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September 27, 2009


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r woods

Also, I agree strongly with djw. I honestly don't know why so many people are wasting their breath defending Polanski, either directly or obliquely. Yeah, maybe the righteousness of culture warriors is annoying, but if that's the thing that bothers you most about the Roman Polanski saga, I think you need to reassess the situation.


Anyone have any love for "The Ninth Gate"? I think it is time for a
reassessment. And, honestly, Polanski got screwed by the justice system. He did some time in Chino. Not fun. Do we make exceptions for brilliant men? Absolutely. And it's clearly not right. But should I feel guilty for coming down harder on, say, a non-talent like Victor Salva, who videotaped his crimes for his own personal amusement? Only if the morons responsible for posthumously-deifying Michael Jackson(kids in bed, dangling baby, the entirety of "Invincible") cry "Uncle" first. And if Roman Polanski's defenders make you want to roll with Big Hollywood, then any sort of convinctions you had were not deeply held to begin with. Did I mention I liked "The Ninth Gate"? Lena Olin and Emmanuelle Seigner(best move Polanski ever made) in the same movie? Holy mama!

John M

Solid argument, Mike. Your days on the Oxford Debate Team did you good.


Some of us, Mike, can separate our aesthetic judgments from our ethical and political ones. (I thought he richly deserved his Oscar for The Pianist AND he probably belongs in jail.) And if by "roll with big hollywood" you mean to simply acknowledge that through a very particular and specific concatenation of circumstances, they have (almost entirely inadvertently and extremely clumsily) stumbled into the general vicinity of a defensible position, I don't find it particularly hard to admit that such a thing has occurred. By sheer random chance, it was bound to happen at least once.


Fuck you, you rape-apologist piece of shit. Not just for your defense of Polanski but for the comments I've seen you make elsewhere, deriding the emphasis on Polanski's, you know, having RAPED A CHILD as "pearl-clutching." Yeah, us hysterical bitches, getting all worked up just because some man had to get his rocks off! Fuck you.

Glenn Kenny

@ b.g.: Ben Gazzara? Nah, I think not.

Well, it was nice while it lasted; 60-plus comments without a troll. I'm tempted to lock the thread, but I won't, but I also won't make further comment on the case, at least here. Maybe in my Auteurs' column Friday. But that'll be it.

Tom Carson

Oh, lock it. I'm done, and I like to think I was far from the worst.

Matt W.

I'm not going to take the bait and get angry or exhausted over this post -- I love your blog, Glenn, just as I love the films of Wong-Kar-Wai and many of the other directors who are offering illogical, emotionally charged arguments against the extradition of Polanski . . . but will you fill in the blanks for me here? I teach a class that involves a lot of formal logic, and as best I can tell, this is your argument in a nutshell:

* America -- in particular Texas (the state where I was born, and live, and have done a fair bit of legal volunteer work with a nonprofit capital appeals clinic) -- has a deplorable, disgusting, classist criminal justice system. (I completely accept this premise, by the way, and not just for the sake of argument.)


* A celebrity fugitive and admitted child rapist** who has used his wealth to evade arrest for thirty years should not be arrested and extradited to face punishment.

(**No, not "statutory rapist"; that was the charge he pled guilty to, as part of a plea bargain; the facts of the crime, which are not in controversy, actually support charges of rape and forcible sodomy.)

Glenn, I hope that instead of shouting back to me (or ignoring me), you'll admit that you were in error here. Invoking the lives of the wrongly executed in the course of arguing that a brilliant, fabulously wealthy artist should be immune from punishment for rape is simply wrong. So is stating, falsely, that "nobody is frothing" about the plight of the wrongly accused when in fact many people have dedicated their entire lives to changing America's criminal justice system. That our voices have been drowned out doesn't mean we aren't speaking, or that we don't care.

Finally: believing that capital punishment should be abolished, and that the indigent criminal defense system in this country must be overhauled, is not inconsistent with demanding that a rich and famous person face the same criminal processes that a poor person would face. On the contrary, the opposite argument -- that Polanski is special, because he had the resources to flee punishment for thirty years -- is hopelessly inconsistent. If the law is unjust for Polanski, demand that it be changed for everyone -- and make relevant demands; Polanski is not facing execution in Texas, nor was he wrongly accused of anything.

