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If this were a movie, it would be the point where the tough but conventional genre story suddenly became a cynical, tough but conventional film noir story. In one kind of movie, you might get close-ups of a very masculine hero (or Jodie Foster, for variety) grimly displaying emotions that run the gamut from disgust to vengeful by only moving the upper lip a millimeter or two–followed immediately by fifteen minutes of gunfire, shouting, “she was my girlfriend” (oddly enough, Jodie Foster never says this), explosions, and, quite possibly, laser swords.
Or you might get something else, the kind of thing that will elevate you from “a fun picture with serious themes” to “minor masterpiece” or even “searing look into the corrupt heart of modern society.” This is the film that ends with a whimper, or a bang, or a whimpering bang: a hero powerless to stop evil, a dead heroine (there’s always a dead heroine), a villain with a smirk striding offstage. It’s the kind of movie Americans made in the Seventies (or at least, the kind of movie American movie critics tell themselves were made in the Seventies.) There’s even a really good one you might have heard of, called Chinatown. Directed by Roman Polanski, autuer, Holocaust survivor, and victim of the Manson Family.
Or as I like to call him, rapist and international fugitive.
Some of you may know that I have a Roman Polanski vendetta going rivaled only by my long, one-woman pursuit of the villainous former New York State Senator Hiram Monserrate. So was I happy today, when I happened to read that my favorite famous un-extradited criminal was going to remain, in fact, un-extradited? Oh, was I! So happy that I believe I stared at my computer for several minutes wondering why everything now had a red tinge to it.
Still, no use spilt milk, amirite? Or to quote Danny Devito, “You didn’t really think you were going to win, did you?” Except that Batman kicked the Penguin’s ass! So maybe that’s not appropriate and in fact I did think that maybe we’d see that the justice system could in fact deliver justice and boy does that tick me and why is the screen going all red again?
Right. Well, rather than blow yet another gasket, I thought I’d assembly some lessons learned from L’Affaire Polanski.
1. Justice Was Served
Well, at least according to the French minister of culture, Frédéric Mitterand. Back in September, he said
“To see him like that, thrown to the lions because of ancient history, really doesn’t make any sense…In the same way that there is a generous America that we like, there is also a scary America that has just shown its face.” And, why, just today, he chimed in again: “The time for calm has come. The difficult past, the rich personality, the universally admired works of Roman Polanski should all regain their standing.”
I won’t quibble with M. le Ministre; surely the artiste who directed Roman Polanski’s Pirates! and The Ninth Gate can’t fall in the esteem of people around the world. And obviously, artistic standing should definitely exempt you from international law, also known as the I Like Wagner Despite… defense.
2. Hell, it’s more than justice: It’s a victory for democracy
Well, at least according to France’s leading philosophe-douche (and yeah, I know that means “philosopher shower” in French; roll with me here), Bérnard Hénri-Levy, who said: “Switzerland has found the path to reason … What a beautiful lesson in democracy.”
I dunno. Maybe Prof. Hénri-Levy doesn’t quite understand that democracy means “rule of the people” and people also means “people who are not men” and that maybe those people don’t think that this was such a great victory for democracy, or even démocratie. But then again, the right of women to vote in France is only three years older than M. Hénri-Levy, and his buds with the Furious D in Switzerland didn’t get around to enfranchising their Mesdames and Frauen until…holy ducks, 1971? Maybe now I can understand just what democracy Hénri-Levy, who along with Mitterand have provided an unrelenting assault on my rational-but-overwhelming Francophilia, is such a fan of.
3. Nothing to see here
Now, where I’m from–a strange land that remains undiscovered (all too often) by the hand of man called Woman, we have a word for what happens when a person forces you to engage in sexual activity without your consent. It’s an odd word, you don’t hear it all that often–rape. But it’s funny; despite the fact that plenty of women and men get sexually assaulted every frakkin’ day, you just don’t come across it all that often. It’s like some word out of English history, like something from Beowulf or Chaucer.
At least, that’s the impression you get whenever a man old enough to know better than best “has sex” with a child, or an actress, or a popular singer, without the consent of both parties.
Now, I grok that newspapers may have some ethical or legal reasons to not call the rape of a 13-year old girl rape. In fact, Polanski had been charged with rape but plead down to a lesser charge. But I find it fascinating that there were only two places that I saw today that called what happened to this girl rape: this statement by the State Department…
“A 13-year-old girl was drugged and raped,” said State Department spokesman Philip Crowley. “This is not a matter of technicality. To push this case aside based on technicalities we think is regrettable …. We think it sends a very important message regarding how … women and girls are treated around the world.”
(as an aside, can I just say that I am pretty damn happy with the job Madame Clinton is doing at State? Women and girls? Awesome!)
Roman in Rape Let-Off
FILM director ROMAN POLANSKI has escaped extradition to America to be sentenced for raping a child.
Yeah, that’s right. The freaking Sun. Rupert Murdoch’s paper. The one that prints pictures of naked models every day. They called what happened rape.
Everyone else mostly called it “having sex.” Like you do. With 13-year old girls. Well, at least if you’re Roman Bleeding Polanski:
“If I had killed somebody, it wouldn’t have had so much appeal to the press, you see? But… f—ing, you see, and the young girls. Judges want to f— young girls. Juries want to f— young girls. Everyone wants to f— young girls!”
4. Everybody knows your name
It’s funny–for funny read enraging beyond all belief–that most stories did make sure to print his victim’s name (aaaand you won’t get it here, because of the, you know, feminism) and mention that, disgusted with several decades of not being Rape Shielded and Not Getting Paid Her Large Settlement, the victim has said she wants the whole thing dropped. Which is good as an acquittal! Even if you’ve already plead guilty!
5. You can’t win.
You can’t. Because it’s damn near impossible for a woman to get any rape charge taken all the way to trial, let alone conviction. Because even if you were just a teenager, you’ll be assumed to have wanted it, and anyway, it was just sex, amirite? With a man? Like every woman wants? (Quoth C.L.: not every woman.) And if the guy was famous or rich, well, you were trying to get into his pants anyway, right? To touch the Golden Penis that all such guys are fitted for after their first movie hits, right? You had to have wanted it. You did want it. And anyway, who the fuck are you to stand in the way of the Great White Erection?
But even if you can’t win, you can still be of use! For example, we have not yet worked out a quantifiable measure of the artistic merit necessary to earn the rape and ruination of a young girl. Is it movie deals? RottenTomatoes.com rating? The number of links on your IMDB page? Maybe Academy Awards can be a measure, in which case Jack Nicholson, who facilitated the whole nightmare by letting Polanski use his house for the photo shoot that ended in tragedy, is probably not a person to be around much! (Maybe you already knew that.) And what about novelists? Don’t they get a free sexual assault once they’ve joined the Brotherhood by writing their Fond Memories of Vagina Memoir? Surely Phillip Roth is owed something for describing his ejaculations for the last six decades. And had Updike been allowed access to plentiful female flesh, why, he might have had at least another five or six boring masterpieces in him!
Or, at least, a chalet in Gstaad. Membership in that club, it seems, has its privileges.
But you knew that already.
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