Bring him back



A change of pace today: Roman Polanski.

Bring him back, play it out in court. And, if the court deems fit, lock him up.

Like so many other cinema devotees, I love the guy's movies. Chinatown is classic film noir, Rosemary's Baby is top-notch paranoia, The Pianist is both terrifying and inspiring. I can't disagree with the European artists' petition that hails Polanski as "one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers."

But since when should great artistry protect a rapist from the consequences of his crimes?

If some 44-year-old Joe Average fed booze and a quaalude to a 13-year-old girl, then proceeded to rape and sodomize the girl, then pled guilty in a court of law to "unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor," then fled the country to avoid sentencing (thus becoming a fugitive from justice for 32 years), would anybody break a sweat trying to get the guy off? Nor would we want anybody to try - given the severity of rape, especially in cases involving a minor. 

Polanski's well-heeled fans in Hollywood and Europe are embarrassing themselves. They're giving liberalism a bad name. Whoopi Goldberg says she doesn't believe that "a rape rape" ever really occurred. Harvey Weinstein, one of the moguls, refers to Polanski's "so-called crime." A hundred European artists have signed a statement declaring that locking up Polanski is "inadmissable." Even Woody Allen has signed a protest petition - which makes perfect sense, since he can easily empathize with a grown man who gravitates to a girl many decades younger.

We also have the British novelist Robert Harris, who writes in The New York Times that he is outraged by Polanski's arrest. Buried deep in his guest column, he does admit that "of course what happened cannot be excused, either legally and morally," but his main emphasis, at the top of the column, is that he and Polanski are good friends and "I have never collaborated with anyone more closely." The latter remark is what matters most. Harris and Polanski have a movie coming out in a few months, an adaptation of Harris' novel The Ghost. His big concern is that Polanski's arrest and potential extradition will imperil the box office prospects for his movie.

And we also have the leader of the Polish Filmmakers Association, who insists that Polanski is now being persecuted, that in fact Polanski has already "atoned for the sins of his young years." How exactly has he atoned? Has Polanski, during his 32 years of European exile, volunteered to spend so much as a day in a rape crisis center, or to work at all on issues of child sexual abuse? There's no such evidence; on the contrary, Polanski in the past has stated that, with respect to the rape, "no one got hurt."

All too often, as we know, the well-heeled and well-connected get off too easy; the banks screw up and get bailouts, and the insurance companies that make life miserable for sick people will surely wind up reaping a windfall from health care reform. Their voices typically dominate, drowning out those who lack clout and connections - much the way Polanski's supportive chorus sings of his supposed martyrdom.

But as the case for extradition proceeds, one small voice should be kept in mind. It belongs to the girl he raped. As she testified at the time, "I said (to Polanski), 'No, no. I don't want to go in there. No, I don't want to do this. No!' And then I didn't know what else to do. We were alone and I didn’t know what else would happen if I made a scene. So I was just scared."

Weighed against that, celebrity is no defense.