child. And rushing past that point to focus on the reasons why we should forgive him, pity him, respect him, admire him, support him, whatever, is absolutely twisted.
Sie liebt dich, yeah, yeah, yeah Sie liebt dich, yeah, yeah, yeah Sie liebt dich, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Du glaubst sie liebt nur mich Gestern hab’ ich sie gesehen Sie denkt ja nur an dich Und du solltest zu ihr gehen O ja, sie liebt dich Schöner kann es gar nicht sein Ja, sie liebt dich Und dann solltest du dich freu’n
Du hast ihr weh getan Sie wusste nicht warum Du warst nicht schuld daran Und drehtest dich nicht um O ja, sie liebt dich Schöner kann es gar nicht sein Ja, sie liebt dich Und dann solltest du dich freu’n Whoo!
Sie liebt dich, yeah, yeah, yeah Sie liebt dich, yeah, yeah, yeah Denn mit dir allein Kann sie nur glücklich sein
Du musst jetzt zu ihr gehen Entschuldig dich bei ihr Ja dass wird sie verstehen Und dann verzeiht sie dir O ja, sie liebt dich Schöner kann es gar nicht sein Ja, sie liebt dich Und dann solltest du dich freu’n Ooh!
Sie liebt dich, yeah, yeah, yeah Sie liebt dich, yeah, yeah, yeah Denn mit dir allein Kann sie nur glücklich sein Denn mit dir allein Kann sie nur glücklich sein Denn mit dir allein Kann sie nur glücklich sein Yeah, yeah, yeah Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah