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Posted at 12:30 PM ET, 10/ 2/2009

Opinion Roundup: Where Do Celebs Come Down on Polanski?

By Liz Kelly

Much has been written about Roman Polanski this week. For anyone who has been living under a rock for the past few days, here's the case in a nutshell:

Polanski was taken into custody in Switzerland earlier this week and could face extradition to the U.S. in connection with his 1978 conviction after admitting to unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl. His victim now says she believes Polanski is "sorry" for his actions and is not in support of further punishment.

Although Polanski's case has long galvanized those who believe he should face the consequences for his actions and those who think the director should be dealt with leniently, if at all, the debate got especially heated this week. Below, a sampling of opinion pieces from both sides:

A growing number of celebrities -- including Woody Allen, Martin Scorcese, Sam Mendes, Diane von Furstenberg and Tilda Swinton -- have signed a petition in support of Polanski, calling his conviction a "case of morals." Even Whoopi Goldberg dismissed the transgression. On Thursday morning's "View" she said, "It was something else but I don't believe it was rape-rape." (Note: She later back-pedaled, saying she was talking about the charges at the time.)

The L.A, Times's Steve Lopez says Polanski is being painted as the victim by his supporters, obscuring the real victim in the case -- the then 13-year-old Samantha Geimer.

As for celebs publicly condemning Polanski, so far only a few have spoken out. As Jezebel's Kate Harding notes:

...[when] two of the biggest [anti-Polanski] names are Kirstie "I wish I was black" Alley and Sherri "the earth is round?" Shepherd, we have a problem. Hell, the anti-Polanski side even lost the Little House War: Half Pint defended Polanski on The View, while we get Nellie Oleson. As it turns out, Alison Arngrim (Nellie) is one of the few actors publicly asking the obvious question about Hollywood's wagon-circling: "If Roman Polanski were a Catholic priest or a Republican senator, would these people feel the same way?"

Eve Ensler, writing at Huffingtonpost.com, says the case is clear-cut and that the case shines a troubling light on the fact that rape is still not considered a "serious" crime by some:

"It made it distressingly clear to me that all our years of work have not yet penetrated or changed the culture so that it understands that rape is a legal crime and a crime against the soul."

Blogger Chrism has an expanding list of anti-Polanski celebs here (scroll down).

And so the backlash, as expected, builds. Already a counter petition is circulating the Web in support of extradition and "justice" for the Polanski and hundreds of messages in support of bring Polanski back to California have been posted to Twitter with the hashtag #artdoesnotexcuserape (a swipe at the pro-Polanski petitioners who describe Polanski as "one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers.")

Also in the LA Times, John Horn and Tina Daunt ask if the case will be the wedge that finally turns mainstream Americans against Hollwyood's "we're-better-than-you elitis[m]." Not a fair assessment, writes Jill Filipovic at Feministe:

"I don't buy into this 'Hollywood is so amoral and out of touch' business, but I do think that, like a lot of industries, they're fairly insular and tight-knit, and they protect their own."

Note: The Post's own editorial board and Eugene Robinson (twice), Richard Cohen, Howard Kurtz and Anne Applebaum have also weighed in on the case. The Post's range of opinions prompted this criticism from Glen Greenwald at Salon.com.

Have you read some good takes on the Polanski debate? If so, share the links -- or selected passages -- below.

By Liz Kelly  | October 2, 2009; 12:30 PM ET
Categories:  Highbrow  
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Comments

To be fair, Rev. Thomas J. Reese, S.J.'s "Father Polanski Would Go to Jail" probably preceded Nellie Olson's criminal priest analogy. Fr. Reese:

http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/georgetown/2009/09/father_polanski_would_go_to_jail.html

His mention of Michael Jackson makes me think that if Polanski suddenly died tomorrow, the world would suddenly show -- wrongly -- remorse for being so harsh. Media stories would be filled with lines to the effect of, "how sad his amazing art was overshadowed by that pesky rape thing that wouldn't go away."

The Hollywood elite (whoever "they" are) would all cry big wet tears at the idea of no more Polanski films. And sales of "Rosemary's Baby" DVDs would skyrocket.

We're all just a bunch of hypocrites. That said, Polanski should still be extradited back here, sent to jail to serve his original sentence, and made to stand trial to face charges for having spent the past 30 years on the run.

Posted by: td_in_baltimore | October 2, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

what td said.