I'm not puffing up my chest, and I'm not an asshole or a moralist, though I'm sure I'll be called both; I'm a secular progressive and a strong admirer of Polanski's work, and I'm genuinely unhappy with this post.

PS: Also, that guy at the LA Times was right; Sunrise sucks.

PPS: Just kidding; the LA Times guy is an idiot.

Matt W.

PS: My last post gave the incorrect impression that I'm someone who's "dedicated [my entire life] to changing America's criminal justice system." That's not true -- though it would be awesome if it were. I only meant to say that I give a shit, and have occasionally (though not often enough) put my money where my mouth is through volunteering, donations, and political activism.

Glenn Kenny

@ Matt W: Okay. I'm not going to shout back to you. I allow that I did not formulate my argument in the original post as well as I could have, nor was it necessarily the smartest course of action to make some kind of comparison that could be so easily revealed as apples and oranges. What my objection was—what my objection has always been—has to do with rhetoric. I look at the people who are howling about how Polanski is finally going to have to face "American justice" and I wonder just what it is they have so personally invested in the case. And I don't believe it has all that much to do with some noble notion concerning a rapist being brought to justice. You talk about "demanding that a rich and famous person face the same criminal processes that a poor person would face." And, for Kate Harding and many, many others, Roman Polanski IS that person. And anybody who even says "yes, but..." gets shouted down: "He RAPED A CHILD!!!"

Make no mistake: I think Whoopi Goldberg is an ill-informed clod and a moral idiot. And I thought that about her even before she made her monstrous observation that what Polanski did wasn't "rape-rape." Let me go further: I think that though the timing and the circumstances of its serving frankly stink (Polanski collaborator Robert Harris' NYT op-ed piece, while admittedly biased, is a good guide to this:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/30/opinion/30harris.html), I do not question the validity of the warrant in question. It's a fair cop, in a sense, and Polanski should know it, as should his various counsel. I do wonder what the actual warrant says. I suspect it speaks more to his fugitive-from-justice status than to the original crime. Should Polanski ever be compelled to appear before a court in Los Angeles, this detail may tend to disappoint Kate Harding and her death-threat-making, "fuck you you rape-apologist piece of shit" children. And they are her children.

Sorry. Couldn't help myself on that last bit. But I hope this addresses your questions. I don't like rape and I don't like rapists, and yeah, it's happened to people close to me. But there's quite a bit at play here that does not lend itself to a completely Manichean reading. And there's also quite a bit of self-congratulation.


As much as I favor the extradition of this fugitive, and as much as I believe Geimer's grand jury testimony regarding the crime, I'm confused by people who say that Polanski is an "admitted" rapist rather than an admitted statutory rapist. He pled guilty to the latter; that was the plea bargain, right? The reason that the facts of the forcible rape are not "in controversy" is because they were never going to be adjudicated once the guilty plea for statutory rape was accepted. The charges were never brought. Polanski did not have to confess to it, or to stand trial for it. In reality, there is a great big shroud over the events of that day, one that Polanski, Geimer, and the justice system have chosen not to remove. While I think that Polanski drugged and brutally raped a trial, and feel that her grand jury testimony is the truth, I'm not sure that Polanski has admitted to everything. I like justice, too. But it won't happen here--not in the way that people seem to want. Remember your Gaddis: "You get justice in the next world; in this world, you have the law."


Oh spare me - if you folks can find an excuse crawling under a rock (it's cos "he's European" my ass) you cant wait to shine your light in there.

It isnt just the so-called morality police (you'd prefer the immorality police, the pro-child rape police?) making a fuss about this. It's the laughably ignorant campaign started by Thierry Fremaux with the help of the directors' more famous buddies that has made people go what-tha-f???

Polanski could have saved himself the trouble if at some time in the last 28 years he's returned to face the music and own up to his personal responsibility like an adult - by now he'd be allowed to travel anywhere. He didnt. His decision. A cowardly one.


Correction to above post: he raped a "girl," not a "trial." Been a long day.

