Roman Polanski is Not a Victim

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Enough already. The Global Committee to Defend Roman Polanski is shocked and appalled by the arrest of their talented friend in Switzerland over the weekend. This quote from our colleague Bruce Crumley’s report from France provides a flavor of the outrage:

“To see him thrown to the lions and put in prison because of ancient history — and as he was traveling to an event honoring him — is absolutely horrifying,” French Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterrand said after Polanski was arrested upon arrival in Switzerland to attend the Zurich Film Festival, where he was to receive a lifetime achievement award. “There’s an America we love and an America that scares us, and it’s that latter America that has just shown us its face.”

Hmm. Dramatic much? You know what is actually horrifying? Raping a child. And then having all your friends rally to your defense because you’re such an awesome director and the girl looked older–and “sullen,” said Anjelica Huston at the time–and her mother was pushy (this has to be the first recorded instance of the “her mother wanted it” argument).

Because while all of the reports continue to describe Polanski’s crime as “unlawful sex” with a 13-year-old girl, it wasn’t just her age that made it unlawful. It was the fact that the sex was unwanted, that she repeatedly said “no” throughout the assault, for which she was also drugged. Unwanted sex, also known as rape.

Polanski’s supporters have marshaled a lot of irritating arguments in the past 48 hours–and Kate Harding presents the best, most comprehensive rebuttal of them on Salon. The one that has gnawed at me the most is the idea that times have changed, that Polanski’s crime doesn’t seem so bad now that we look back with the benefit of hindsight, that he in fact is the persecuted victim of outdated, prudish views about morality. Here again from Crumley’s report is Ted Stanger, who writes about differences between Americans and Europeans, explaining this perception:

To the French mind, this has made Polanski a combination of Oscar Wilde and Alfred Dreyfus — the victim of systematic persecution.

Except that Wilde was persecuted for being gay and Dreyfus was persecuted for being Jewish. In the western world, at least, it’s no longer acceptable to target someone for his sexual orientation or his religious faith. In 2009, just as it was in 1977, however, it is still considered a bad thing to rape a child. And so it will be 30 years from now and 60 years from now. At least, I dearly hope so.