Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Roman Polanski is the painted bird

Sean Beaudoin in his ON POLANSKI post gets it right when he states-

 What does matter, and what I hear almost no one mentioning, is Polanski’s background. Not his artistic background, but his background as a human being. Geraldine Ferraro ignorantly and self-righteously claimed in her recent NY Times polemic that “he’s rich and continues to lead a charmed life.” Ms. Ferraro, apparently not having done an ounce of research since vetting Walter Mondale’s chances of winning more than one state against Ronald Reagan, could not be more wrong. Polanski lived through a horrific childhood, a childhood of truly cinematic brutality and deprivation in the woods of Europe as a Jewish orphan riding out the end of World War Two. His pregnant mother was killed at Auschwitz. Jerzey Kozinski, in fact, based his epic and disturbing work, The Painted Bird, on Polanski’s early experiences. If even a tenth of Kozinski’s book is true, it’s astonishing that Polanski managed to make what he did of his life, let alone expressing a creative vision that wasn’t entirely one of dissolution and madness. Twenty years later, in a quintessentially American example of   brutal irony, Polanski’s pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, was also horribly murdered. Her death, at the hands of the Manson Family, was one of the most sensationalized and bizarre episodes in a decade ridden with war, massive cultural upheaval, and narcotic self-abasement. Should we not at least take into account these factors when determining whether Polanski is a dangerous pedophile or a thoroughly flawed person who may, due to those experiences, have lost a certain degree of rationality and judgment at the time of his crime? This is the problem with adjudicating thirty years after the fact. It is simply unfair, if not unjust, to take any behavior out of the context of its era. Is it morally relativist to think we may not be entirely capable of judging decisions made under the moral yoke of Spiro Agnew, napalm, Owsley, and monthly political assassinations? Certainly any judge or jury or editorial could have then. And they did. A deal was reached, likely in some part because of Polanski’s celebrity, that seems ludicrously lenient now. But there were also unanswered questions that made the prosecution more difficult. Like, for instance, why was this girl made up to look like an adult and then dropped off at Jack Nicholson’s house at night by her mother, who without question knew her daughter would be alone with a notorious director? We can never know the answer, just as we can never know Polanski’s mindset, but what is certain is that we were very different people then. There were no missing child photos on milk cartons. There were no gossip websites or instantaneous cellphone photography to curb public behavior. In the drug-and-libertine haze of early seventies Hollywood there were few limits on debauchery, let alone documentaries about the Jon Benet-style sexualization of young girls,  or the very public Lohan and Spears censure of stage mothers who thrust their daughters into inexcusable situations in exchange for potential careers. If Polanski is to be brought to justice, why are there no similar calls for charges to be filed against the girl’s astonishingly and criminally negligent mother?

Yes, yes and yes again Polanski’s background as a human being is relevant but somehow so many people either deny that his background is relevant or simply avoid looking at his background. Of course, not fully looking at Polanski’s humanity is a form of dehumanization.

And Beaudoin believes that Polanski’s survival experience in Poland was the source material for Jerzy Kosinki’s novel, THE PAINTED BIRD.  Whether or not Polanski was Kosinki’s painted bird is beside the point.  The dankprofessor’s concluding point is that in today’s world Polanski is the painted bird.

November 3, 2009 Posted by | Jerzy Kosinski, rape, Roman Polanski, sex, sexual politics | 5 Comments

   

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