Steven Santos

The funny thing is, Glenn, that it was clear to me the post was about rhetoric and also, I would add, the self-righteous addiction to outrage. But if you at any point question the sincerity of those who seem so invested in Polanski being sent to jail (while not getting worked up if, say, an innocent man is executed), the response is often to be accused of sympathizing with a child rapist. More outrage!

I think a lot of people missed the point of this post by a mile and went into either knee-jerk anti- or pro-Polanski modes. Why does every argument have to wind up into this "either you're with us or with them" attitude where I don't want to be on either side? In another words, if I have to choose whether to side with cinephile apologists lacking moral compasses or self-righteous pseudo-moralists, leave me out.

Polanski being a great director should have no bearing on whether he serves time for a rape that we all know he is guilty of. His supporters need to recognize that no director is a god and they are the same fucked-up human beings we all are. Making great films doesn't trump his obvious guilt for committing a crime. And, on top of that, he fled the country like a coward rather than face the punishment. Let justice, as flawed as that system is, hopefully take its course now.

And, yes, most of the vocal outragists (yes, I just coined that phrase) probably could care less about the victim. It's more about an agenda where they get to demonstrate their moral superiority to anyone who's willing to listen, particularly when the target of derision is famous. As I said earlier, this is an opportunity for them to vocally pronounce how "moral" they are. Well, good for them. I'm sure none of these people are capable of doing great wrongs onto others, right? The last I checked, morality is a day-to-day personal struggle that you work at, not a gift handed down from the heavens to only special people who then preach to others because they consider themselves infallible.

Basically, a crime is committed against Ms. Geimer (who had the double misfortune to be raped by a famous person in a celebrity-obsessed culture that would never had truly left her alone even if Polanski hadn't fled even though his fleeing obviously exacerbates this situation) and now she and her family gets to watch as something terrible done to her gets politicized. Fodder for 24 hour news and internet message boards where, let's face it, considering how narcissistic most people are, we really make it all about ourselves.


Personally, I just read Kate Harding's article today. I didn't need her to tell me that, when a critic (not you, Glenn) admits that Polanski "harmed a young woman", while using words like "grotesque" and "bully" to describe their anger and bewilderment at those who would give Polanski a pass (and many would), and only gets around to using the word "rape" when he's looking to score points off the other side, then something is wrong somewhere. The way the English language is being used by Polanski's defenders is exhibit A.


****I do wonder what the actual warrant says. I suspect it speaks more to his fugitive-from-justice status than to the original crime.****

I don't understand this comment and the following sentence about disappointing Kate Harding. Why would the warrant speak to the original crime? The original crime was already adjudicated when Polanski entered a guilty plea.

Glenn Kenny

Not to put too fine a point on it, Bill, but see b.g.'s comment, above. How do you like the way he's using the English language? And anonymously, yet. Can we make him "exhibit B"?

I've said that I think Whoopi "not 'rape' rape" Goldberg is an ill-informed clod and a moral idiot. Richard Cohen is a regular idiot. Anne Applebaum is disingenuous, to say the least. And so on. And now I'll say that b.g. is a child of Kate Harding.

Glenn Kenny

@ Vidor: You say "the original crime was already adjuticated when Polanski entered a guilty plea." Exactly. Harding and her minions expect that Polanski will be tried for rape if and when he is extradited to the states. He will not. The only reason I hedged there was because I haven't seen the actual warrant. Which means I should still hedge. Nevertheless...


@Glenn - Fair enough. Bernard Goetz has you entirely wrong and throws around "rape-apologist" like Jeffery Wells throws around "Hungarian animal rape" (or whatever the term is he uses to describe what he thinks Polanski didn't do), but I still have to say: "pearl-clutching"? This post starts off on the attack, by implying that those who would prefer to see Polanski face the music are doing so in order to pat themselves on the back ("puff up their chests" and "self-righteous" being the key phrases). Everyone on the side opposite yourself gets tarred right out of the gate.

Glenn Kenny

@ Bill: Bernard Goetz, now that's funny.

