Picture this: A 40-something dude dopes a 13-year-old girl with quaaludes then rapes her vaginally, orally and anally then flees the country to escape prison. Given, for three decades, Roman Polanski fastidiously avoided traveling to the US (the country which would arrest him) as well as the UK (and other places that might extradite him) — it appears, surely, heÂ worried he’d eventually get caught. Such was the case this weekend when he was finally arrested.
If you’ve been to Funky Brown Chick before, you know about Manly Mondays–weekly nods to men, masculine topics and other testosteronely bits. Also, if you’ve hung around here a while (and/or know me personally), you’re familiar with my love of film and you’re likely aware I used to work international affairs before moving to New York and pursuing a career that fed my passion for the written word. So, naturally, what better Manly Monday pick could I write about today than what Esquire magazine calls a “30-year-old case, on sex, justice, and the American way.” So, here we go …
It seems no one doubts Roman Polanski has had an incredibly unfair share of misfortune. A Jew having escaped wartime KrakÃ³w ghettos only to learn his mother would later perish in Auschwitz, his childhood wasn’t without horrors. He could’ve been a tortured soul when he came to the U.S. as adult and directed his first film, the occult flick Rosemary’s Baby. (I rented it ages ago and loved it. My reaction to it was similar to my impressions of reading Stephen King: “I’m probably taking in the product of a brilliant, albeit possibly disturbed, mind.”) In any case, Polanski’s misfortunes likely might’ve seemed to diminish as he career took off and he married the beautiful Sharon Tate. Nineteen months after the wedding, on August 8, 1969, his 8-1/2 month pregnant wife, Tate, was brutally murdered by Charles Manson’s gang. They weren’t targeting her. Out for blood, it was just dumb luck she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Almost full term, her killer testified she got “sick of listening to her, pleading and begging, begging and pleading” to give birth to Polanski’s child before they took her life. Upon hearing the news of his bride and only baby’s death, I can only imagine Polanski must’ve felt cursed. What did he do to deserve such horrible fate? Sadly, the answer is probably: absolutely nothing. Life, unfortunately, isn’t fair.
Enter the rape of 13-year-old kid, Samantha Gailey. I’ve neither heard nor read anything that suggests he’s innocent. Gailey (now Geimer) testified he did it, and Polanski admitted his guilt. Having said all that, after watching confessions & testimonies contained in the documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted & Desired*, I get the impression no one believes Judge Rittenband gave Polanski a fair trial. Reporting for the Washington Post, critic Tom Shales has said, Rittenband’s “bungling of the case was so outrageous.” Of Polanski’s recent arrest, French Minister of Culture and Communication FrÃ©dÃ©ric Mitterrand commented he “strongly regrets that a new ordeal is being inflicted on someone who has already experienced so many of them.” Indeed. Although justice should be blind, I’m often sympathetic when people who — through no fault of their own — are unfairly burdened with extra heapings of the shittiest of life’s (mis)fortunes. They deserve a break. Though, the key phrase there is through no fault of their own. He pleaded guilty to raping a child, and life has its odd synchronicities. Quoting The Guardian: “Just as 13-year-old Samantha Gailey was unfortunate enough to run up against Polanski in horny, Austin Powers mode, so Polanski was unlucky to be then dragged before Rittenband.”
“So,” several friends have recently asked, “what do you think about this Polanski stuff?” I’m neither or judge nor a lawyer, so I’ll refrain from speculating about the legal technicalities of the case. I only know what I’ve seen in the press — which, of course, is not without its flaws. So, I guess my final answer isn’t resolute at all. I don’t know what to think of it yet because I’m still turning it around in my head. The incidents are truly unfortunate–for everyone involved. That said — whether you’re a bystander reading the news, a survivor of teen sexual abuse, someone with children of your own, a film buff who thinks Polanski got a raw deal, or whatever — I want to hear from you. As I’ve said many times, the world is most interesting when people respectfully disagree. Feel free to use the comments section below to do so.
Psst! I highly recommend the documentary. It’s available (FREE!) streaming online to Netflix members. Click Roman Polanski: Wanted & Desired.