Sunday, October 4, 2009
She never stumbles,
She's got no place to fall.
She's nobody's child,
The Law can't touch her at all.
It’s taken 32 years, but the long arm of the law has finally caught up with Roman Polanski. Last week authorities in Switzerland arrested the infamous filmmaker as he arrived at the Zurich airport en route to a lifetime achievement award. The arrest clears the way for Polanski’s possible extradition to the United States in connection with three-decade-old sex case involving a 13-year-old girl, a bag of Quaaludes, a couple bottles of booze and a hot tub in the basement of one of the silver screen's more notoriously lecherous leading men.
The drug addled evening resulted in Polanski being indicted on rape, child molesting and sodomy felony charges. But as salacious as the facts surrounding the case are, the act that has perhaps set off the most enduring indignation is what Polanski did next.
Fearing the judge was planning to renege on a plea bargain deal that would result in Polanski going to prison, the director fled the country, effectively embarking on a 32-year rebuke of the American judicial system.
As a result, Polanski has lived his life on the lamb for the last three decades, managing to remain just beyond the reach of the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, who has never given up on bringing the dodgy director back to justice.
To hear Sandi Gibbons, a spokesperson for the DA’s office, describe it the pursuit of Polanski is not that far off from a plot line culled from the popular TV series, The Fugitive: “Any time word is received that Mr. Polanski is planning to be in a country that has an extradition treaty with the U.S., we go through diplomatic channels with the arrest warrant.” Unfortunately for Mr. Polanski, it would appear Switzerland has such a treaty.
Polanski's unexpected detainment at the Zurich airport last week has re-ignited a firestorm around the controversial director. But in an ironic twist, the discussion has not centered on Mr. Polasnki's guilt, forgiveness by the victim, or even morals, for that matter. Instead, the issue at the center of this maelstrom revolves around something far more complicated: celebrity.
Long before committing the egregious act of forcibly sodomizing a 13-year-old girl, Hollywood was a staunch Polanski supporter. Even after Polanski admitted to drugging and then raping Samantha Geimer, the 13-year-old ingénue in question, Hollywood remained firmly in Polanski's corner. In Hollywood, it seemed the paradigm of justice apparently was seen through a different prism: Ignore the act, put aside the judicial wrongdoings, and look at the real tribulation here— Mr. Polanski’s own tragedy-laden life.
Throughout his 1977 trial, Hollywood came out in droves to support the disgraced director. To them—and presumably to us—Mr. Polanski’s decision to flee only made sense. After all, how could a man whose family fell victim to the annihilating horrors of the Holocaust, a man cast as the primary suspect in the murder of his own wife— how could a man so wronged and maligned ever trust the legal system to give him a fair shake?
Thirty-two years later, Hollywood has come out again. The list of supporters lending Polanski their support reads like the A-list from one of the town’s top talent agencies. And while dozens have come to Polanski’s defense, the comments of Miramax Chairman, Harvey Weinstein, and comedian, Whoopi Goldberg, were especially effusive.
Upon hearing the latest chapter in Polanski’s ongoing personal morality play, Weinstein claimed: "Hollywood has the best moral compass, because it has compassion."
Ms. Goldberg did Weinstein one better when she rationalized Polanski’s actions this way: "I don't believe it was 'rape-rape'." Right, and when Whoopi was sexually molested at the age of 14 and decided to perform an abortion on herself with a coat hanger, she did that because she was only ‘a little bit pregnant.’
There is no question artists are held to a different standard. Considering the fact they possesses an incredible, almost intangible ability to shine a light on the parts of our lives that bring us vast joy and immense pain, in all fairness, they have to a large part earned that distinction. But pointing to Polanski’s brilliance as a film director does not dismiss the fact he is a pedophile, a pariah and a fugitive from the law.
Yes, Polanski’s lived the high life for the last 32 years by being permitted to travel throughout Europe unfettered and undisturbed; yes, he was all but canonized by his cohorts in Hollywood in 2002 when they bestowed on him the Oscar for Best Picture for ‘The Piano’; and, yes, he is a genius— tortured, tormented and tirelessly beset by demons.
And while Roman Polanski’s tormented past may explain his actions the night he lured a 13-year-old girl to Jack Nicholson's Hollywood hideaway home, drugged her, and then preceeded to commit one of the heinous crimes conceivable— it in no way justifies it. Even if he is an artist…
She's got everything she needs,
She's an artist, she don't look back.
She can take the dark out of the nighttime
And paint the daytime black.