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Forget it, Jake: It’s Patriarchy

[Hey, everybody: It is Tiger Beatdown Pledge Week! Again! And on Tiger Beatdown Pledge Week, we aspire to bring you the very best in commentary relating to the genders, with our trademark professionalism and insight and OH HOLY FUCK THEY DID WHAT ABOUT THE ROMAN POLANSKI THING ARGH ARGH ARGH. Anyway. Please enjoy this handy donate button. (Unless you are on Google Reader, in which case click!) And also this post, because at this point I think we all need to Talk It Out a little.]


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!)

and this from the Sun:

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.

[Whew. And now, before we get to the comment discussing -- we could all use a little comment discussing, no? -- please do enjoy this attractive subscribe button. It costs $15 to set up a recurring payment, which is almost exactly what it would cost to view a movie. Think of it as paying to not see a Polanski movie every month. That is what I do, and it helps!]


21 Comments

  1. Sarah TX wrote:

    I’m not ashamed to admit that I slept through Chinatown, woke up at the climax (“Forget it, Jake…”), and asked my boyfriend “What is Chinatown? I missed it!”

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Permalink
  2. NameChanged wrote:

    I did not know that Ninth Gate was Polanski. I kinda liked that movie, even though the ending was all “phhttttt….”

    Well, nevermind that.

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Permalink
  3. firefall wrote:

    I loved Chinatown, and found Pirates! hilarious.

    Which has nothing to do with the fact that this amoral suckhole deserves to be tossed in a prison and left to rot til he dies. The creepy little shit hasnt even evinced any real sense of remorse.

    BTW I think you’re being too generous about Switzerland – While the wimmins got the federal voting rights in ’71, I’m pretty sure there are a couple of cantons that have only granted more local voting rights in the last decade.

    That’s completely in keeping with the vile way the Swiss treat anyone who is not a good White Swiss Male (or spending tourist dollars of course). They’re pretty much the perfect Patriarchal Fascist state.

    Polanksi and Switzerland, they almost deserve each other.

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Permalink
  4. genna wrote:

    Do you ever feel like your head is going to FALL OFF from shaking it so much? I think the entire Polanski argument can be summed up in the title of this article from last year:
    http://www.salon.com/life/broadsheet/feature/2009/09/28/polanski_arrest

    “Reminder: Roman Polanski raped a child.”

    It blows my mind that one of the arguments for his forgiveness is that he makes some good films (I wouldn’t know. Or care.) He is a coward who isn’t sorry for what he did to that girl. Ugh. I have nothing pithy or interesting to say about this. I have to go look for the fists I have shaken off in fury.

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Permalink
  5. Tavi wrote:

    When the case popped back up in September, it was around the same time as everyone was boycotting Kanye for *stealing the microphone* from a 19 year-old Tay Swift. While there were op-ed pieces published in the Times defending Polanski for raping a 13 year-old.

    Just putting that out there.

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Permalink
  6. Simon C. wrote:

    I logged onto Facebook for the first time in weeks yesterday, and right at the top of my goddamn news feed was an… enthusiastic defence of Polanski, which didn’t just play the “raping children is okay if you’re a genius” card, but actually included the phrase “his so-called ‘crime.’” Scare quotes and all. I nearly threw up.

    The lesson here, kids, is that Facebook is responsible for all human ills. Wait, no. It’s that sometimes I’m an iffy judge of character, and also that Roman Polanski is the vilest sort of purulent scum.

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Permalink
  7. Alecto wrote:

    I apologize for the French. I promise we’re not all like that, and some newspapers have been in fact calling him a child-raping piece of shit (well, in more polite words, but just about…)
    I can’t believe it’s done, and he gets to run around freely :’(

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Permalink
  8. of making many books wrote:

    @Simon, ew yeah, yesterday I saw TWO comments on the New York Times where people put “victim” in quotation marks. Is there a word for vomiting and bursting into tears at the same time?

