In order to completely understand the perverse nature of Hollywood’s almost-total support for director Roman Polanski in his effort to fight extradition and avoid the consequences of his conviction for statutory rape 32 years ago, recall their attitude towards another seminal director ten years ago. When the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) announced that they would give a lifetime achievement Oscar to Elia Kazan, many in Hollywood erupted in anger and protest. After all, Kazan had committed the unpardonable sin of naming names of Communists in Hollywood to the House Un-American Activities Committee.
The Los Angeles Times reported at the time from the awards ceremony about the protests:
Hollywood still isn’t sure whether it’s ready to forgive Elia Kazan. In an appearance that was considerably less dramatic than the controversy leading up to Sunday’s Academy Awards, the 89-year film titan received a mixed reaction as he took the stage to receive his honorary Oscar at the 71st annual Academy Awards ceremony.
Demonstrators had noisily protested the acclaimed director’s lifetime achievement award outside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion earlier in the day, urging Oscar-goers to sit on their hands during Kazan’s appearance. According to eyewitnesses at the ceremony, many in the audience stood and applauded, but an almost equal number stayed seated and did not applaud. …
Television cameras caught Warren Beatty, Helen Hunt and Meryl Streep standing and applauding. Steven Spielberg remained seated, although he applauded; actors Nick Nolte, Ed Harris and Amy Madigan made a point of staying in their seats and not applauding. …
About 500 protesters gathered outside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Sunday afternoon, armed with placards adorned with such slogans as “Elia Kazan: Nominated for the Benedict Arnold Award,” “Don’t Whitewash the Blacklist” and “Kazan–the Linda Tripp of the ’50s.”
The clip of the award can be seen here, complete with the notorious glares coming from actors Ed Harris and Amy Madigan, both of whom were toddlers when Kazan testified to HUAC. Forty-seven years after Kazan’s decision, hundreds of his colleagues still shunned him for his actions at HUAC. And for what? Having made an arguably misguided decision* to blow the whistle on Communist activities that Kazan believed to be a threat to the adopted nation that he loved.
I have no idea on whether Harris or Madigan have specifically expressed support or criticism for Polanski, but their colleagues have almost in unison erupted in demands for forgiveness for the fugitive, arguing that 32 years is too long to hold a grudge and that an old man should be allowed to live his remaining years in peace, honored as an artist. And what are we to forgive? The rape and sodomy of a 13-year-old girl, whom Polanski drugged first.
Acting to protect the country from a perceived threat: lifetime shunning.
Drugging, raping, and sodomizing a 13-year-old girl: Forgiveness and hero worship.
That’s one seriously perverted sense of values.
Addendum: I know that some will object to “arguably misguided” from both directions, but I think Kazan chose poorly and that the HUAC effort was a Constitutional affront. The First Amendment guarantees the right of political speech and thought, and membership in the Communist Party then and now should not have been an issue on which anyone needed to testify under oath to Congress. I understand that the Cold War was in its most fraught stage and that times were different, but the Constitution applies at all times, or it doesn’t apply at all.
I’d also like to point out that most of the Left and Right agree on Polanski, which I find very encouraging. You won’t find too many issues on which Kathy Kattenburg, my friend Michael Stickings, and me see eye to eye. With the exception of the celebrity wing at the HuffPo, we have a broad consensus that Polanski needs to face justice.
Update: The Village Voice has a satire that is not to be missed:
Use your sense memory, people. It was a different time — the heady days of 1970s Hollywood — and, as the great Stanislavski said in his seminal work, “Building a Character,” there is truth-truth and then there is artistic-truth. Rape is life!
Maybe you don’t know that Roman Polanski is a Holocaust survivor. And that his wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by the Manson family. If you knew that, you would probably feel bad for him, and forgive him for raping a child. Why DO bad things happen to good people? It’s weird.
Maybe you don’t know that Roman Polanski is not just a filmmaker, but a really really good filmmaker. And certainly you don’t know that he was on his way to a film festival when apprehended. And you must not know that film festivals are historically sacred ground, havens of pure cinema where people buy and sell everything but their souls remain intact.
Maybe you aren’t aware — and really, thanks to author Robert Harris for pointing this out in today’s New York Times –that “Mr. Polanski’s own young children, to whom he is a doting father, want him home. ” If you had known that, surely you would have forgiven him by now. If he’s not around to raise his kids, who would prevent them from getting raped by good people?
Ouch. What would Anne Applebaum think? (h/t HA reader Tommy)