The XX Factor

Roman Polanski Does Not Deserve A Celebrity Pass, He Deserves Jail Time

Lauren, you make good points about the victim-blaming in the Roman Polanski documentary . What’s equally galling is the excuse-making by his defenders in Hollywood. Such intellectual dishonesty should not be surprising, coming as it does from people who make their living creating fantasy for mass consumption. I found myself burning with outrage while sitting in my car yesterday listening to a story about Polanski on NPR. Until his recent arrest I never really knew the full extent of his crime: that his victim was a 13-year-old child, that he’d given her liquor and a mind-altering drug, and that he raped her anally and vaginally while she pleaded with him to stop.

What was particularly infuriating in the NPR piece was this exchange between reporter Karen Grigsby Bates and former movie studio head Mike Medavoy :

MEDAVOY: I think it’s, you know, everybody knows that this is a man who’s made some great movies, you know, I think they are sympathetic to him.

BATES: Medavoy is hoping if or when Polanski returns, the judge will say something like this.

MEDAVOY: He’s suffered enough and he should move on and the rest of the world should move on.

It’s telling that many of those lamenting Polanski’s supposed persecution are men and other Hollywood elites. This goes to directly to the points Jessica made in her piece about Polanksi’s celebrity earning him a pass in public opinion. This other NPR piece also addresses how our celebrity culture can skew our judgment of criminally-minded stars.

That Medavoy, 68, and Polanski, 76, are generational peers is not surprising. What is surprising is the reaction of Polanksi’s victim, Samantha Gailey, now Samantha Geimer, a 45-year-old wife and mother of three. She wishes the whole thing would go away. She doesn’t think Polanski should be prosecuted. She has forgiven him and moved on with her life.

Forgiveness is one thing. Punishment is a different matter and Polanski richly deserves to be punished. Susan Estrich, a law professor at the University of Southern California and a rape victim herself, made this very point in the NPR piece.

“My heart goes out to this woman and her desire to make this all go away,” she said. “As a matter of fact, most of us who’ve been raped in one way or another want to close our eyes and make it go away.” But Estrich lost me when she added: “But rape isn’t a crime against the victim. It’s a crime against the state.”

Really? The state is more aggrieved by rape than the actual victim?

To me, Polanski’s reprehensible actions are unforgivable. If he at least owned up to them without excuses, publicly apologized to his victim, and did some jail time, then he could argue that he’d accepted punishment, paid his debt to society, and should now be left alone to attend to his art.

When Geimer weighed in on Polanski in a 2003 Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times , she said she understood why he fled, facing as he was a 50-year sentence by an allegedly biased judge.

“My attitude surprises many people,” she wrote. “That’s because they didn’t go through it all; they don’t know everything that I know … The media made that year a living hell, and I’ve been trying to put it behind me ever since.”

All very true, I’m sure. Still, I can’t help but wonder what if some horrible man did to Geimer’s children what Polanski did to her? Even 32 years later would she not want justice for them? I don’t mean to judge her-after all she, not I, did suffer “a living hell” in the aftermath of her rape. If it were me, though,I’d still be calling for Polanski’s head.