The whitewashing of Roman Polanski

posted at 12:15 pm on February 21, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Over thirty years ago, Roman Polanski fled the US after being charged with statutory rape.  The victim, a 13-year-old girl, accused the then-44 film director of forced sexual intercourse and sodomy.  After getting generous terms of release during the pretrial procedures, he fled to France in 1978 and has never returned.  A Los Angeles court convicted Polanski in absentia.

Last year, a documentary attempted to spin the case to make Polanski the victim of a judicial conspiracy, rather than the fugitive from justice that he is.  In Salon, Bill Wyman takes aim at the auteurs behind Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired and the Hollywood whitewash of one of their own:

Bad art is supposed to be harmless, but the 2008 film “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,” about the notorious child-sex case against the fugitive director, has become an absolute menace. For months, lawyers for the filmmaker have been maneuvering to get the Los Angeles courts to dismiss Polanski’s 1978 conviction, based on supposed judicial misconduct uncovered in the documentary. On Tuesday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza ruled that if Polanski, who fled on the eve of his sentencing, in March 1978, wanted to challenge his conviction, he could — by coming back and turning himself in. …

Polanski deserves to have any potential legal folderol investigated, of course. But the fact that Espinoza had to state the obvious is testimony to the ways in which the documentary, and much of the media coverage the director has received in recent months, are bizarrely skewed. The film, which has inexplicably gotten all sorts of praise, whitewashes what Polanski did in blatant and subtle fashion — and recent coverage of the case, in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and elsewhere, has in turn accepted the film’s contentions at face value.

For now, the Los Angeles judge has injected a dose of reality into the debate. But “Wanted and Desired” seems to have inserted into the public consciousness the idea that Polanski, an irrepressible European, had been naughty during a colorful time, and that he has been toyed with by a monstrous legal system. Creepy and disturbing, the film does show us a few of the director’s moral warts. But it leaves the strong impression that Polanski was a wronged man, jerked around by a cartoony, publicity-hungry judge to the point where fleeing was his only viable option.

In some ways, it should hardly surprise anyone that the film industry would try to rehabilitate Polanski.  His annual appearances at Cannes always come with the wistful reminder that he cannot travel to the US or practically anywhere else without fear of extradition.  These usually neglect to mention Polanski’s conviction, and also the brutal nature of the crime against a girl who could barely be called adolescent.  Wyman, though, doesn’t spare readers:

Now, that’s one way to portray those two men — and one that Polanski’s current lawyers would prefer. But there’s another way, too: You could show one as a child-sex predator who drugged a 13-year-old girl with quaaludes and champagne; lured her to pose for naked photographs; ignoring her protests, had sex with her; and then anally raped her. …

It’s a drag to include a scene of anal rape of a 13-year-old in your moody documentary about such a Byronic figure, but it’s also fairly relevant.

It’s equally a drag to include the fact that Mumia Abu Jamal shot and killed a Philadelphia policeman into the protests against his execution, but that’s also fairly relevant.  Hollywood has for decades championed the criminals over the victims when its politics coincide with the former rather than the latter.  That explains, for instance, the massively epic biopic that Steven Soderbergh and Benicio del Toro are making about Che Guevara, the murderous revolutionary and terrorist.

But Polanski is more than just a sympathetic figure to Hollywood for his politics.  He was one of their stars, in the advent of independent directors, mentioned in the same breath as people like Scorcese, Frankenheimer, Malick, and others.  Unlike Mumia and Che, Polanski belonged to Hollywood — and Hollywood used its power of propaganda to turn Polanski into the victim, rather than the villain, in this play.

Read all of Wyman’s article; it’s definitely a keeper.


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Comment pages: 1 2

juanito wrote:

[Hollyweird] can have him. After he serves every second of every minute of every hour, of every day of his sentence.

Exactly. Victor Salva, the director of the bizarre Touchstone Pictures teen fantasy Powder, filmed himself in a sex act with a minor cast in his first motion picture (The Clownhouse). He did his time years before it was revealed after the release of Powder that he was a registered sex offender.

Francis Ford Coppola likes Salva a lot — he produced Clownhouse and Salva’s two Jeepers Creepers movies after Salva’s victim urged a boycott of Powder, making him radioactive to Touchstone’s parent company, Walt Disney Pictures.

According to Wikipedia, Jeepers Creepers 3 is expected to be released later this year … on DVD.