And, fair enough—I came out the gate pretty strong (that's my self-forgiving phrase for "obnoxious"). I don't think I've been utterly disproven, but I have been thoroughly dispirited by a lot of what's been said by those on my side of the fence. If I can even call it my side of the fence anymore. I like to think I've been refining/clarifying my position as I go along. Here's a part of what I might be posting at The Auteurs' tomorrow: "Yes, I think Roman Polanski did a terrible thing. Committed a very serious crime. The whole scenario seriously creeped me out even back in the '70s, when sexual mores were so different, apparently. But also, even then, I thought, well, I like the guy's films, and sure enough he's had it pretty tough in his life, but hell, what he's accused of doing is a big deal crime...and a matter for the courts. I was what you'd call disinterested. And when he skipped out, I thought, 'Well, look at that.' Disinterested again. I've never felt compelled to stand up and shout, 'Bring Roman Polanski to justice!' Or, for that matter, 'Exonerate Roman Polanski!' I thought the recent doc on his case brought some very interesting data to light, but that it was also a trifle too infatuated with its subject for its own good."

If the people on your side, or maybe now it's my side, what the hell (kidding there), were merely saying, "He was a fugitive from justice, and now he's been apprehended, and that's all well and proper and as it should be," that would be one thing. But that's not what so many of them are saying. So many of them are also saying that anyone who sees a shade of gray here, who won't fall into lockstep in Manichean bloodthirsty condemnation, is an apologist for rape. More than self-righteous, it's self-congratulatory.

And again, agreed: phrasemaking along the lines of "Hungarian animal rape" doesn't help matters, and is sick-making.


Glenn, I do think -- although I obviously can't prove this -- that were the arguments against extradition based more often on the problems you have with the idea, the furor from the other side wouldn't be quite so intense. Obviously, at this stage, I don't have to tell you what too many of the arguments from Polanski's defenders do actually sound like, and yet... I've heard that Polanski deserves "special dispensation" for being a Great Artist (seriously, I've heard that one), I've heard that it wasn't "rape-rape", I've heard that the girl was forced on Polanski by her mother, I've heard it was the 70s, I've heard that it was a "youthful mistake" (Polanski was 43), and on and on. If it's enough to make you, who is ostensibly sympathetic to that cause, furious, imagine how it makes the rest of us feel?

Which doesn't excuse rolling right over more nuanced arguments and ignoring the actual points you, and others, have made, but it perhaps explains it a little. And I think you're slightly wrong about what people on my side of the fence are saying, and what is at the root of this anger we feel. We want the law properly enforced here, yes, but we also want the crime to be called what it was, and not danced around or treated lightly. It is a terribly serious crime, and that guy saying Polanski "harmed a young woman" still makes me mad.


****Exactly. Harding and her minions expect that Polanski will be tried for rape if and when he is extradited to the states. He will not.****

I don't know how many people do and don't understand that. One would hope that anyone informed enough to write columns about the matter would know that what's going to happen, should Polanski be expedited, is that he will face a judge to receive sentencing. Wouldn't be too confident the sentence will be merciful, BTW. Skipping town and fleeing to France is not the kind of thing that encourages a judge to let you get off with probation.

As for sides--well, Mr. Kenny, many of the people on your "side", if it is a side, ARE apologists for rape. As you have noted (Whoopi, Robert Harris, Applebaum) and others you didn't mention (Debra Winger, who should be ashamed of herself).

As far as being 'disinterested'--from my "side", if it is a side, I was not pelting the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office or the French Embassy with angry letters. I was disinterested. In fact it used to bug me when internet discussion threads about "The Pianist" or whatnot would devolve into angry sniping about the girl Roman Polanski raped decades ago. But once he was actually arrested and it was announced that he was facing extradition? He has it coming.


Whoops, "extradited" not "expedited".


To chime in very belatedly on what I suppose is the "bill" side of the fence (first time for everything!), here's what I find...weird about your reaction, Glenn: you seem considerably more bothered by the obnoxious way some people have responded to the rape in question than by the rape itself. That suggests to me that your outage-meter needs to be recalibrated, as I had to recalibrated mine on this issue.

