Fate has not been kind to poor ‘ol Roman Polanski.
For one thing, he was Jewish in Europe during the late 1930s, which at the time was considered something of a social faux pas. He and his parents were sent to the Krakow Ghetto and soon enough the Nazis did what they were best known for and shipped Polanski’s parents off to concentration camps – his mother died at Auschwitz and his father narrowly survived a less-infamous facility somewhere in Austria. At the age of 10, Roman escaped the ghetto and spent the rest of the war in hiding with various sympathetic Catholic families throughout Europe.
Just before I wrote this, I was clipping my toenails when a fragment of one flew up into my eye and stung like a motherfucker. I got it out of there, but my eye still hurts a little bit. That was probably the greatest tragedy of my day, while meanwhile people like Roman Polanski go through life with memories of having their families hunted down like animals. Clearly, when they were passing out personal attributes, Roman Polanski got bad luck and I got exceptionally brittle toenails.
Despite his harrowing personal tragedy during the war, Polanski was able to pull his life together and go to film school. He became a successful filmmaker in Europe and the United States, making classic movies like Rosemary’s Baby, which is sort of like Juno if you replace Michael Cera with Satan. Roughly 25 years after the Nazis destroyed his childhood, Roman Polanski was riding high on a tidal wave of fame and married to beautiful actress Sharon Tate, with whom he was expecting his first child.
And then, in 1969, while Polanski was out of the country, members of Charles Manson’s murderous “family” broke into the Polanski home and murdered his wife and unborn child.
I feel kind of bad making any sort of lighthearted statement in a blog entry that spans both The Holocaust and the Manson Family, but I think this needs to be said: If this happened in a movie – a man has his life destroyed by the Nazis only to rebuild and have it destroyed again by an infamous psychopath – you wouldn’t believe it was even possible. The chances of one man having such horribly, tragic bad luck are pretty much astronomical. Keep in mind, the Mansons weren’t specifically trying to kill Sharon Tate – they were looking for somebody else, and she just happened to be in the house when they broke in. It is perhaps the worst possible case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Several years later, Polanski drugged a 13-year-old girl and raped and sodomized her. He pled guilty to all charges and was given a 90-day gap before sentencing to allow him to complete the film project he was working on – apparently, California in the 1970s was pretty lenient on the whole “child rapists freely walking the streets” thing. Polanski, upon hearing that his forthcoming prison sentence could be quite a doozy, fled the United States for France, where he’s stayed ever since.
A few days ago, Polanski was traveling in Switzerland when the Swiss authorities arrested him on the 31-year-old warrant, proving that the one area in which they will not remain neutral is fugitive child molesters. At the moment, the Swiss and US governments are cutting through the red tape surrounding a possible extradition, while prominent members of the international film community are protesting the arrest, pointing out that Polanski has already reached a civil settlement with his victim, who does not wish to see the matter pursued any further, presumably because she has already been the center of a media circus once and has had enough of it.
I love Roman Polanski, I really do – he’s a fabulous director and Chinatown is my favorite movie. And I think that it was a really classy thing for him to reach a financial settlement with the victim and do his best to atone for what he’s done. That being said, I think it would’ve been a lot classier if he hadn’t drugged and raped a 13-year-old in the first place. Sure, in some cases it might be easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, but I feel like statutory rape is not one of them – also, according to court records he was refused permission several times, so really he’s 0 for 2 at this point.
Roman Polanski is a convicted child rapist and there’s no way around it. Yes, he’s a very talented filmmaker and he only raped one child, and that was many years ago, but no matter how much you dress them up, the words “child rapist” just don’t ever go away. He committed a crime – a particularly heinous one, really – and he should be punished for it. That’s kind of how justice works. We can’t start handing out freebies just because one of the perpetrators directed The Pianist.
Remember when Paris Hilton got sent to jail for drunk driving a few years ago? Remember how happy we all were? I wrote one of my first ever blogs about how happy I was to see a famous person paying the same price as the rest of us slobs. The fact is, Paris Hilton committed a crime and was punished for it like anyone else, in spite of the fact that she really didn’t want to be. Roman Polanski, unlike Paris Hilton, is highly intelligent, respected, and talented, but he is guilty of something far worse than climbing into his Escalade after one too many chocolate martinis.
I don’t think that Roman Polanski is going to strike again – I think that he was in a pretty weird place in his life, which manifested in the horrible things he did to that poor girl. The thing is, being in a weird place might be a suitable explanation for flipping off your boss, but it doesn’t really fly in a sex crimes trial.
Polanski still has to serve his sentence, whatever it is, if for no other reason than to prove that everyone is equal in the eyes of the law – not just ordinary citizens and celebrities we hate, but the celebrities we like, too.
Truman Capps promises that he will have a less rape and genocide related update next week.