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Permalink
  9. Lexica wrote:

    Every time I see somebody trotting out any of the Polanski-supporters’ rape-apologist arguments, I just want to scream “DID YOU READ THE FUCKING COURT TRANSCRIPT? Because according to it – the official, legal, public record – YOU ARE WRONG.”

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Permalink
  10. Lynn wrote:

    While this is totally depressing, and makes me want to give up on the planet, I do appreciate you bringing to my attention that we have Hillary to thank for the attempt at justice.

    I know that should have been a logical deduction, but it took you saying it to make me realize.

    Thanks

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 7:54 pm | Permalink
  11. Miranda wrote:

    This Polanski shit continues to BLOW M Y FUCKING MIND, and also not, because I guess I should know by now that basically the whole world thinks rape is okay. Thank you for this post.

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 8:36 pm | Permalink
  12. Geo M. wrote:

    The creepy little shit hasn’t even evinced any real sense of remorse.

    And, I sincerely doubt he’ll ever feel any remorse over this, other than the obvious Polanski-esque entitlement: “I botched this thing, should’ve drugged her memory into oblivion.” (I’m paraphrasing here.) (But, then again, he did so want a [not-"un"-]responsive partner too; didn’t you, Roman? Oh, the dilemma you must have faced.) I gather his fantastical passages, in his autobiography, are what his “f— [a] young [girl]” fetish told him would—undoubtedly—happen before the Golden Cock of Brilliance attached to him, that an adolescent girl could only possibly give into the throes of ecstatic surrender. I’m certain, that within his intellect, he believes it was a privilege to be an object of desire by his “refined” tastes. I’m also afraid of the possibility that, to someone like him, he could actually believe it was a privilege to be raped by him (especially back in 1977).

    As for the “little” part: Come on now, that couldn’t possibly be right. I’m sure he is quite monolithic in that… er, 5’5″ frame of his. No, wait, I’m confusing him with all the aggregated ire and disgust I’ve felt toward him, which is nothing short of “un-amazingly fucking gigantic.”

    He has continually proven himself to be a misogynist of the worst degree, by rationalizing his actions by citing a ubiquitous drive to objectify young women and girls. Right, you couldn’t possibly have done any wrong, Roman, because an impulse—no matter how far on the continuum that goes from questionable, to hurtful, to degrading, to vile it lies—is okay to act out on if you’re half as fucking insightful/prolific as you. I get it.

    He obviously doesn’t think twice about exploiting children, to boot. Actually, strike that, he probably did think twice, and thrice, and fourthly, of his would-be venture with anticipatory glee while doing the first photo shoot, and while getting his cocktail together at Nicholson’s home.

    “Vendetta” is a nice word for this, thank you C.L. I now can articulate my regard for this auteur more confidently now. Even as an aspiring vegan, I can’t see anything wrong with wanting to chop his balls off and bronze them to a wall mount, as a monument to the audacious and abjectly horrendous nature of the patriarchy.

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 9:08 pm | Permalink
  13. C.L. Minou wrote:

    @Lynn: Thanks, but I get that from Liss McEwan at Shakesville, who had done good work at reminding folks about Madame Secretary’s good work.

    @Alecto: non, je comprends totalement, et j’aime toujours les français. And I wrote about the public reaction to Polanski (as opposed to the douchey culture minister’s reaction) back in September.

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 9:23 pm | Permalink
  14. Geo M. wrote:

    After getting off of my anger-imbued high, and having had the clarity of a few calm hours set in, I can see how I didn’t pull some punches.

    C.L., to actually engage your wonderful insight on this situation, I’d like to express my gratitude to you for all of your commentary.

    Since I am unable to read my original comment with external objectivity, I find myself considering a retraction. I’d been outraged at the way this miscarriage of justice has been allowed to progress for decades, as well the airs of victimization projected on him, and my comment was a way of seizing some sort of catharsis from my frustration. Not that my “[blown] gasket” justifies a loss of composure.

    I can see my previous post as problematic in tone, so I apologize if it was in bad taste. Maybe my “talk it out” attitude was a little too hardy.

