Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What Does Rape Look Like?

Both Salon and Newsweek have articles simply called, Roman Polanski Raped A Child. Newsweek has additional facts on the case.

But you saw a documentary called Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired and know totally everything that happened in the case now, right, and it's totally wrong how he's been treated? Before you believe everything you watch, read Salon's story on Whitewashing Roman Polanski. And the recent allegations that one of the people in the documentary lied: LA Times, Retired prosecutor says he lied in HBO documentary about Roman Polanski case.

Why not read the actual documents from the case? The Smoking Gun has the documents. There have been quotes from this in many articles, including the Salon and Newsweek articles. Such as, the thirteen year old said no. No. No. I want to go home. No.

Those articles say most of what I would say. I'll just add three thoughts.

Polanski served 42 days. Robert Downey, Jr, spent more time in prison for drug charges -- where no one but Downey was hurt -- than Polanski did for his actions. Polanski has two consequences he has to face in the courtroom: first, the sentence for his guilty plea. Second, his sentence for fleeing the country. It's not just the plea he has to face. Paris Hilton got 23 days for her victimless crimes; shouldn't Polanski serve at least that for fleeing? Especially since if Polanski hadn't run away, his victim would not now be held up to abuse and slut-shaming by Hollywood. The consequences of his flight include the increased, continuing trauma and attacks against her.

There are no monsters. No demons. There are people who do monstrous things; horrible things, yet at the same time, produce great works of art, help at the Church or Temple, act loving to people in their lives. These "good" people can do horrible things. Let's not call them monsters; because when we see this as anything less than complex, if we insist on calling Polanski a monster -- and he is not a monster -- then people believe that only monsters do monstrous things. They become the people calling for Polanski to not be punished, under their belief that he cannot be a monster because he doesn't look like nor act like a monster. And it makes it that much harder for rape victims. Because when the alleged attacker doesn't look like a monster, the victim must be telling lies, right?

I believe as strongly as ever that we must separate the art from the artist. Will I stop enjoying films by or with Martin Scorsese or David Lynch? No. As for Polanski -- like Woody Allen, I won't pay to see his films in a theatre or buy his DVDs, but I will watch if its on TV or rent or borrow the DVDs. (And I find it interesting that so far Anjelica Huston, whose 1970s statements about the teenager appall me, has remained silent). I love pop culture, TV, movies, actors, authors  -- but I loathe the cult of celebrity, where what celebrities say is given more value solely because of their star status. I'll continue to judge the art by the art; not by the artist who created it.

Edited to add:  I'm not the only one who is angry. And mad. Colleen at Chasing Ray ties together book banning, violence, teenagers, Polanski, media reports: "Meanwhile one can't help but notice that as this renewed urge to "protect the children" has brought challenges and banning, we have ample evidence that such protection only extends to children not attacked by rich or famous people." And "But we seek to save children by telling them not to read about these things? Don't read about teenagers doing the things that teenagers are doing. Make those teenagers - the ones who do those things - someone different, someone far away, someone who - maybe - deserved it." Go, read the whole thing before I cut and paste it all here.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy


annie said...

very, very, very well said. thank you.

Steve Brezenoff said...

Thank you for posting this. Your justified anger is satisfying to read. Really well said.

susan said...


That people still work with and watch Allen's movies is appalling to me.

As for Polanski, I don't know what to say. How do you defend a man who raped a child. She could offered him sex and it would still be rape.

Women are raped and killed and the culprit often walks away or does little time. A criminal gets more time for theft than for abusing a woman.

Katrina Stonoff said...

I don't care if she said, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" She was 13. He was 43. It was rape.

And I agree that he should serve time, significant time.

Liz B said...

Annie & Steve, thanks!

Susan, I agree. Every time I see an actor I like in a Woody Allen film, I think a little less of them. What ultimately works for me is separting the person from their work. This is also why I hate any type of celebrity endorsements or political positions. But that is another rant.

Katrina, I commented on this at Chasing Ray. Even if we go with the statutory rape argument (ie his defenders who say that his plea deal negates her allegations and shifts this to a "yes but oops 13" situation), WHY does no one ask, What is wrong with a 40 year old who has sex with a 13 year old? Instead, they say, "look at the slut who had sex with a 40 year old." This isn't Don Johnson/Melanie Griffith (much closer in age, long relationship) or Brad Pitt/Juliette Lewis (she was of age, tho young). Yet I think that is what the defenders think. I don't know. She was 13; he was 40. I cannot see any type of true consent in that situation. And I don't understand why he is viewed as having done nothing wrong. And she is.

Colleen said...

He's famous and talented and she's...she's invisible.

That's what it's all about - which is what makes me even sicker.

Liz B said...

Yes. And it's why he gets excused, forgiven, its in the past, and if he was Bob in flyover state he wouldn't get all this. Or, as others have pointed out, if he was Father Polanski or Rabbi Polanski people would not be signing positions.

And its why she doesn't count. My mini obsession with this has kept me watching who officially sides with him.

Allison Arngrim has been incredibly vocal against what is going on, and you should follow her on Twitter. Jack Nicholson and Angelica Huston are silent (I wonder if she now realizes "sullen" was drugged, drunk and raped). A handful of people are saying "um, child?" But only a handful.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post! So very well-articulated. I appreciate all the bloggers who have taken a vocal stance about Polanski and what he did.