On February 1, 1978, Roman Polanski fled the United States after 42 days in prison awaiting final sentencing after pleading guilty to raping a child. This is a surprising fact, which makes the support he has received since irreconcilable. Ultimately, the only way to understand the blind defense of the child rapist is to see it as a larger symptom of society’s ignorance of the widespread sexual abuse of women. Quentin TarantinoHis own condemnable comments reflect this unfortunate societal disparity.
This case is not one that should be warned with any degree of justification: by Polanski’s own admission, in March 1977, the then 43-year-old director drove a 13-year-old girl to Jack Nicholson’s house. while the Chinese district the actor was out of town. Polanski claimed he was going to take pictures of the girl for French Vogue magazine while he was a guest editor. When he arrived at the property he was given the 13 year old champagne and a qualude. He then raped her several times, then drove her home.
The next day he was arrested. 42 days in jail followed for Polanski awaiting re-sentencing. On the day Polanski was released and told he was to receive a long sentence, he fled the United States, boarded a plane for London and crossed the border into France – where he has double Nationality. French law has since banned his US shipping charge.
As a fugitive, Polanski led 15 projects. During this time he worked with big Hollywood names such as Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Natalie Portman and many more. He has also been nominated for several awards. While maintaining that he raped a child and giving the following explanation for his viciousness in 1979: “If I had killed someone, it wouldn’t have had so much press appeal, you know? But… fuck, you know, and young girls. The judges want to fuck young girls. Juries want to fuck young girls. Everybody wants to fuck you girls!
In this regard, we are dealing with a child rapist who not only escaped justice but also escaped rehabilitation and just reconciliation for his own crimes. Much of his blasé attitude towards his abuse has carried over to Hollywood as well. In 2009, a surprisingly large number of film industry figures signed a petition calling for his release, including David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, Wim Wenders, Wong Kar-wai and Woody Allen.
The argument is that his original sentence would have been three years in state prison, and by that logic he would have already served his sentence. They see the fact that its international movement has been limited to a few selected countries and the condemnation of the press as punishment enough. However, if he had committed the same crime today, the sentence would have been much harsher, but his defenders insist that he be tried on the basis of old and outdated legal standards, despite the fact that he does not ever served a sentence, to begin with.
Perhaps the most alarming public defense came in 2003 when Quentin Tarantino told Howard Stern, “He didn’t rape a 13-year-old girl. It was statutory rape. It’s not quite the same thing… He slept with a minor, okay. It’s not rape. To me, when you use the word rape, you’re talking about violence, throwing them down. It took 15 years for Tarantino to apologize to Polanski’s rape victim for his obviously ignorant and blameworthy comments. Even then, he warned against his appeal, saying he “played devil’s advocate in the debate for the sake of being provocative”.
Why play devil’s advocate in a child rape case? That alone is indicative of society’s continued ignorance on the matter. Is the continual violence perpetrated against women in Tarantino’s films simply to provoke the audience without much forethought as to the message being sent? And is that a valid justification in a world where the UN says that one in three women in the world has experienced physical or sexual violence, and in the United States, every nine minutes, the protective services of the childhood substantiate or find evidence of an allegation of child sexual abuse?
These facts are shocking, just as the details of the Polanski case that opened this piece are also disturbing. Anything that hides them, defends them, or simply doesn’t address them makes it clear that as a society we haven’t solved the problem. When you deconstruct Tarantino’s comments, the same can be said of his own movies where violence against women does not address the big picture. He’s not alone in this, but you can’t say his films show the violence for free instead of exposing the ugliness of it.
While this is a normalized entertainment choice that eludes Tarantino’s work alone, his commentary and the same callous approach in constructing his films show that we need to be more aware of the problem in order to help solve it. In the past, Tarantino has even admitted it himself, saying of his allegiance to Harvey Weinstein, “I knew enough to do more than I did.”
Although this is a sad statement, it should serve as a slogan for how we actively address the issue in the future. It also means no longer using violence – whether sexual or otherwise – in films as a tool of provocation. Because, above all, the Polanski case proves that culture can perpetuate dark undercurrents in society in troubling ways, such as constant sexualization, indiscriminate hero-worship, and the maintenance of patriarchal paradigms even if unconscious . In order to address this, we need to face the harsh reality of the problem and be more mindful of our actions and our art because, in all of this debate, the traumatic and tragic ramifications for a 13-year-old child are too often largely ignored. .
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