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 12:34 am | Permalink
  15. A Nonny Moose wrote:

    @Books: VomSob?

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 12:38 am | Permalink
  16. tba wrote:

    I read a comment in my local Berlin newspaper today that defended him on behalf of all the crime done to him: surviving holocaust, his pregnant wife killed by the manson sect. the article basically said that these things meant he suffered enough already and therefor shouldnt be punished.
    this argument has one huge problem of course, which is that all these things happened BEFORE he raped that girl. so instead of saying “he committed a crime and was punished afterwards” it is more like “because of all the terrible things that happened to him, he is now allowed to do harm to someone else”. which is so old testament. “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”. why should a thirteen year old girl be the victim of retaliation for the holocaust and murder? it all stinks.

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 7:14 am | Permalink
  17. Christopher wrote:

    Polanski should be in jail right now, and I could go my whole life without hearing another person say that he should get a pass because he makes good films.

    What I would like to hear is an explanation of what exactly was in the testimony the Swiss wanted us to give them, and why we didn’t give it to them. That Times article is the second one I’ve read now that just asserts we wouldn’t give the Swiss courts that testimony, without explaining, you know, why.

    Is there an explanation out there, somewhere?

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 11:01 am | Permalink
  18. patrick wrote:

    The editorial board of the Boston Globe seems to agree with you, which is perhaps slightly encouraging?

    http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/editorials/articles/2010/07/14/polanski_justice_like_swiss_cheese/

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 11:22 am | Permalink
  19. Ariella wrote:

    First, I cannot believe the Polanski thing. There is no such thing as a statute of limitations on this crime: he raped a 13 year old, and he should serve his sentence. He should serve his FULL sentence for attempting to evade justice.

    Second, can I just say that your reference to “Young Frankenstein” (if, in fact, that’s what it was) made my freakin’ day! Nice!

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 10:14 pm | Permalink
  20. stormy wrote:

    I was surprised and disappointed by this news, but I don’t suppose I should have been. And there’s some blame to go around here too. Most goes to Polanski of course, for being a rapist, but I’m also a little disappointed in the pathetic efforts of the original prosecutor. And in the Swiss for letting him off the hook. Nothing really new here though, sadly.

    Friday, July 16, 2010 at 1:50 am | Permalink
  21. Kathleen wrote:

    I don’t know if anyone else here reads Alexander Cockburn, but he gave the classic effing lefty dude who DOES NOT GET IT reaction to the Polanski case by chalking it up to straitlaced American moral puritanism about sex with 13 year olds.

    The fact that the 13 year old involved SAID NO was, like, so much piffly background noise to his point about groovy libertinism.

    What I haven’t seen anyone point out about Polanski, HOllywood, the swinging 70s, etc. is that if this famous movie director wanted to have consensual sex with teens, HE COULD HAVE. In fact, he went on to do so again and again. Consensual sex with teens was hardly beyond the reach of your average famous hipster fucker dude during the Me Decade.

    What turned Polanski on about that particular, set up across more than one encounter, drug the chosen victim on the big day scenario with that kid was THE LACK OF CONSENT. ie, the rape. The lefty assholes who can’t get this have no business opening their traps about “liberated” sexuality.

    Friday, July 16, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Garland Grey. Garland Grey said: What a lovely day. Oh, something new from C.L., I'll just read that calmly as I eat- AAGH BLINDING RAGE! BLINDING RAGE! http://bit.ly/8XyYDT [...]

  2. [...] Roman Polanski set free by Swiss authorities – After all that, Roman Polanski walks free, not to be extradicted to the US to face charges for child rape. “Why does this matter,” ask hardcore Polanski fans. C. L. Minou has an analysis of Polanski getting off the hook over at Tiger Beatdown. Forget it, Jake: It’s Patriarchy. [...]

  3. Roman Polanski: Still a rapist « Women’s Glib on Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    [...] I wrote recently (in a comment on C. L. Minou’s excellent response to the Swiss government’s refusal to extradite Polanski to the United States): This Polanski [...]