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Arts & Entertainment, etc. / Opinion / Movies

Polanski, the law, and the public

October 1, 2009

I usually ignore celebrity items on this blog. But recent news of Roman Polanski's arrest speaks to bigger issues than which stars are dating and who cut what deal.

To bring you up to speed, the film director pleaded guilty in 1977 to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, who was 13 at the time (investigators say alcohol and drugs were involved). He bolted to France before sentencing, staying out of the U.S. since then.

On Monday, he was arrested in Switzerland while on his way to a film festival.

Hollywood has rallied behind Polanski, but it seems like the general public (fueled by conservative talk show hosts who see this as another sign of Hollywood immorality) doesn't buy it. Putting artists above the law because of their talent is a dangerous and difficult position to argue.

Other arguments focus on the time that has gone by, the statement of the victim (who sued, accepted a settlement, and has since called for the case to be thrown out), and some issue about whether a deal that was struck was changed. There are also those who make the "He's already suffered enough and isn't a threat" case.

Personally, I have trouble believing that a non-celebrity found guilty of such a crime would find much sympathy. Or would deserve any kind of break. I don't see any reason he should be treated any differently than anyone else who drugged and raped a child and then chose to become a fugitive rather than face the consequences.

In past blogs, we've had lively discussions about how much we do (or should) let the personal life and actions of a star influence how much we enjoy or engage in their work. Or whether we allow ourselves to experience the work at all.

Since I learned of his crimes, long ago, I've chosen not to pay money to see a Polanski film. That means I've missed "The Pianist" (for which he won an Oscar for Best Director) and, no matter how great that film may be, I'm okay with that. But I respect others who think differently. After all, I haven't avoided exhibitions of Paul Gauguin's paintings because he had child brides.

Does that make me a hypocrite?

Your thoughts?

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