In our new era of teachable moments, nothing has been so educational to me as Roman Polanski's arrest in Switzerland last week for having sex with a 13-year-old girl. Listening to the impassioned defenses by Polanski's supporters in Europe and Hollywood, I've learned so much that my head is just about to explode.
No doesn't always mean no after all.
A 13-year-old girl who says she doesn't want to have sex with you is probably just kidding around. The girl testified to a Los Angeles grand jury that she repeatedly told Polanski that she didn't want to kiss him or have sex with him and that she wanted to go home. No matter: The real standard for consent is that she "was not unresponsive," as Polanski put it. That was good enough for Debra Tate, the sister of actress Sharon Tate and Polanski's former sister-in-law. "There's rape and then there's rape," she said. "It was determined that Roman did not forcibly have sex with this woman. It was a consensual matter."
When you're pursuing a flighty teenager, there's nothing wrong with employing a little chemical assistance. Polanski admitted to law-enforcement officials that he plied the girl with Quaaludes and champagne -- and the girl herself admitted that when he discovered she wasn't taking birth-control pills, he decided to simply sodomize her rather than have regular sex. Philosopher-queen Whoopi Goldberg carefully considered these facts, then proclaimed on her TV show The View: "It wasn't rape-rape. It was something else."
Conservatives were right all these years -- our legal system is too damned concerned with minor legal niceties.
Actress Debra Winger, who was supposed to present Polanski with an award at the Swiss film festival where he was arrested, was infuriated at his incarceration. "It is based on a three-decade-old case that is all but dead, except for a minor technicality," she protested. The "minor technicality" was that Polanski skipped bail before his sentencing back in 1977 and, aside from six weeks confinement for psychiatric evaluation, never served a day of time for the crime to which he pleaded guilty.
43 is the new 16.
Even if Polanski stepped over a line, piped up alleged French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy, the worst that could be said was that he "perhaps had committed a youthful error."
Polanski was a mere 43 at the time of the crime -- more than three times the age of the girl, but who's counting?
Anyway, we wouldn't put him in jail here. We'd . . . oh, never mind.
Outside of Hollywood, nobody has been more outspoken in demanding Polanski's release than officials in his native Poland. Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski has announced plans to press the Obama administration and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for a pardon. Polanski "is a great person," said the country's former president Lech Walesa. "He did a lot for Poland and the world . . . it should be forgiven." In Poland, of course, he'd be forgiven only after chemical castration: A bill passed by parliament two days before Polanski's arrest establishes that as the penalty for pedophiles convicted of sex with anybody under 15.
Artists deserve protection from the world's vulgarians, as long as they're not Muslim assassins.
Declaring Polanski an "Art God," popular Hollywood blogger Jeffrey Wells said that made him quasi-immune from concerns of the real world: "Art Gods have earned the right to be shown an extra measure of consideration." Meanwhile, more than 100 show-business celebrities (including Martin Scorsese, Michael Mann and, ahem, Woody Allen) have signed a petition demanding his release. Interestingly, when Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered in 2004 by Islamic terrorists after making a short film critical of treatment of women in the Muslim world, there wasn't a peep out of Hollywood.
There are a few Hollywood nuts who just don't get it. "People are defending Roman Polanski because he made good movies 30 years ago?" comedian Chris Rock asked in wonder last week. "Are you kidding me? Even Johnny Cochran didn't have the nerve to go, 'Well did you see O.J. play against New England?' "
Forget it, Chris, it's Tinseltown.