Roman Polanski, the director, who also doubles up as the notorious sex offender, has resurfaced in the media. Polanski’s desire for his 1977 case to be settled in his absence so he may return to the United States was refused by a Los Angeles County judge yesterday. According to the New York Times, Judge Scott M. Gordon stated, “There is no significant or compelling grounds for reconsideration of these matters.”
Let’s recap: Roman Polanski was arrested and charged with the rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977. He pleaded guilty to statutory rape but not to other criminal counts, and was sentenced to 42 days in prison before being released on probation as part of an apparent plea bargain. Polanski fled the nation to Paris after hearing a rumor that the judge planned to reject the plea deal and sentence him to 50 years in prison. Polanski has been out of the United States since then in order to escape being sentenced, instead of living and working in Europe.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, Polanski’s career did not suffer as a result of his admission to raping a kid. He went on to direct over a dozen films and receive over a dozen Academy Award nominations, including a Best Director win in 2003. Polanski’s case, like Woody Allen’s, demonstrates how little Hollywood cares about charges of sexual assault against prominent white males.
When it was brought up in the mainstream media, it was discovered that most people under the age of 22 had no recollection of what happened, so let’s go back eight years. Polanski was arrested in Switzerland in September 2009 at the request of US authorities, and a petition demanding his release was signed by over 100 people in the film business. (Polanski was imprisoned for two months before being placed under house arrest; in July 2010, Swiss authorities rejected the US’s extradition request and released Polanski.) Celebrities with progressive beliefs were among those named, as were several who speak out against sexism and sexual assault in other contexts.
Tilda Swinton, Isabelle Huppert, Penelope Cruz, Diane von Furstenberg, Wes Anderson, Darren Aronofsky, Martin Scorsese, Monica Bellucci, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Harmony Korine, Ethan Cohen, David Lynch, and Harrison Ford are among those who have signed the petition. (Woody Allen, too, but who’s surprised?)
Emma Thompson signed the petition at first, but after speaking with Caitlin Hayward-Tapp, a 19-year-old college student and activist, she asked for her name to be deleted.
Kate Harding, who went on to write the book Asking For It: The Alarming Rise Of Rape Culture — And What We Can Do About It, wrote an essay about the petition in 2009:
Roman Polanski raped a child. Let’s just start right there, because that’s the detail that tends to get neglected when we start discussing whether it was fair for the bail-jumping director to be arrested at age 76, after 32 years in “exile” (which in this case means owning multiple homes in Europe, continuing to work as a director, marrying and fathering two children, even winning an Oscar, but never — poor baby — being able to return to the U.S.). Let’s keep in mind that Roman Polanski gave a 13-year-old girl a Quaalude and champagne, then raped her, before we start discussing whether the victim looked older than her 13 years, or that she now says she’d rather not see him prosecuted because she can’t stand the media attention. Before we discuss how awesome his movies are or what the now-deceased judge did wrong at his trial, let’s take a moment to recall that according to the victim’s grand jury testimony, Roman Polanski instructed her to get into a jacuzzi naked, refused to take her home when she begged to go, began kissing her even though she said no and asked him to stop; performed cunnilingus on her as she said no and asked him to stop; put his penis in her vagina as she said no and asked him to stop; asked if he could penetrate her anally, to which she replied, “No,” then went ahead and did it anyway, until he had an orgasm.
Can we do that? Can we take a moment to think about all that, and about the fact that Polanski pled guilty to unlawful sex with a minor, before we start talking about what a victim he is? Because that would be great, and not nearly enough people seem to be doing it.
However, it seems like Natalie Portman is among the few celebrities who ‘regrets’ her decision of signing the petition for Polanski, others being Asia Argento, Wes Anderson, Pedro Almodovar, Penelope Cruz, and so on.
Despite the ongoing push to expose abuse and misbehavior in the film industry and other industries, Polanski is still regarded as one of the most important auteurs of his generation in Hollywood.