Posted by: dablues1 | October 2, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

what td & dablues1 said

Posted by: talleyl | October 2, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

I like what Kirstie Alley said, "His ART didn't RAPE a child." What he does for a living shouldn't have anything to do with it. He committed a crime, a heinous crime, and should pay the price. I simply can not understand any arguments to the contrary - it's baffling.

Posted by: VaLGaL | October 2, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who reads Steve Lopez's piece in the LA Times couldn't possibly be dumb enough to sign a petition in support of Polanski.
I've never understood how he managed to elude extradition for so long and I'm happy to see that someone is taking his crime seriously.

Posted by: pras40 | October 2, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Again - where are the WOMEN in Hollywood on this issue? Jodie Foster? Angelina? Scarlett Whatshername?

Oh - some of them are on the free-Polanski list.

I think Hollywood has revealed themselves to be horrifyingly supportive of child rape.

Posted by: Amelia5 | October 2, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Sure! Why not allow a couple of murders
to a great football runner? Wasn't it great
to see him jumping over guys? Isn't that
worth allowing him to knife a couple of
human beings here & there?

If you're a nobody and you're caught
stealing a pack of gum, why not a life
sentence? BUT if you steal a billion dollars
and ruin the lives of thousands of families
why not probation and partial restitution
from the money your stolen money made?

So why not a rape or two from Polanski?
I enjoyed his Rosemary's Baby: So toss
his rape victim on The Ash Heap of The Mute
Victims of The Rich & Celebrities: Did
Michael Jackson pay too much to the boy(s)
he molested? I mean, 30 million to one kid!
How much does The Catholic Church pay to
the children molested by its priests? God!
What a world~!

Polanski has flaunted the law long enough!
But he'll get away with it. Watch: It's the
way of this world.

S D Rodrian
http://sdrodrian.com

.

Posted by: sdr1 | October 2, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Anybody who thinks his "artistic genius" absolves him of responsibility for his crimes is either really sick in the head or really, seriously clueless as to the facts of the case.

Lots of criminals are geniuses in various ways: I don't see any of these people lobbying to get Bernie Madoff sprung free, and he didn't even do physical harm.

Posted by: northgs | October 2, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

The other side of the argument is that the victim, now a grown woman, has publicly forgiven him and wanted the charges dropped. So at least at a personal level, the issue is resolved and his serving jail time would be strictly from a legal perspective/ to serve a social debt. Is there any knowledge that he has been a pedophile or rapist beyond this one incident many years ago? I'm certainly not a defender of his terrible actions (especially since it involved a child), yet I do not see it as a clearly black and white issue. Unless this man is shown to be a current danger to society, it's just another body in our prison system.

Posted by: kvs09 | October 2, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

My favorite quote thus far, from one of the writers/producers of "Bones":

"Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done." And you have to believe me, I write a murder show. Sorry, Mr Polanski.
http://twitter.com/HartHanson/status/4506202955
Linked from:
http://chrismm.dreamwidth.org/577422.html

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | October 2, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

kvs09 - not sure if this is true but I've heard that Polanski may have paid the victim handsomely under the table. That woudl put her pleas to drop the charges in a very different light.

He raped a child. He ADMITTED it. He needs to do the time.

Posted by: Roxie1 | October 2, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

The wishes of the victim are totally irrelevant in this or any other case. The victim didn't charge him with rape, the state did. Victim perspective is useful for the judge when weighing sentencing, but other than that it simply doesn't matter. It is also to be considered that the victim has received a substantial settlement from Polanski in the interim, the terms of which may or may not be influencing her public statements at this time.

As Gene Weingarten aptly pointed out, Polanski is not a "Pedophile"--that term is reserved for whack jobs that lust for pre-puberty children. There's another term for young teenagers--eleophile? Something like that. And Polanski did get involved with Natasha Kinsski when she was 15 following all of this, so he obviously has a penchant for underage girls.

I don't believe he could have possibly raped anyone else since this incident without it coming to light. However, good behavior since also doesn't have any bearing on the original crime or his punishment for either the crime or his subsequent fugitive status.

I totally heart Steve Lopez.

Posted by: sorcerers_cat | October 2, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Here ya go, cat, just copy & paste: ♥

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | October 2, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who defends Roman Polanski is the smegma on the bottom of pond scum. Let them offer up their 13-year old daughter/niece/friend for a sodomy-filled rape fest. Total cretins and I will remember who you are at the box office!

