Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Polanski, Abbott and the liberal elite



If you concentrated the Roman Polanski debacle, condensed its duration and added a vial or two of innocent blood, you'd end up on the Jack Abbott square.

Abbott was a lifetime criminal who started a correspondence with Norman Mailer from prison in the late 1970s. Mailer became enchanted by Abbott's writing and successfully supported his parole efforts. There was a Random House book, In the Belly of the Beast, and a flurry of literati adoration for Abbott. He was granted parole in 1981.

Six weeks later, he stabbed Richard Adan to death when the 22-year-old waiter told Abbott the cafe's bathroom was not for public use.

Abbott was convicted for murder and returned to prison. He committed suicide in 2002. Here is the Wiki write-up on Abbott. Here's an unabridged version (recommended) by Mark Gado.

So here comes Roman Polanski who allegedly drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl, also in the late 1970s. Back then Polanski admitted to having sex with the girl, then fled the country. Now after his Sept. 27, 2009 arrest in Switzerland, he's ready to fight extradition and sentencing.

As I read over comments from Polanski supporters about how he was a "brilliant guy" who made a "little mistake" 32 years ago, all I could think of was Norman Mailer and all the others that swarmed around Abbott, citing his gift for writing as if it erased his crimes. That's one set of elite liberals you won't count me among.

You want to see a prejudicial Erin? Show me a 50-year-old man with a 25-year-old wife/girlfriend who looks like she's 14. That's when I pull my daughter aside and whisper in her ear: no hugs for him. Now think how patently girlish Mia Farrow was in Polanski's 1968 effort Rosemary's Baby.

Polanski's victim does not wish to see his extradition pursued;
and I doubt Polanski will so much as blink at a minor girl ever again. Nonetheless, when a well-heeled sliver of the artistic community imparts largesse on someone like Polanski because he has money and talent, it sours me to the core.

25 comments:

Higgy Piggie said...

Erin, you are my new girl crush. Can I follow you like a puppy for a bit?

Sean Craven said...

This is an issue that I always find troubling. Unfortunately, many great artists (and I haven't seen any Polanski, so I have no idea what the quality of his work is) have had unsettling personal lives.

I mean, Poe and Carroll are as important to me as any writers, but the contemplation of their personal lives is not pleasant. Why should I accept their work and reject that of Polanski and Nabokov? Probably because I was exposed to Alice and The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym before I knew about the personal history of the creators. Is this hypocrisy on my part?

There are a lot of artists whose work I value whose persons I would be forced to condemn were I in a position of judgment.

During their lives, people should be held responsible for their actions no matter what sort of special bunny they may be -- but is there a point where one can disassociate the work from the creator?

I haven't answered this to my satisfaction -- so I enjoy the art I love, and gag a little on its taint.

LimesNow said...

I tend to be liberal and am drawn to other liberals. The problem part in the cases you point to is that "elite" business.

I won't wax as eloquently as Sean Craven above (beautifully stated thoughts, Sean!). I will state it simply, as I see it: no matter how many millions of good deeds or brilliant performances we put on in life, we also have to own our really wrong acts.

I can't condone the acts of murderers OR pedophiles. Some things are just wrong altogether. Write a good book and commit a murder - OK, wear both of those things. Direct some fine movies, but you're a closet pedophile who acts upon your impulses? Enjoy the acclamation and except to pay the consequences.

dean said...

You seem to take a different position on Michael Jackson, Erin my dear.

As Sean says, this is a troubling question. Does the personal life of the artist diminish the value of the art? In my opinion, it doesn't.

But that's not really what we're talking about. What we're really discussing is whether an artist's contributions to society are sufficient to excuse his (or her) transgressions. In the case of Polanski, you say no. But in the case of Jackson, you say yes.

I stand firmly on no. Roman Polanski should not get away with a serious crime, no matter how long ago or how consensual it was, because if he didn't know how serious a crime it was, he ought to have. Roman Polanski is a criminal, and he should be treated as such.