L.N. Smithee on February 22, 2009 at 3:10 AM

Every once in a while, you see a full show or at least a short in some larger TV show of Hollywood trying to dispute the Fatty Arbuckle murder. Image!

hawkdriver on February 22, 2009 at 4:03 AM

Every once in a while, you see a full show or at least a short in some larger TV show of Hollywood trying to dispute the Fatty Arbuckle murder. Image!

hawkdriver on February 22, 2009 at 4:03 AM

FWIW, after two mistrials, Arbuckle was acquitted in a third trial of murder charges.

RickZ on February 22, 2009 at 5:44 AM

RickZ on February 22, 2009 at 5:44 AM

I know. I guess it just amazes me that they feel compelled even after all this time to try to whitewash the image of it all.

hawkdriver on February 22, 2009 at 10:07 AM

So Hollywood is trying to clean the image of one of their own. At least he didn’t kill the girl, unlike Ted Kennedy when his mistress became inconvenient. Hollywood loves his ass too.

darktood on February 22, 2009 at 10:26 AM

Starting with Gary Dodson and going through Kobe and the Duke rape fiasco I am a lot less likely to judge a man guilty of sexual assault based on the testimony of one girl. Polanski may be guilty but if he isn’t I do not blame him from not wanting to subject himself to the tender mercies of the US judicial system. Too many men have been freed in the past 20 years from serving decades for rape.

Bill C on February 22, 2009 at 10:39 AM

Every once in a while, you see a full show or at least a short in some larger TV show of Hollywood trying to dispute the Fatty Arbuckle murder. Image!

hawkdriver on February 22, 2009 at 4:03 AM

Arbuckle was never convicted of murder. Both the original jury and the retrial jury hung.

Polanski, on the other hand…

unclesmrgol on February 22, 2009 at 1:36 PM

Thanks for providing the NAMBLA perspective, douche.

Cute ad hominem.

Thank you for sharing.

Ares on February 22, 2009 at 3:08 PM

Where’s all the vitriol for the sanctified pedophile Catholic priesthood?

Ares on February 22, 2009 at 3:11 PM

Paula Sex-With-Kids Reckless-Endangerment Poundstone is getting a pass with the leftist media/entertainment world. She’s a regular on NPR (our tax dollars at work).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paula_Poundstone

jgapinoy on February 22, 2009 at 6:25 PM

Ares@ 3:11pm:

Certainly glad to know you’re not trying to take us all off topic… Let’s see…

Polanski = Catholic priest. Nope. I. know not so.

Polanski = Hollyweird High Priest of drug cocktailing a 13 year old and anally sexually molesting her.

Bingo! Found the connection! Phew!

marybel on February 22, 2009 at 8:39 PM

Where’s all the vitriol for the sanctified pedophile Catholic priesthood?

Ares on February 22, 2009 at 3:11 PM

When there’s an attempt to say that molesting priests are OK, you’ll have a cogent point. Otherwise, I don’t see a correlation, other than a cheap attempt at moral equivalence.

ddrintn on February 22, 2009 at 10:11 PM

It is hard to imagine anyone taking a child rapist seriously…any girl 13-15, taken by an adult male is rape, and the most insidious kind.
But we tend to give politicians, actors, athletes, religious leaders, leeway in whatever they want to do, to whomever…sick, sick, sick.
If a major religion’s founder was a child rapist and he is honored, why wouldn’t an actor be so honored?
If you are “in love” with a persona, they can do anything…

right2bright on February 23, 2009 at 9:57 AM

When there’s an attempt to say that molesting priests are OK, you’ll have a cogent point. Otherwise, I don’t see a correlation, other than a cheap attempt at moral equivalence.

ddrintn on February 22, 2009 at 10:11 PM

There was an “OK”. Cardinal Mahoney never (until he was caught) punished the rapists, he just moved them around the country from one area to the next. The Cardinal in Boston did the same…they protected the priests, and fought the victims.

right2bright on February 23, 2009 at 10:00 AM

Bingo! Found the connection! Phew!

marybel on February 22, 2009 at 8:39 PM

Here’s the connection, you can justify anything if you are enthralled with the person or the position of the leader.
Let me give you five examples:
Multitude of NBA players (Kobe being one)
Cardinals (as mentioned above)
Joseph Smith (two child brides)
Polanski
And the guy who “honor” killed his two daughters (Muslim’s extremists)
All of them supported by their “followers”, and all defended, sometimes to their death.
Get the connection now? Justification includes rapists and murderers. And hardly a peep.
Why, there are even people who think Polanski is an isolated case, and can’t make a connection between him and other “cult” followers…imagine.

right2bright on February 23, 2009 at 10:05 AM

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