Polanski Unshackled

Today the newspapers in Switzerland heralded the ‘liberation’ of Roman Polanski. You know the chappy; film director, slain wife, pesky rape case hanging over his head for some thirty years. And what’s more – Switzerland is refusing to extradite him to the States. Oh happy day! I can hear the bell ringers mounting the tower steps even as I write this.

The hell is going on? These were the same Swiss newspapers lauding his arrest a few short months ago on behalf of American authorities. Must be a new editor-in-chief parking in the corner office.

Let’s talk about rape. Of a child. Who was first plied with alcohol and then drugs. We have laws against these sorts of things, pretty much everywhere in the world. And for good reason. Have I scored any detractors so far?

Let’s not talk about why it took three decades to track down this most cunning of fugitives. I guess no-one thought to look for the short fella with the red carpet burns at Cannes. And let’s not talk about the implicit ‘but I’ve had a shit life’ defence – a favourite amongst violent criminals the world over. (Yes, I know his wife was tortured and executed – but again, what has that to do with ‘his’ actions?) Let’s not go near the idea of questioning the relevance of criminal proceedings so many years after the fact. Personally, I’m quite alright with the idea of a penal system based on revenge – served hot or cold. And let’s not even touch on the fact that his victim, Samantha Geimer, has forgiven him and wants the case dropped. I am genuinely happy for her, though less than happy that any legal system could entertain the existence of such loop holes – created either by personal healing, failing memory, or a wheelbarrow full of cash.

Instead, let’s talk about what sick sequencing exists in the human genome that fosters any debate to exist at all. What is it about us that wants to confer positive personal attributes, in a wildly sweeping manner, to those artists whose work we admire? Can I enjoy his direction of Macbeth and still want to see him in prison? Answer: yes.

Mighty Aphrodite’ does not make Wood Allen any less a moral degenerate. ‘The cities of the red night’ does not make William Burroughs any less a sexual predator. Am I making my point? Apparently not. Because we’re demonstrating all too readily our need to make little gods out of those we admire – perching them up high on a pedestal like some kind of proof that a higher kind of human actually exists.


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