Geoff Schutt said...

If an artist creates a work that is embraced and loved by an audience, the audience then takes on ownership of the art. The artist and his or her art are separated. The art can exist on its own merits, much the same as the artist exists -- on the merits of a life lived. In many instances, we remember beloved characters or books or films from our childhood, for example, and have a difficult time if asked who was the creator, author or director. Art that moves us needs to be separated from the artist. Perhaps in some cases we can learn more about the art by knowing the artist's story, but the simple fact is, good art is good art, and it's entirely subjective at that.

What isn't subjective is how the artist lives: the choices made, the successes, the mistakes ... and yes, the crime(s) committed, as in Polanski's case, and certainly Jack Abbott.

Thanks for sharing your commentary, Erin, along with the links.

dean said...

Direct some fine movies, but you're a closet pedophile who acts upon your impulses?

There is no evidence, as far as I am aware, that Polanski is a pedophile, ie that he is attracted to sexually immature females. He pled guilty to unlawful sex with a minor, which is not the same thing at all. Back then, it was called statuatory rape, and it was (and still is, in many jurisdictions) a serious crime.

Polanski is a criminal. No need to tag him with the inaccurate pedophile tag.

LimesNow said...

OK, upon reflection, I'll stand corrected. I popped that one out from emotion, not logical thought. You're right.

hoosierboy said...

Amen Erin.

Here is another excellent editorial that states it far better than I ever could:

http://www.salon.com/mwt/broadsheet/feature/2009/09/28/polanski_arrest/

I wonder, those who want to excuse Polanski based on his body of work, were they also in favor of excusing the Catholic Clergy that didddled young members of the congregation? After all, many did great good and Godly work after the fact?

VideoDude said...

Years ago a man with the professional name of "Gary Glitter" produced a song called "Rock and Roll parts 1 & 2". In 1997 he was arested in the UK for Child pornagraphy. After his release from prison he moved to Vietnam and was arrested in 2005 for child molestation. His song "Rock And Roll Parts 1 & 2" is still played at High School Football ganmes. Even though the NFL banned the song years ago. Everytime I hear it, I get disgusted.

(S)wine said...

yea, you won't find me supporting him on this one. at this point, the victim is saying the courts are doing more damage than he did to her, but i think time should be served, or something needs to be done. you don't just give booze and quaaludes to a 13 yr. old and fuck her up the ass then get away with it because you're a director. and by the way, i am the only one, it seems, to think this but: come the fuck on. his movies are brilliant? seriously? just for THAT he ought to get pinched. Polanski's films are, overall, average. in my not so humble opinion.

Erin O'Brien said...

ARGH! No time to comment on all these great comments!

But Dean, two BIG differences: Jacko denied all those charges and was acquitted of them. I may be wrong (many certainly disagree with me on this), but I never believed he molested those kids.

In any event, I stand by what I said in in this post regarding Jacko.

Erin O'Brien said...

One more thing that's undoubtedly going to irritate somebody: Statutory rape between an 18-year-old man and a 13-year-old girl looks different to me than statutory rape between a 43-year-old man and a 13-year-old girl.

I'm not saying that it should look different in the eyes of prevailing law, but it looks different to me.

Ken Houghton said...

"I doubt Polanski will so much as blink at a minor girl ever again."

I'll take that bet in size. "Nasty Kinky" was 15.

So to dean ("Polanski is a criminal. No need to tag him with the inaccurate pedophile tag.") I can only say: "Horeshit."

dean said...

So to dean ("Polanski is a criminal. No need to tag him with the inaccurate pedophile tag.") I can only say: "Horeshit."

You DO know what the definition of a pedophile is, don't you?

Dudesworthy said...

One more thing that's undoubtedly going to irritate somebody: Statutory rape between an 18-year-old man and a 13-year-old girl looks different to me than statutory rape between a 43-year-old man and a 13-year-old girl.

