Where’s the outrage for Roman Polanski?

A few months ago when the Philadelphia Eagles signed convicted dog killer/fighter and quarterback Michael Vick, it opened a firestorm of controversy. After Roman Polanksi was arrested in Switzerland, I wondered where was the same outrage. Among the arguments we heard about Michael Vick were as follows:

  • Animals are defenseless – Polanski’s victim was a 13 year-old girl who he plied with alcohol and quaaludes
  • Michael Vick didn’t serve enough time – Polanski hasn’t served any. Instead he’s been living high on the hog in France, making movies, winning Oscars, and making money
  • Michael Vick doesn’t deserve a job like NFL quarterback – again, Polanski has been making major motion pictures for the past 31 years
  • Michael Vick’s crimes were especially heinous – according to testimony and interviews from the victim, we know this “despite her protests, he performed oral sex, intercourse and sodomy on her”. She said no repeatedly and Polanski raped her over and over again
  • Vick apologists will say that he grew up in an environment where dog fighting was accepted; that argument is appropriately denied. Anyone who dismisses Polanski’s crime as not real rape, or as Whoopi Goldberg stated “rape-rape” should be ashamed of themselves

“Come on, man, she’s 13. Thirteen! I’ve seen some hot 16-year-olds that look 18, 17[-year-olds] that look 18…Thirteen is 13. Nobody gets away with having sex with a 13-year-old.”  Chris Rock

One wonders why Polanski has scores of defenders and Vick none. It’s something that always bothered me about the Vick outrage was that it was disproportionate with the crime in relation to reaction to other crimes. The reaction to Vick was part in response to his stature and visibility as an NFL quarterback, but I believe also a response to the person. Poor, not highly educated, black – none of these things work in his favor.

“In the United States, we want to capture Osama Bin Laden and murder him. We’re not gonna rape him. That would be barbaric!” Chris Rock

If anything deserves your outrage, it’s the Polanski crime and the support he has received since being arrested. Thank goodness for the common sense responses by Chris Rock, Jay Leno, and Kirstie Alley.

What do you think?

  • avjones

    I love ya Spencer, but I don't know where you've been on this one to have not heard the outrage. I think it outpaces the support. And some folks have let it be known that they will no longer support the offerings of any entertainer who voices support for Polanski. That could mean trouble for Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, and others. Many conversations have been opened by this development, including the one where we ask ourselves, once again, do great artists have to be great people?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/speener speener

      Maybe it's because I live in Philly, but the difference in response has been sad. Yes there has been outrage, but it was quickly tempered by wanting to talk about David Letterman. I also think the response was more about the response and less about Polanski's crime.

  • http://fortyninepercenter.blogspot.com/ Joey

    I spoke out against Michael Vick.

    But, I think the two things are different leagues. Roman Polanski deserves to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. There is no question in my mind. It makes you wonder, if Vick could have run to a country that would not extradite him – and still make a living – would he have done it?

    I don’t mean to open a can of worms…but, Polanski would have been brought to justice much sooner if he had nowhere to run.

    There is absolutely no excusing what either man did. In the same way, there is no comparing them. One is a crime against a living thing, the other is a crime against humanity. So, let the sentence fit the crime. Vick served his sentence. I never had a problem with that end of it. I just didn’t want to see him playing for our city’s team. I did not want him representing Philadelphia.

    But, Polanksi deserves to go away for a long time for what he did….a really long time.

    I always thought so. I just never understood why the law wasn’t tracking him down. Blame extradition laws for that. But, I think the sense of outrage for him has always been in place. At least…for me, it has.
    .-= Joey´s last blog ..Thom Yorke and Flea Form Supergroup =-.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/speener speener

    One more thing – I think there has been outrage because of the initial response by some people like Allen (surprise), Scorcese, and Goldberg – but the initial response was tepid at best. The response to Vick, a man that spent 2 years in a federal prison, was swift and certain.

    I'm not saying that people aren't outraged – it's just that I'm surprised at the level of anger that's missing. People were more upset about Kanye than this.

  • Darryl

    Spencer, there has been a lot of outrage about Polanski. Our local paper has written several editorials about it. I think you're right, because you're in Philly the Vick debacle seemed to have brought more attention.

