Monday, May 3, 2010

Can Polanski be Forgiven?

The whole Roman Polanski controversy just makes me tired all over. It's the kind of morally complicated issue that frustrates a lot of people and makes them want to simplify it; reduce it to a right or wrong kind of thing in order to not consider the complexity it presents.

Recently, Polanski released a statement about the LA District Attorney's attempt to extradite him from Switzerland. It is a largely self-serving document, but then it's perfectly natural that it would be. If you feel you are being persecuted by people who only are after to you capitalize on your fame and enlarge their professional standing, then you are going to look out for yourself pretty strongly, wouldn't you say?

Here's the thing; he's not entirely wrong. I'm not saying Polanski isn't guilty of a crime. He is. A serious one. And the breadth of his talent as a film maker and artist in no way justifies any leniency. And he's guilty. Even Polanksi has never denied that. He is guilty of raping an 13 year old girl. And it's not the "not really rape" you're thinking of, Whoopi Goldberg. He gave a teenager booze and drugs and then raped her. Yeah, he didn't jump out of the bushes with mask on and knock her to the ground, but rape is rape.

But Polanski isn't wrong, because, from the second he was arrested, his case became about punishing a permissive society (Hollywood) for having the temerity to flaunt the laws of decent people. And it also became about a judge making a name for himself by sending a big-shot Hollywood director to prison. People wanted to see him sent to jail not just because he was guilty, but also because they were sick of hearing about movie stars doing drugs and having sex and living life like it had no consequences. Polanski knew this, even during the initial trial. And his suspicions were confirmed, when, after having arranged a plea deal and pleading guilty, the judge then turned around and recommended jail time and deportation.

Now, I'm not saying the Polanski didn't most likely deserve a strong sentence. If it was anyone else, he almost certainly would have gone to jail for years. But the fact of the matter is, his process through the justice system was incredibly biased, culminating in a judge that makes a deal that is agreed to and then reneges and violates the conditions of said deal.

The Hot Blog writer makes a case for throwing the book at Polanski, and I see his point. And I certainly can't fathom the passionate defence people have for him on a personal level. He's a talented man who did a reprehensible thing. But his victim has asked that this whole debacle end, claiming she has forgiven him (And why no one has ever asked her parents what they were thinking letting their 13-year-old daughter go alone to a private photo shoot with Polanski at Jack Nicholson's house is beyond me). The original trial is clearly tainted by judicial, if not misconduct, then at least errors.

This thing is now just a springboard to make the political careers of some attorneys in LA, and do we really believe that putting this sad old man in jail is going to award us any sort of moral victory? After a trial built on compromise and double-dealing? Does the justice system truly think it claims the high road, here? We screwed up. We had our chance to fairly and justly convict and sentence a man who committed a crime. Certainly if a man feels that the justice system has lied to him and wants to put him away for its own reasons that have little to do with actual justice, should we be that surprised when that man feels he has to run? Guilty or not, would we do any different?

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