Roman Polanski has given a rare interview regarding his part in the rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977. For those not up to speed, in 1977 Polanski was accused of luring a 13-year-old girl to a home where he was staying by telling her that he was working on a photo-shoot for a major European publication. Whilst alone with the girl, Polanski plied her with alcohol and sedatives, took pictures of her nude and had sex with her. This much has been confirmed by both parties. The victim claims that she did not consent, Polanski claims that she did, or rather, that after he began to perform oral sex on her that she enjoyed it and changed her mind, but under state law even with her consent this constitutes statutory rape. The fact that he provided a minor with alcohol and drugs further negates whatever consent she may have offered, and the nude photos Polanski took of her constitute child pornography. Again, the victim claims she did not consent. Polanski worked out a plea deal where he was to attend a psychiatric facility to get treatment before he is to face sentencing. After leaving the medical-care facility, he fled to France, worried that he would face jail time. He has since been in Europe, and the American government has tried to extradite him.
In the recent interview, Polanski claims that he is being “persecuted” by the American government. He writes: “I escaped from the [Kraków] ghetto, I escaped from Communist Poland, I had to run from persecution. Maybe I shouldn’t have run from the ghetto either . . . . I thought even if I have to go back to Poland and work all my life there, it’s better than going through all this.” Here we see Polanski compare his prosecution to the plight of the Jews during WWII and Poles in post-WWII Poland, where Russia’s communist regime asserted tyrannical rule. The problem, of course, is that the neither the Poles nor the Jews brought on their own oppression by violating the rights of others. They did not collectively commit rape and make child pornography. Their oppression was in no way justified. Polanski shows an utter disregard not only for his victim, but also for the plight of the Jews during WWII and the Poles in post-WWII Poland by comparing their persecution to his prosecution.
Polanski’s insensitive appropriation of other people’s victimhood does not end only with comparing his ordeal with the oppression of the Jews and Poles, but also with the murder of his wife, claiming that this was “like the assassination of Sharon [Tate] and what happened afterwards.” Apparently, Polanski doesn’t understand the difference between a woman being the victim of a murderer and a man being prosecuted by police for raping a 13-year-old girl. I wonder how Polanski would respond if he read an interview where Charles Manson suggested that police were persecuting him for the murder of Sharon Tate, an act in which Manson took no physical part. Polanski seems to confuse victim and assailant.
Polanski goes on to say: “It’s easy to say that I was working and traveling during that year [while waiting for the sentence], but it was a nightmare—hell—with this sword hanging over my neck. And it was such a shock to learn that it’s not finished, after they let you out of prison. Free! With your bundle under your arm, with the lawyer waiting for you outside, standing there, in your mind it’s all over, it’s finished. And then the judge changed his mind. And I have to go back to prison, and nobody knows how long. I just could not go through that. And that’s when I decided.” Firstly, his bemoaning of his “nightmare” comes across as self-indulgent. His victim had to endure being raped and then live with, not only the aftermath of the rape itself, but knowing that her assailant escaped his jail time and employed his monetary funds to leave the country and avoid answering for his crime. His “shock” is certainly more surprising that his victim’s shock at both the assault she had to endure and the fact that her rapist escape jail time by fleeing the country. Secondly, Polanski refers to his time spent at a medical facility as ‘jail’ (granted, he did spend 42 days in the Chino State Prison for the evaluation period whilst he was waiting for sentencing, but he was also allowed to go over seas to complete film on a project before sentencing, which is far more than most convicted/admitted criminals are allowed) . I’m sorry, but a psychiatric unit is not a prison. It was part of a plea bargain that he hoped would rescue him from serving time in jail. The fact he sees spending time in a hospital as spending time in jail demonstrates his warped perception of reality, as does his expectation that that being released for sentencing implies that he won’t have to go back to jail.
Since the rape, Polanski has done well for himself. He went on to marry a woman even younger than his victim, demonstrating that he had learned nothing from the ordeal. This is not surprising since even before the rape he was having sexual relations with minors, notably his ‘relationship’ with Nastassja Kinski, who was, at the time of the ‘relationship’, only 15 years old (she turned 16 during the relationship). Polanski at the time was well into his 40s. This pattern of behaviour did not offend as many people as one might imagine. A host of “A-List” celebrities worked with Polanski afterward, among them: Harrison Ford, Johnny Depp, Walter Matthau, Frank Langella and Adrien Brody. Coupled with this, there has been a petition signed by a number of Hollywood celebrities that believe that America should forget the rape and allow Polanski back into the country. The signatures of: Woody Allen (not surprising considering his inappropriate relationship with his own step-daughter who he later married), Monica Bellucci, Terry Gilliam, David Lynch, Michael Mann and Darren Aronofsky are all present on the list (this list is frustrating because I enjoy the work of a number if the signatories). I wonder if any would have signed the list had Polanski raped one of their daughters? I wonder also if the likes of Johnny Depp and Adrien Brody would have been as eager to work with Polanski had he raped one of their daughters. As if this weren’t enough, the Academy of Motion Pictures even awarded the self-confessed rapist with an Oscar for best director. This, perhaps, should not be surprising coming from an industry that has a history of further victimizing victims like Patricia Douglas after they have been raped, and has continued to enable sexist standards in the industry.
I do not deny Polanski’s talent in film direction. I don’t believe that is disputable. Polanski is a great film maker. His genius, though, should have no bearing on this case. Had Ariel Castro been a brilliant musician, would music producers and recording artists be signing a petition on his behalf? Had any of the packs of rapists who have participated in a series of gang-rapes that occurred in India over the last year been a group of respected painters, or actors, or athletes, would any artists, actors or athletes be signing a petition for their release? Polanski raped a 13-year-old girl and then fled the country to avoid prosecution. His genius as a film maker does not validate this rape, and to offer support to him is to invalidate the suffering of his victim and support the rapist. Too often celebrities are given special treatment. Their victims often find themselves without justice and the industries in which the rapists work have no qualms in regards to supporting the rapists. As a result, rape culture is in turn promoted, and allowances are made for rape, so long as the rapist is a celebrity. As a result, rapists, like Polanski, do not see their actions as wrong, but rather, see their prosecution as persecution and are insensitive enough to compare the states prosecution of rape as a persecution on par with genocide. In comparing his experience with the experience of the Poles in Russia-occupied Poland, or the Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe, or the suffering of his wife at the hands of a murderer, Polanski demonstrates that he has no grasp of morality and fails utterly to see the suffering he has caused his victim. The people that have since worked with Polanski have enabled him and encouraged him to maintain this mentality to the point where he can go into an interview and boldly profess that his prosecution is akin the suffering of the Jews in WWII. It would be nice, instead of hearing of all those who support Polanski, to hear of some celebrities who do not condone his behaviour, regardless of his genius, and refuse to work with a rapist no matter how talented the rapist might be. But that seems to be asking too much of an industry that makes a habit of exploiting women. In his interview Polanski boldly suggests that: “Maybe I shouldn’t have run from the ghetto”. I’m starting to think that perhaps that would have been a good idea.