Roman Polanski: Should He Face Trial Now? Or Should He Be Time-Traveled to the Past and Face Trial Then?
Strictly speaking, this the whole Roman Polanski fiasco shouldn't be a issue of any political importance — God knows, you'd never catch our government legislating sexual matters — but now that "Bernard Kouchner, the French Foreign Minister, revealed that he had written to Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, to call for the release of the director," which is ridiculous, I'm taking that as the go-ahead sign for me to be equally ridiculous.
So, Thaddeus Russell, writing for The Daily Beast, just wrote a thought-provoking article that puts us in mind of an age-old question concerning sexuality that's of particular interest lately: At what age is a person emotionally mature enough to get raped by Roman Polanski?
Most often my [female undergraduate] students argued that sexual relations between an adult and a child (whom some defined as anyone under 18, some under 16, and others as the "emotionally immature") necessarily involved the manipulation of the weak by the powerful, which was wrong.
But then, I asked, why was it acceptable for adults to cajole and at times physically force children to play sports, wear hipster t-shirts, attend church, wash the dishes, listen to "good" music, obey authority figures, or, as the president of the United States told them directly, to take responsibility for "nothing less than the future of this country"?
That's a kind of interesting point. Why is it that I'm allowed to force my barely pubescent daughter to do her chores and finish her homework, but Roman Polanski's not allowed to force her to take drugs and have anal sex with him? Is American culture still so perversely puritanical that it can't see the inherent hypocrisy in that?
Though, to be fair, Russell is drawing a distinction between "having sex with a child" and "raping a child," because, okay, let's draw that distinction for some reason…
Were Polanski to have consensual sex today with a 13-year-old girl in the modern, democratic, industrialized nations of Japan, South Korea, or Spain, it would be perfectly legal according to those countries' codes. In more than 30 other countries, including Austria, Italy, and Lichtenstein, the age of consent is 14 (in many cases even younger if both partners are close in age).
In France, where Polanski has lived since his conviction and where newspapers and even government officials have defended the director against the "sinister" motivations of American prosecutors, it is 15. Even Americans don't agree on the question. In 27 states, it is legal for an adult of any age to have sex with a 16-year-old, while the rest place the legal age at 17 or 18.
Now, this distinction and his points on the gradation of morality makes perfect sense because it has absolutely nothing to do with the Polanski situation. (It's always best to look at a situation from every possible angle, even when that angle is completely meaningless.)
But I actually don't think that Russell went far enough in looking at the moral complexity of the situation. For example, what if, instead of having drugged and raped a little girl, he had run moonshine with his cousin Luke down in Georgia? How would Americans feel if he had jumped the General Lee across the Atlantic into France, then, huh?
Here's the thing: This all happened a long time ago. The girl he assaulted is now a middle-aged woman and has forgiven him. He's not likely to do anything like this ever again. He now has a wife and two young kids who will be probably end up emotionally damaged by this whole thing. It's all very gray and complex.
But he did it. And then he hid in Europe and got away with it for a long, long time. But now he got caught, which is something that he knew was a possibility all along. He gamed the system for 30 years, but that's over now. And we can't change the rules just because he's a Holocaust survivor or because his wife was murdered by religious idiots or because that one scene in Rosemary's Baby with the weird chanting is so creepy and always gives me chills.
Sucks for him and his family, I'm sure. But I'll bet it also sucks for a 13-year-old girl to get raped by a 45-year-old man. Life is full of unpleasantness, and the passage of time doesn't always insulate you from horrible things you did a long time ago, or so I gather from this one movie I saw once.
That said, I think Hillary Clinton should seriously consider fighting to have Polanski returned to his home in France. No good Democrat should ever pass up such a brilliant opportunity to let a nonsensical non-issue like this fuck up everything for everyone.
Tags: France, Hillary Clinton, Movies, Obama Administration, Roman Polanski, Sex