Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Today's struggle: moral ambiguity...

 Sigh.  A rare Bunklelife True Revelations moment ahead.

When I woke up the other morning, the first thing I heard on the CBC was a news story about Roman Polanski's arrest in Switzerland.  My reaction?  I said - out loud -"OH for FUCK'S sake."  You know it's a good morning when your first sentence includes the F-bomb.  My initial reaction was frustration that this whole thing hadn't been dropped and put to rest long, LONG ago, and sympathy for the man involved.

But I've been thinking about my reaction.  And about the situation.  And I've been trying really really hard to figure out why I have sympathy for a 44 year old man who drugged and sodomized at 13 year old girl.  And what I hate is that I don't really have a good answer.  Or at least not any answers that I'm comfortable with.

Am I absolving him because he has brought some absolutely brilliant films to the world? No, but...yes he has ... but no... maybe?

Or because he is a "star"? Um....

Is it because I think the man has taken enough punishment in his life? (is the Holocaust and your wife's brutal murder not enough for one lifetime?) Um....kind of?

Is it because the 70's were different times (you know - drugs, free love, flowers and peace? or something like that?) I guess sort of...but not really...

Am I being a "victim blamer"? (she should have left when he told her to pose topless?) Ugh.

Or a "victim's mother" blamer? As if she knew...

Or is it just the passage of time - 30 years later let's just let it go...after all, the victim has ... But does that make it OK?  No....

I can't explain it - particularly not when at the same time I am more than ready to be creeped out by Woody Allen's consensual relationship & subsequent marriage with a girl 35 years his junior that he had known (and helped raise) since she was a young girl (though strangely it seems to have worked out...but still - GROSS!), or the recent revelations about John and Mackenzie Phillips (though their sexual relationship is just one miniscule piece of a WHOLE lotta f*cked up).  And lord knows that even though my nieces are both young adults now, if I found out either of them had something going on with a guy 30 years older than them, consensual though it may be, I would quite certainly be ready to rip out the offending testes with my bare hands - even though in the eyes of the law they are both "consenting adults".   Reasonable? Maybe not, but ...would it be different if that 30-years-older guy was George Clooney? Or Harrison Ford? Or David Suzuki? Or David Bowie? (I know, I know - a random selection if ever there was one)  I like to think not...but...?

So why am I cutting Polanski so much slack?

I honestly don't know.  It must have something to do with his cultural significance, or his personal history, mixed with the passage of time, because I know for certain if some random 40 year old guy was caught raping a 13 year old I'd want the book thrown at him.

Ugh.  It doesn't make sense, and it obviously doesn't sit comfortably...but I can't shake it.


Mister Man said...

I had a similar reaction, until I recalled the child was 13, then took the time to read her recollection of the events that day. I am frequently amazed at how artists, athletes, politicians and other public figures are so quickly forgiven by their supporters for moral or legal transgressions. I am aware of my own hypocrisies in this area as well, too quick to condemn some, but more forgiving of others I may have on a small pedestal. It is a struggle, but this discussion helps.

As for Mr. Polanski? She was 13, he 44, and he introduced drugs and alcohol to the situation. That should be enough to require that he answer for his actions.

sugarlove said...


What a compelling post. What excellent questions. I too have gone back and forth but have never been able to articulate why. I think you've done so brilliantly.

But at the end of the day, I think Mister Man is right. It's not like Polanski was 19 and the special variety of stupid that comes with youth. He was 44. The girl was 13. I'll bet if he weren't the man who had made some great films, we wouldn't be waffling NEARLY at quite this rate..... Ethics. Complicated much?

Thanks for the great post.

BunkleLife said...

Thanks you two...

Today's Bunkle Thought? The famous are our new Greek Gods - ("did you hear Gaia is sleeping with her son again? But you've got to admit, Uranus is pretty cute - who can blame her really...and that Zeus - turning into a white bull so he could abduct and rape that Europa chick? ZEUS!!! And she's not even that good looking - lucky b*tch";).

OH the challenges of that annoyingly deep rooted need we seem to have for idols of some sort. Obviously, and unfortunately, a hard thing to shake.

Dominic Bugatto said...

Huge fan of the man's films , but you have to separate the artist from the individual.

I'm sitting on the fence on this one too , all the confusion surrounding his plea bargain at the time clouds a lot of the issues.The judge tried changing the game after an agreement was made , but it still doesn't detract from what he did regardless.

I've got kids of my own now , so I can't help but look at this differently.

Hope you're well.

Cheers, Dom