Posted by: RBCrook | October 2, 2009 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Two Post columnists have tacitly endorsed child rape. Seriously, think about that.

Posted by: OverworkedUnderpaid | October 2, 2009 10:52 PM | Report abuse

Many young girls who have consensual sex with their even slightly older boyfriends want the charges dropped because they're "in love." It doesn't work that way.

This young girl was raped, and still wants the charges dropped; it doesn't work that way, either. Not her choice.

As Garcia said recently on Criminal Minds, "he seems to have a penchant for ladies with learner's permits.

Posted by: jhershelredpuppy1 | October 3, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

If you didn't see it last night, Bill Maher had a succinct, to the point assessment. However, it is not something that can be reprinted in a family newspaper. But kudos to him for calling out the Woody Allens of this world. If you haven't seen it, take the time to watch it this week. And by the way, is Polanski really such a great director? Certainly, "Repulsion" is affecting---in greater part because it is an intense cinematic violation of the psychic life of an unstable young woman. Like David Lynch, he is attracted to "women in peril". But unlike Lynch, who focuses sympathetically on the struggles and conflicts of young women, Polanski uses girls as fetish objects. Just because Polanski's movies are stylistically interesting does not make them art. Art should stand alone, but in his case, Polanski's "art" is a disturbing extension of his obsession with underage young women.

Posted by: sarahcbittle | October 3, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Chris Rock weighed in against Polanski, during the Jay Leno show. (And Jay seemed to hint he was against him as well.)

Posted by: Pupster | October 3, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

"Two Post columnists have tacitly endorsed child rape. Seriously, think about that."
--OverworkedUnderpaid

Something tells me Richard Cohen and Anne Applebaum don't have daughters.

Posted by: td_in_baltimore | October 3, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I agree with just about every poster here. You do the crime, you do the time.

The first thought that occurred to me when I saw some Hollywood dummies are signing a petition to support Polanski is what td wrote re daughters. Every one of those jackasses should pause and think: Would find it easy to excuse Polanski's behavior if it was my daughter? The majority of us would be at his front door with a machete to fix him so he would never commit such a crime again.

No one is judging "this art." We are judging his actions, though. And he didn't step up to the plate to take the consequences he was due but continued to move ahead with his life. Boo hoo - exile in France. He continued to work, eat, sleep, make love, etc etc etc. His victim must have had a life of hell for many years.

They ought to toss him in prison to do double time for slinking out of the country, the vermin.

And yes, we still do not take rape seriously enough.

Posted by: itsagreatday1 | October 4, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

"...if Polanski suddenly died tomorrow, the world would suddenly show -- wrongly -- remorse for being so harsh. " (Comparing to Michael Jackson.)

Absolutely not, for two reasons.

One, Polanski brutally raped a young girl, and that wouldn't change. Michael Jackson was found not guilty to child molestation in spite of law enforcement fiercly spending millions on a "case" that could not be won. They were really after him, and still they could not get a conviction, because the case fell apart by itself.

Two, the difference between the two men couldn't be bigger. Michael Jackson, odd as he may have seemed to many, had a softness and kindness to him that made him millions of not only enthusiastic, but loving fans. He also had an active ambition to do good, donating to charities (300 million dollars), a genuine and lifelong will to help children and to make a better world. Polanski, on the other hand, is deeply into exploring the darker sides of life, claiming himself that the line between creation and reality sometimes is "blurred" to him.

No - if Polanski died right now, we wouldn't feel we are to harsh on him for wanting him to face the consequences of his crime.

Ensler is right - society has not yet fully understood what a serious crime (physically, psychologically) rape is.

Posted by: asoders22 | October 4, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Why is this even a cloudy issue? Roman Polanski had sex with a child.

Posted by: molsonmich | October 5, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Celebrities go down.

Posted by: whocares666 | October 5, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

I agree that he committed a crime, but I think Nellie Olsen is out of line by comparing him to a priest or a politician. I have never known Roman Polanski to be any sort of ethical standard I would look up to. He was and is a party boy. I don't think her opinion holds water because of that.

But still, this is a man who left the country to avoid his punishment and that sucks. He never did the right thing, which would be to come back and face the music. That is what irks me. He is a coward.

Posted by: chocolatetiara | October 5, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

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