Artists have not always been known to be the most well behaved of individuals. Miles Davis used to beat up his girlfriends. T.S. Eliot was (arguably) an Anti-Semite. Jean-Paul Sartre liked to seduce women and then reject them as soon as they propositioned him. But at the same time, the art remains separate from the artist.
Not so with Roman Polanski.
For those who do not know, in 1977, Polanski, one of the greatest filmmakers of all time – who had previously survived the Holocaust and, later, the horrific murder of his wife Sharon Tate at the hands of Charles Manson’s cult – took a 13-year-old girl into a hot tub during a party at Jack Nicholson’s house. He gave the girl champagne. Then quaaludes. Then he raped her orally, vaginally and anally as she protested in her drugged stupor.
Facing overwhelming evidence, Polanski made a plea bargain for the lesser charge of “unlawful intercourse with a minor.” I will leave it to you to decide what one should rightly call sodomizing an inebriated child as she begs you to stop.
After Polanski plead guilty to this lesser charge, which in California amounts to statutory rape, he heard that the judge intended to reject the plea bargain and try him in court anyway. As a result, Polanski fled to France, and has stayed in European countries without extradition treaties since 1978. Since then he has continued to work regularly with A-list talent making films, including the Academy Award-winning “The Pianist” and this year’s “The Ghost Writer.”
There has long been heavy support for Polanski in the film community and his recent arrest in Switzerland, and the lates abuse allegations from a second young girl has only galvanized both sides. Many of Polanski’s defenders point out that the girl’s mother allowed her to go to the party. Others note that as an aspiring actress she had much to gain from proximity to Polanski. Still others contend that the judge wanted to throw the book at Polanski in order to further his political career. I maintain that none of this matters.
The fact that Polanski’s victim had previously been traumatized does not mean that Polanski is not a child rapist. The fact that her parents utterly failed at their most basic duties does not mean that Polanski is not a child rapist. The questionable actions of the judge do not mean that Polanski is not a child rapist.
Roman Polanski is a child rapist.
Furthermore, I have long contended that Polanski is not just a child rapist, but also likely a serial child rapist. His actions are not those of a man who made a single mistake or slipped up and made a “bad call.” His actions display clear planning and premeditation.
He thought ahead to invite her to the party. He thought ahead to make sure her parents would not be there with her. He thought ahead to make sure she would be in a location with easy access to drugs and alcohol.
And now another of Polanski’s victims has come forward to call for his extradition. To be fair, her claims remain unsubstantiated, and it would seem unlikely that charges could be pressed after 28 years. But considering that fewer than 15 percent of rape victims ever press charges against their perpetrator, I personally find little reason to treat this second girl’s claims with the cynicism that they have been met, regardless of the long gap in time between the events and her coming out and her somewhat questionable choice in legal council.
And all of this is ignoring his consensual relationships with 15-year old actresses in France where the age of consent is considerably younger.
And whereas I can still find immanent beauty in “Kind of Blue” and “The Complete Bitches Brew” even knowing of Davis’s personal life, I do not believe that one can honestly separate Polanski from his abhorrent crimes.
Unlike these other artists, Polanski’s crimes come hand-in-hand with his artistry. He had access to his victim specifically because he wanted to shoot photographs of her for a French edition of Vogue. The primary tool in Polanski’s rapist’s toolkit was his position of trust and authority as a respected and preeminent artist. Were Polanski not a famous director, he would not have had private access to this girl. Were he not a famous director, he would not have been allowed to take her to a party in the middle of the night. And, were he not a famous director, not a single one of his supporters would be signing petitions to free him.
As a lover of art and specifically cinema, I refuse to give a single dime to Polanski or those who would be so morally bankrupt as to work with him. So long as we collectively allow Polanski to retain his privileged position as a trusted artist, we too remain culpable for his crimes. We are handing him a bullet, and he has already proven he knows how to use a gun.
This is America, and Polanski is innocent until proven guilty. But given that he has already confessed to his crimes, there is no reason whatsoever that Polanski should not face a judge and jury. His actions display him to be an unrepentant sex criminal who has compounded his guilt by fleeing the country. He has flaunted his illegal behavior for over 30 years now, and it’s about time that he be brought to justice.