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Polanski’s crime and punishment

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There is something wrong with a society when people are scampering to defend a man who confessed to drugging and having sex with a 13-year-old girl. You’d think that in this day and age we’d got our moral priorities straight. But for some people, when a celebrity is involved, the rules no longer apply.

Acclaimed filmmaker and exiled fugitive Roman Polanski has received an astonishing deluge of support from admirers—both in Hollywood and the outside world—after he was arrested late last month on a warrant issued 31 years ago in connection with a statutory rape charge.

As told by Polanski’s alleged victim, Samantha Gailey, the story goes something like this: An aspiring 13-year-old model/actress got her break in 1977 when her mother set her up for a magazine photo shoot with the famous director Polanski. During the course of that shoot, Gailey grew uncomfortable with Polanski’s advances, but chose to remain silent so as to not jeopardize her future. Towards the end of the shoot, Polanski started taking photos of Gailey drinking champagne he had spiked with a sedative, and then finally forced her into having sex with him. After the story broke, Polanski was arrested and served 42 days in prison before he was released, but the judge tried to renege on his plea bargain (presumably to give him a tougher sentence). It was then that Polanski absconded to Europe where he has remained for the past 31 years.

Since then, Polanski has done little to curb suspicions of pedophilia. He continued his romantic affair with then 16-year-old actress Nastassja Kinski (he was 41). And he explained to British author Martin Amis in a 1977 interview that his case garnered sympathy from the press simply because, in his opinion of course, his crime was understandable, unlike, say, murder. Polanski rationalized this comment by proclaiming that “everyone wants to f— young girls,” though not everyone would be willing to admit it.

Despite such remarks, Polanski has had little difficulty finding supporters on both sides of the Atlantic after his arrest last month. France’s Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner requested of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Polanski be released on bail, remarking that “a man of such talent, recognized in the entire world, recognized especially in the country that arrested him—all this just isn’t nice.”

In Hollywood, Polanski’s apologists were no less hasty in their attempts to vindicate him. Whoopie Goldberg, an Oscar-winning actress and, oddly enough, a children’s rights advocate, signed a 15,000-strong petition by Hollywood hotshots to release Polanski, and graced us with these words of wisdom: “I know it wasn’t rape-rape. I think it was something else, but I don’t believe it was rape-rape.” Polanski maintains the sex was consensual.

What planet is Goldberg living on? By that twisted logic, one could pardon serial killer Charles Manson (who orchestrated the slaying of Polanski’s wife, Sharon Tate) because he’s not guilty of murder-murder. Thankfully, the justice system doesn’t work that way. The sooner we see Polanski behind bars, the sooner people can understand that drugging and having sex with a child is an indefensible crime, regardless of one’s other contributions to society.

It’s worth noting that Polanski’s victim recently stated that she’d “gotten over [the incident] a long time ago,” and said the “suffering” Polanski has been through was adequate punishment for his mistake. Indeed, being forced to live in fame and luxury in Southern France must have been terrible.

Gailey (now Geimer) is actually one of the strongest advocates of his release. This is, of course, her own prerogative, but what she needs to understand is that there’s no expiry date on crime. The purpose of the justice system is to deter crime, and can only function properly if it’s applied systematically to all criminals without exceptions. No one is above the law.

We may never see Polanski serve time for his despicable act, or even go to trial. Such has been the trend with celebrity crimes in California. But who knows? Maybe just this once, a celebrity will pay his debt to society—the same as everyone else.