I am sympathetic to your evolving position because my very first reaction to Polanski's arrest was to roll my eyes at the American authorities and selfishly wonder how this would affect his capacity to make movies I enjoy. But then I read occasional SCR-commenter Scott Lemieux's post on this (http://lefarkins.blogspot.com/2009/09/polanski-arrest.html) and started to think a bit more about this. And you know what? I ended up coming to the conclusion that, given where things are now, Polanski should be extradited and sentenced.

While it's very unfortunate that this provides the opportunity for a lot of ugly chest-beating, in the end, that's outweighed by Polanski's own acts and by the importance of the rule of law. You're really letting the chest-beaters win if you just reflexively take up the position opposite theirs. Better to simply ignore them and to your own conclusions.

Glenn Kenny

@ Vidor: If you really believe Harris is an apologist for rape and belongs in the same company as Goldberg and Applebaum, you didn't read him very carefully. Yes, he absolutely admits a personal bias as a friend and collaborator of Polanski's. But late in the piece he says this: "Of course what happened cannot be excused, either legally or ethically." That's a pretty clear statement, no? And to proceed from there and ask "who benefits" is not in and of itself an illegitimate argument.


****That's a pretty clear statement, no?****

Reads as a pretty cursory CYA disclaimer, from my perspective.

****And to proceed from there and ask "who benefits" is not in and of itself an illegitimate argument.****

It isn't? When did "who benefits" become the standard for which verdicts to enforce and which to blow off? What would even lead someone to ask that, unless that someone was looking for excuses to spring Roman Polanski from the jailhouse? (Followed subsequently by getting a moribund "Pompeii" project going, maybe.) Roman Polanski committed a crime, pled guilty in court, and skipped town to avoid punishment. Those are no-nos. All that we, if by "we" I can refer to those who want Polanski extradited, ask for is that the system is allowed to play out as it is supposed to.

Glenn Kenny

You know, not for anything, but I sort of resent any implication that my rape-sensitivity-meter needs to be recalibrated. You really don't know anything about it. And I'm not about to tell you of my own experiences with rape and rape victims to prove any sort of point. It's exactly that sort of thing that does bother me: that if one declines to express a personalized emotional outrage over what Roman Polanski did to his victim, one is in effect guilty of something almost equally heinous. Yes, I am appalled by rape on general principle. I cringe at the rape jokes in such otherwise very enjoyable films as "Blazing Saddles." And I am close—very close—to someone who was raped at knifepoint. I expended a lot of rage on that person's behalf. Didn't end up making much difference in the end. Expending personal rage on people who are strangers (full disclosure: I shared an elevator with Polanski once) has never made sense to me. Which isn't to say that I am indifferent to injustice. But...

Christ. This really is what David Foster Wallace would call a "vexed issue." Didn't I say I was gonna close this fucking thread?...

The Siren

Glenn, your patience with this thread amazes me.

I thought the original post was fine. It was tart, but I don't come here wanting Mitch Albom. If you hadn't left room for reasoned disagreement I wouldn't have spoken up.


Glenn, I apologize if you took offense at my comment. I didn't mean for my "recalibration" metaphor to track your feelings of personal offense, which I agree are beside the point. I meant for it to track your publicly-expressed and considered *judgments* about how to respond appropriately to the legal and ethical questions on the table before us.

I don't doubt your personal outrage at rape and I'm genuinely sorry to put you in a position where you felt you had to play your rape-credibility card by relating something horrible that happened to a loved one. As I explained in my comment, my own first reaction to hearing about Polanski's arrest was not at all personal outrage in either direction, so I could hardly criticize you on those grounds. I meant only to question how you were weighing various factors in reacting to the overall debate, which remains (I think) a legitimate question. That's not at all meant to be a critique of you as a person, but a disagreement with your expressed opinion -- a disagreement that I expressed somewhat clumsily.

Robert Merk

Whether addressing this particular thread or the complete mess that is the Polanski case…

Maybe it’s time to extinguish the torches, put away the pitchforks and do what it appears Geimer has done and suggested we all do as well and move on with our lives.

No matter the amount of pontification one does for whichever side, the matter is out of our hands. Time for the lawyers to earn their money.

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