Picture this. You have a friend. He’s a brilliant, award-winning artist. He’s no stranger to disaster and loss. Maybe his difficult past explains his talent–and perverted tendencies.
More than two decades ago, when your friend was in his 40s, he gave a 13-year-old girl champagne and quaaludes. Once she was intoxicated, he had oral and anal sex with her.
US authorities charged him with rape. He moved to France, where his citizenship protected him from extradition, before courts could sentence him.
In response, the US put out an international warrant for your friend’s arrest. 32 years later, this past September, the law finally caught up with your friend. Swiss authorities arrested and jailed him. His appeals for bail have been rejected.
As a friend, what do you do? Do you shake your head and think he had it coming? Do you phone in your condolences?
Or do you sign a petition calling for his release, and preventing his extradition to the US? That’s exactly what more than 200 Hollywood celebrities, including Whoopi Goldberg, Martin Scorsese, and Woody Allen, have done. (Here’s a full list of celebs signing the “Free Polanski” petition.)
Mind you, there’s no question about Polanski’s guilt. Salon writes:
…according to the victim’s grand jury testimony, Roman Polanski instructed her to get into a jacuzzi naked, refused to take her home when she begged to go, began kissing her even though she said no and asked him to stop; performed cunnilingus on her as she said no and asked him to stop; put his penis in her vagina as she said no and asked him to stop; asked if he could penetrate her anally, to which she replied, “No,” then went ahead and did it anyway, until he had an orgasm.
A year after he fled the States, Polanski had this to say in an interview (as quoted in the UK Telegraph):
“If I had killed somebody, it wouldn’t have had so much appeal to the press, you see? But… f—ing, you see, and the young girls. Judges want to f— young girls. Juries want to f— young girls. Everyone wants to f— young girls!”
Knowing all this, how do you react, as Roman Polanski’s hypothetical Hollywood friend, when you see the nonsensical petition below? Do you sign it? (translation as seen on Filmdrunk)
We have learned the astonishing news of Roman Polanski’s arrest by the Swiss police on September 26th, upon arrival in Zurich (Switzerland) while on his way to a film festival where he was due to receive an award for his career in filmmaking. His arrest follows an American arrest warrant dating from 1978 against the filmmaker, in a case of morals.
Filmmakers in France, in Europe, in the United States and around the world are dismayed by this decision. It seems inadmissible to them that an international cultural event, paying homage to one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers, is used by the police to apprehend him.
By their extraterritorial nature, film festivals the world over have always permitted works to be shown and for filmmakers to present them freely and safely, even when certain States opposed this.
The arrest of Roman Polanski in a neutral country, where he assumed he could travel without hindrance, undermines this tradition: it opens the way for actions of which no-one can know the effects.
Roman Polanski is a French citizen, a renown and international artist now facing extradition. This extradition, if it takes place, will be heavy in consequences and will take away his freedom.
Filmmakers, actors, producers and technicians – everyone involved in international filmmaking – want him to know that he has their support and friendship.
On September 16th, 2009, Mr. Charles Rivkin, the US Ambassador to France, received French artists and intellectuals at the embassy. He presented to them the new Minister Counselor for Public Affairs at the embassy, Ms Judith Baroody. In perfect French she lauded the Franco-American friendship and recommended the development of cultural relations between our two countries.
If only in the name of this friendship between our two countries, we demand the immediate release of Roman Polanski.
More than 200 actors, several Academy Award winners among them, signed this petition. They knew of Polanski’s guilt (heck, he himself admitted to it). A signature on the petition implies that the signer believes:
a) The rape of a young girl, and subsequent escape from the law, should be forgiven.
b) Police should not use an “international cultural event” as a place to arrest somebody. These events should be above the law.
c) A renowned and international artist should not have his freedom taken away.
d) Raping a 13-year-old girl is a “case of morals.”
As an inhabitant of the normal world, I cannot fathom how any actor or director could put their name on this piece of nonsensical drivel. Apparently, some people in Hollywood live by their own set of standards. Such Hollywoodites experience no qualms in putting their names on something implicitly supporting morally and legally askance behavior.
Perhaps Whoopi Goldberg said it best when she claimed the Polanski case wasn’t “rape-rape.” Because, you know, it was that other kind of nonconsensual sex.
And, finally, what does signing the petition do to a celebrity’s brand? Some folks, like Woody Allen, won’t be affected–you’d almost expect him to sign. But others, like Tilda Swinson, have revealed their mottled sides. If a celebrity’s career can benefit from disgust (eg. they produce violent porn), then signing was probably a good PR move. The rest, however, are embodying the more clueless side of Hollywood, which separates them from their audience.
Signing the Polanski petition is one of the easiest, most harmless ways to get your celebrity brand overnight attention. But maybe naked photos or possession-related arrest would have been a safer PR bet.