I'm not saying that it should look different in the eyes of prevailing law, but it looks different to me.


I thought that this was an interesting comment because it gets to the heart of this issue. It does look different and in that same way, allegations of rape against a cultured artist look different from similar allegations an illiterate thug but as our laws strive for justice and not fairness, both must be treated equally.

Justice relies upon consistency; if Polanski is given special treatment based upon his work then that will set a legal precedent which is almost certainly undesirable.

Norrin2 said...

Can I still like Woody Allen?

Erin O'Brien said...

You decide, Norrin2: Dig this.

I don't think that's going to help Polanski's case much.

Big Mark 243 said...

Man ... sometimes Erin you really get people to doin' some goat thinkin'.

Someone alluded to Michael Jackson ... after the Dateline special I watch, I don't think that he ever did anything with anyone, and yest he was as big a victim as he appeared at times.

Polanski's case goes to show that if you have the right friends who are willing to go to bat for you, you can get away with pretty much anything.

The same kind of janky legal mechanics put OJ in jail ... now they have finally caught up to RP ... big whoop. He is GETTING what he deserves. No different than the Nazi Hunters coming to get someone.

hoosierboy said...

We can not forget two facts (both stated by Erin):

She was thirteen

He admitted his guilt

Erin O'Brien said...

The other reason I don't think this is like the Jacko situation is that people were at odds about whether or not Jacko molested those kids, but I don't recall ANYBODY saying that he should be exonerated even if he did molest them just because he was a big pop star.

The "support" contingent I'm bellyaching about in this post is saying just that: Yeah, okay, sure, Polanski had sex with a 13-year-old a long time ago, BUT he's an important cultural icon/director and shouldn't be help culpable.

I'm not digging their argument no matter how you offer it up to me.

LimesNow said...

Culpable. Without question.

dean said...

BUT he's an important cultural icon/director and shouldn't be help culpable

I've read a bit on this now, and that doesn't seem to be the argument. The argument is that he's suffered enough. It is the argument put forth by the victim in this case.

I disagree with that argument.

Erin O'Brien said...

Here's the type of "support" I'm referring to Dean (from this link):

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner called the arrest "sinister," adding: "A man of such talent, recognized in the entire world, recognized especially in the country that arrested him — all this just isn't nice."

To many here, the slap of American justice seemed particularly sharp as the arrest came as Polanski was entering Switzerland to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Zurich Film Festival.

French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand said, "To see him like that, thrown to the lions because of ancient history, really doesn't make any sense."

Mitterrand continued with a jab against the United States: "In the same way that there is a generous America that we like, there is also a scary America that has just shown its face."


This is also eye-rolling material to me:

At least one jury member, producer Henning Molfenter, has now boycotted the festival, with others expected to follow suit. "There is no way I'd go to Switzerland now. You can't watch films knowing Roman Polanski is sitting in a cell 5km away," he told the Hollywood Reporter.

When all this happened, I was 12 myself and never really understood. Now having read what happened back then, I think Polanski has exhibited unabashed arrogance all these years.

Is 32 years a long time? Sure as hell is, just ask John Demjanjuk.

(S)wine said...

makes sense Harvey Weinstein and the Hollywood contingent comes out and supports him. I've said this for decades: FUCK HOLLYWOOD! It churns out some of the most sub-par piece of shit product ever recorded on celluloid, then charges us a day's paycheck to watch it. Fuck that shit. Support true indie film and music.

Anonymous said...

A fertile topic for discussion and some fine comments. As for me I'm "Going Rogue." To quote Cheech and Chong..."Baliff, whack his peepee."
Then give it to Mackenzie Phillips and put Pete Rose in The Hall of Fame.
It's unfortunate that the American fascination with Celebrity can be attributed to the liberal elite. It seems to me that is the same device used to assign all unholy behavior to the godless liberals.

RJ