Friday, July 18, 2008

Roman Polanski & injustice (by Suzie)

          Opening in theaters today is a documentary on the rape case against the director Roman Polanski. Thirty years ago, he was accused of rape, sodomy and giving alcohol and drugs to a 13-year-old. He pleaded innocent, but after evidence was found, he agreed to plead guilty to having sex with Samantha (Gailey) Geimer, in exchange for the dropping of other charges.
          Polanski, then 43, maintained the sex was consensual. Geimer said she told him no repeatedly. But even if she had said yes, Polanski knew she was under the influence of drugs and alcohol. She had come to him to be photographed, and he manipulated her into taking off more and more clothing.
         He accused her mother of setting him up to be blackmailed. People continue to question the mother, as did this writer for the Denver Post. On an HBO forum, Geimer has spelled out the facts and asked people to stop blaming her mother.
         If you view all men as potential rapists, you’re labeled a man-hater. But if you don’t foresee a renowned, middle-aged director raping your 13-year-old, then you’re at fault, apparently.
          The Denver critic calls the film “a study of the effect of childhood tragedy on shaping personality,” but she’s referring to Polanski’s early life, not what happened to Geimer. (In addition to the rape, she had to deal with taunting at school and a media circus.)
           The director of “Wanted and Desired,” Marina Zenovich, says in an interview that she sees Polanski as “very human. … He’s not like — I can’t think of the male equivalent of Britney Spears.” That’s because there’s isn’t one. Lots of men in the entertainment world drink, do drugs, and sleep around, and the media doesn’t caricature them.
          About Polanski, Zenovich also says:
It’s not anybody else’s fault but his own, but I always come back to, 'How long do you have to pay for the crime?' He went through the system. He ended up fleeing because of what Judge Rittenband did. It’s very black and white. 
          If Polanski hadn’t raped a child, he would never have come before the judge. It would be more accurate to say the judge was going to throw out the plea deal, and Polanski fled because he didn’t want to go back to prison. He rejected “the system,” which includes an appeals process. He had the money and fame to make a good life for himself in France. 
          What would the sentence have been for an indigent man who raped a 13-year-old? What if he had a history with girls? (In Europe, Polanski had a relationship with Nastassia Kinski at age 15.)
          Like others, this article talks about Europe being less Puritanical than the U.S. What writers mean is that it’s more acceptable for men to have sex with teenagers. Perhaps so, but in France, the age of consent is 15, and Geimer was 13.
          This article, again like others, talks about “cultural attitudes toward age of consent laws,” ignoring the fact that Geimer said she didn’t consent.
          Women and girls pay a price for rape, the possibility of rape, and sexual harassment, a form of discrimination. I’d like Polanski to keep “paying” – whatever that means in his case – at least until he says he was wrong to rape a 13-year-old and then shift the blame to her and her mother.