so i guess we should talk about roman polanski

Wow, that was weird timing. Anyway, here’s Kate Harding, saying it succintly: Reminder: Roman Polanski raped a child.

Roman Polanski survived the Holocaust by hiding in the Kracow ghetto. His pregnant wife was murdered by insane cultists. He has made some awesome movies. None of this excuses child rape, I’m sorry. Look, no one’s telling you that you can never watch Chinatown again. It’s okay. Watch it as many times as you want. But Roman Polanski still raped a child.

It doesn’t matter that her mother was a pushy showbiz mother, or that she looked older than 13, or that he didn’t beat her senseless — we have this stupid notion that unless a woman had a knife held to her throat or was knocked unconscious or tied up, she wasn’t “really” raped. If you say no, but then submit because you fear further harm — like being beaten or drugged or tied up — it is still rape. It doesn’t even matter that the victim doesn’t want him prosecuted. The DA doesn’t represent her here, it represents the people. If you tell me that they should go after all child rapists with as much undimmed zeal, I certainly would not disagree. But because other child rapists may have gone unpunished, Polanski is not off the hook for raping a child.

I had this conversation with my mother the last time I was in Louisiana. She pulled the “Well, she looked older than 13” line. My mother is not a bad person, nor is she in the habit of apologizing for child rapists. (I also trust she doesn’t think it’s okay to drug and sodomize a woman of any age after she’s cried and said no and begged to be taken home; I don’t think Mom was privy to the icky details of the rape.) She’s just very idealistic, and prefers to see people as all good or all bad. It pains her that the same person who directed Repulsion also raped a child, and she would rather not deal with it.

We had a similar conversation about Benazir Bhutto when she was assassinated. She said something about her being pretty, and I was like “Yeah, I would look good too if I’d embezzled that much money“, which upset her. The fact the Bhutto and her husband may have embezzled money doesn’t change the fact that she fought with her very life for human rights in her country. But Mom can’t accept that even heroes are real people who do both good and bad things, ipso facto: The charges against Bhutto were false. It must have something to do with having been alive in the 1960s.

It’s foolish to judge art on what kind of people the artists were. Because let’s face it: a great many artists were/are terrible people. So go ahead and leave Rosemary’s Baby in your Netflix queue. It’s okay. But don’t tell me that Roman Polanski doesn’t deserve to be punished for raping a child, because he does.

p.s. Polanski could still give a valuable lesson on how to put directorial cameos in your movies to M. Night Shyamalamadingdong.

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