Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Emma Thompson and Roman Polanski

Although I support the efforts of Roman Polanski not to be extradited to the United Sates, I am also generally sympathetic to those who speak out against any differential treatment  of  celebrities.  

Celebrityhood should not make celebrities qualified for any kind of special treatment.
But we all very well know that such is not the case in America.  Too many Americans worship their stars.  Some do so to such a degree that if anything bad happens to one of their heavenly bodies they become psychologically unglued.    Such was recently demonstrated when Michael Jackson died; there was massive mourning throughout the United States, and a media frenzy that even surpassed the trials and tribulations of OJ Simpson.

And now we have Emma Thompson, an accomplished actress and humanitarian, who has caused many people on the feminist left to go into seizures of despair and heartbreak, particularly see the Jezebel and Shakesville blogs.

And what did Emma Thompson do that caused such distress- she signed the Bernard Henri Levy petition in support of  freedom for Polanski.  Here we have one actress and one signatory of the petition.  But what we also have is too many feminists treating Thompson as being the Ultimate one.  She is treated with adoration  just as all “true” celebrities are treated.  Her falling from her scared superior position has caused much suffering by her worshipers.
But according to the Shakseville blog, all has not been in vain- 

Last week, a reader named Caitlin e-mailed Shakesville blogmistress Melissa McEwan — who had written about being heartbroken by Thompson’s decision to sign — with a proposal. Caitlin is a student at Exeter University, where Thompson was scheduled to speak last night, and knew she’d have the opportunity to meet the actor. In her e-mail, Caitlin wrote: “I have set up a petition online, in the hopes that I can hand her a list of names and comments next week from the online community (and my own university, hopefully) showing our dismay at her decision to sign the Roman Polanski petition.”
The petition got 410 signatures and numerous comments, which Caitlin brought to her meeting with Thompson last night. In a follow-up e-mail to Shakesville, Caitlin writes:
Emma did not have much time between meetings, but she gave me all of the time that she had. I asked her why she had signed the petition, and she explained about how well she knows Polanski, how terrible his life has been, and how forgiving the survivor of the rape all those years ago now is. She said she thought the intentions of the judge were unclear, as were the intentions of those who arrested him recently. She told me that a lot of her friends had rung her up asking her to sign the petition, so there had been a certain amount of pressure. She said that she had already been thinking a lot about the petition, as others had expressed their dismay at her signing it.
I handed her our petition and the comments. She read them both through thoroughly, and came back to me. She said, while she supported Polanski as a friend, a crime is a crime. I don’t know whether she had realised the extent of Polanski’s crime, but she is now fully aware. She will remove her name from the petition – in fact, she said she would call today and sort it out. Even though, she stressed, Polanski has had some truly terrible experiences in his lifetime, experiences that we couldn’t even imagine and which should not be taken out of the equation, she agreed that she could not put her name to a petition asking for his release.
Assuming that she will be true to her word, her name will be removed in the very near future. Hopefully the press will pick up on it.
She left me with this, to pass on to everyone who has signed the petition/raised awareness of this issue: “Know that I will remove my name because of you, and all of the good work that you have been doing. I have read your petition. I have heard you. And I will listen.”
If she follows through, hooray for Thompson — and either way, hooray for Caitlin, who had the guts to use a brief meeting with a celebrity to do what many of us have wanted to over the last month: Ask what the fuck went through her head before she signed. And it sounds like the usual — he’s suffered, he’s charming, the victim wants it dropped, judicial shenanigans, all the cool kids are signing — minus any thought of what he actually did to the victim in 1977, before fleeing the country. Lévy conveniently left any mention about that out of his petition, but Caitlin did not. And that information is rather crucial to making a decision about whether to call for leaving poor old Polanski alone. I’ve been wondering the whole time how many of his supporters have taken a good look at it, and how many just got a phone call saying, “It’s a witch hunt — sign this” and agreed.
Here’s hoping not only that Thompson makes that call, but that her change of heart gets enough real media attention for other celebrity signatories of the Free Polanski petition to think twice about who and what, exactly, they agreed to stand up for.

Of course the Jezebel blogger comes out patronizing both Emma Thompson and all other signatories.  They just couldn’t know what they actually signed.  I signed the petition and I knew just about all aspects of the Polanski case that have become public.  And I assume that such was also the case for many of the other signatories.
What I find so terribly depressing is that apparently so many, (see the comments on the Shakesville blog )are so dependent on any power figure.  Doesn’t such dependency represent the antithesis of what feminism is all about?

Speaking only for myself, if Harrison Ford decided to remove his name from the petition I would be unfazed.  What does Harrison Ford have to do with me? I speak for myself; Harrison Ford speaks for himself.  Why should I or any body else petition Harrison Ford? If such petitioning would occur as it has occurred in reference to Emma Thompson, it just demonstrates the dependency and vulnerability of the petitioners.

NOTE: EMMA THOMPSON HAS NOT PUBLICLY CONFIRMED THAT SHE HAS WITHDRAWN HER SUPPORT OF POLANSKI. IF SHE DOES SO, I WILL WITHDRAW THIS NOTE.

November 4, 2009 Posted by | celebrities, Emma Thompson, feminism, rape, Roman Polanski, sex, sexual politics, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

   

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