    Regardless, both crimes are heinous, but I agree that Polanski more so than Vick deserves to be locked up for a very long time. There is no excuse for raping and sodomizing a 13 year old girl. Scorsese, Woody Allen, etc… need to have their heads checked for sympathizing with this guy.

    The only other factor that may come into play here, is that people tend to dismiss rape because they warp into blaming the victim. Like somehow this 13 year old was asking for it, where as an animal doesn't have free will. Regardless, Polanski is scum and should be treated as such.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/speener speener

      The outrage was slow in coming (as was this post). It seems like most of the outrage was do to the bad response from Hollywood. Al in all – the 30 year gap explains a lot.

      One other thing – the whole blaming the vicim thing is the big issue. I think a lot of people just don't see this as a crime or simply slip into blaming the victim. But the fact that she's 13 years-old would seem to erase that as an issue, at least you think it would.

  • grace

    The other thing that might make it feel like an unsatisfying amount of rage in comparison to Vick is that Vick's case is recent, Polanski's crime was over 30 years ago. If his crime happened in 2007 and he had been sitting in France for only the last two years, the outrage would be a lot stronger. Let's check back in on the Vick protests in 2040 and see how hot people are.

    I don't think the two cases are comparable, though. Apples and oranges, etc.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/speener speener

      They're definitely apples and oranges – but that doesn't mean we can't draw parallels. Our legal system does it all the time. It's to easy to say that the argument is moot because the situations aren't the same.

      Anyway – you're right, it's the time that past that makes this less of a comparison. Plus people don't really know who Roman Polanski is I guess. I remember saying that if this had happened today, he would be crucified by the media. Can you imagine Nancy Grace getting ahold of this?

      I guess another problem I have with the whole situation is that I don't get the sense that there was any outrage back then, but that was a different time – access to information was not as easy.

      You put it well when you say there's an unsatisfying amount of rage.

  • http://fortyninepercenter.blogspot.com/ Joey

    Will this become a statute of limitations issue?
    .-= Joey´s last blog ..Death Cab For Cutie – Meet Me On The Equinox =-.

  • http://www.svrspy.blogspot.com Scarlet

    I know a couple of people who think hurting an animal is worse than hurting a person. WTF.

    And I've been surprised people seem more upset about letterman than bringing back up what Polanski did. I don't care who Letterman effed unless he raped them. It's his wife who cares.

    But I do still LOVE Rosemary's Baby:)

  • http://www.merujo.com Merujo

    I feel bad – I wrote this comment a while ago at work. Our internet connection was all funky, and it's been languishing in my drafts folder. D'oh! Well, better late than never, eh? (Although, in this case, with the discussion of people being slow to the table to rebuff the ridiculousness of Scorcese, Weinstein, and others, maybe not!)

    avjones asks a very good question about great artists/great people. I have a very hard time separating the art from the artist because I believe creativity is a very personal, intimate thing. It's hard for me to listen to someone's music, for instance, if I find out they engage in really awful behavior. It's a gut reaction to something that has a big effect on me, and I really don't want to reward or encourage behaviors I find repugnant.

    The individuals who have blustered publicly in support of Polanski have lost my support (and dollars) as a consumer of creative art. Polanski never had my support; someone recently gave me crap about how I'd just jumped on the anti-Polanski bandwagon, but anyone who has had the pleasure/displeasure of reading my stuff online since the late 1990s when I first found a blogging outlet know I've been venting my spleen at Polanski for a long time.

    Am I disappointed in some of these artists in particular? You better believe it. I have long enjoyed Scorcese's work, as well as that of Terry Gilliam, whose films have been touchstones in my life. (Time Bandits? Brazil? Oh yeah.) But now, I really don't think I'll see his upcoming release. I don't want to give money to someone who thinks child rape by an artiste is okay. How sad.

    Side note: while Gilliam and Scorsese had always struck me as straight shooters (off kilter, creative ones, sure), on the other hand, David Letterman has always given me the creeps and made me uncomfortable. Hearing that he'd been schtupping his subordinates (plural) at work increases the Creep Factor for me, and I can't even imagine tuning in to watch a Top Ten list at this point. Yuck.

    Morals, ethics – they do count. I least I hope they do.