The XX Factor

Polanski and Kennedy

The discussion over whether Roman Polanski’s artistry and his own personal suffering should mitigate the fact that he raped a 13-year-old is strangely similar to the discussion of the life of Ted Kennedy. At the time of Kennedy’s death, there were appalling comments that his accomplishments as a legislator and his personal tragedies made up for the fact that he left Mary Jo Kopechne to suffocate alone in a car when he drove it off a bridge. Why is there an impulse to excuse a crime just because the perpetrator has suffered in his own life, or has extraordinary professional achievements?

Photograph of Ted Kennedy by Evan Agostini/Getty.