Wed. Jul 24th, 2024

Polanski: Pedophile? Or nasty, criminal putz?

The case of Roman Polanski has me into more than mere muse as of late over these two skews: ways to frame his crime. When I first heard the news I wondered, “Where the hell has the media been on this?”

Where the media usually is: no where to be found if it’s not sexy or serves the some big corporate agenda.

What’s the fuss is about his cinematic work I have never quite figured out. Even though I’ve had multiple film critique classes and know amongst many profs his work is well respected, in my opinion his most famous movie: Rosemary’s Baby was a big yawn and a big promotional smooch to Catholicism and superstition, for example. I can’t remember a damn thing about Chinatown or The Pianist. Good movies hang with me. Polanski’s movies twist away easier than Linda Blair’s all too obviously fake head. And sometimes all I’m left with is fake puke. Gross? Yes, but not all that interesting, relevant or even good fiction.

Yeah, I know. Supposedly Baby was supposed to have been based on real events. But I’m enough of a skeptic to only believe that’s what really happened like that just as soon as I see the ghost of Harry Houdini who said he would come back if it’s possible.

His movies, as a whole, have neither overwhelmed me, nor impressed me. I do think, like most icons, he’s a bit over-rated.

Though I was not impressed, I have no personal ax to smash into what soon will be mere remains of a towering tree of a career here. What makes him so popular? Stumps me.

Since I’m not a fan you’d think my first reaction would be to cheer the pickle he got himself into in after using his own personal pickle in a very inappropriate manner, oh, so long ago. No, my first reaction was…

“Why do they insist on conflating statutory misbehavior with being a real pedophile?”

This has less to do with Polanski than it does my feelings regarding dating and age differences. I learned about this issue early: when I was still a teen, and I also learned I am no fan of older men who date underage girls. I lost a friend in the late 60s/early 70s over this issue.

Dan was a smarter than your average 16 year old who, more so than most, was hormone driven. (Maybe I should strike “most” and rephrase as “all?”) Briefly after we first became friends he started dating Marsha. She was 14, he was 16. OK, problematic, but not something I found offensive. The last time we had a true discussion was when he insisted he was going to date Lisa.

“Dan, she’s a sixth grader. And if you hadn’t futzed around all these years by now you’d be a senior like me. It’s immature decisions like this that hold you back.”

“But I like her!”

“Dan, she’s friggin 12 years old, you’re almost 18.”

“But I like her!”

“Dan, if you do this, I can’t be your friend anymore.”

Well, I’m sure you know where that went. So I’m obviously no pal to those who do such things. But there’s something so obviously different when comparing the two. Both are predatory, true, though I believe one is less so. Someone who dates under age; especially with that much of a difference, should be punished. We have to draw the permission line somewhere, and a 12 year old really… most of the time… hasn’t the schnock to decide either way. OK, I understand that doesn’t translate into “all,” but I still go back to…

“We have to draw the permission line somewhere.”

But a true pedophile should really be more clearly defined: both legally and socially. Why? Someone who chases five-year-old kids is sick beyond belief. So why do we, as a society, shove both dating under age women and chasing little kids into this catchall pedophile category? We shouldn’t, because it’s like treating assault as the same as mass murder. The two are simply not the same, and they shouldn’t be put together on any list: national or local, without at least distinguishing between the two.

That’s what we don’t do now. As it stands a 18 year old who gets caught with a 15 year old is pretty much considered the same as the 50 year old who likes to prey upon 3-year-olds. That is flat out wrong.

Yet, as the story progressed and I learned more about what happened, I became less and less comfortable with my own position.

She was drugged.

She was drunk.

I would assume Polanski had something to do with all of the above. “Jackass” doesn’t quite describe my feelings.

I have read she’s still angry over what happened, although even she has said it was long ago and we should let it go. I’m sorry, I can’t agree: he had to be in his forties, she… 13. And, to add to the rage, we can’t let someone who ran get away with it, even if the judge went back on an agreement.

But all these issues: the drugging, the alcohol, the extreme age difference… could be punished under separate laws. We could actually punish him worse than a true pedophile if we treated his crimes that way. Yet in their anger people want to conflate this kind of criminal prosecution with those sick bastards who hunt and prey on the smallest and most vulnerable amongst us, much like our laws do.

There simply is no comparison.

One type of person needs to be punished, yes, but the other probably needs to kept away from civilized society: permanently.

Now that’s something I might agree to.


Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.

Copyright 2009
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
All Rights Reserved

By Ken Carman

Retired entertainer, provider of educational services, columnist, homebrewer, collie lover, writer of songs, poetry and prose... humorist, mediocre motorcyclist, very bad carpenter, horrid handyman and quirky eccentric deluxe.

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RS Janes
14 years ago

I confess I don’t know much about the Polanski case, but I recall that, when I was in my early 20s, I shared the rent with two other guys. One of them was 24, just got out of the Navy, and met a girl at the local jeans store and brought her home. She claimed to be 18 and looked it. They dated for awhile until one night her angry father came by and revealed she was only 14 and if my roommate continued his relationship with her, he’d call the police. You could have knocked him over with a feather — he said she wasn’t a virgin, and she certainly didn’t act or dress like some innocent young high school kid.

As I said, I don’t know the details of the Polanski situation, but is it possible she looked and acted much older than her real age? Is it further possible that Polanski didn’t ‘get her drunk and drug her’ in order to have sex with her, but rather, they both got high, as was common practice back then? I’m not trying to make excuses for him, but I can’t help but remember my ex-roommate who would look very bad from just the bare facts of the matter — 24-year-old Navy vet taking advantage of a 14-year-old girl — except that wasn’t the truth of the situation: He was led on and lied to by someone who was mature beyond her years. BTW, my ex-roommate and his underage friend also drank wine and smoked pot occasionally, but it was by mutual consent — how would that play in newspaper headlines?

RS Janes
14 years ago

What you say is true, Ken, but recall the McMartin Preschool child abuse case that, starting in the early ’80s, was the longest child sexual abuse trial in US history, spanning nearly a decade. As it says in the Wikipedia entry on the McMartin case:

“In 1990, after three years of testimony and nine weeks of deliberation by the jury, Peggy McMartin Buckey was acquitted on all counts. Ray Buckey was cleared on 52 of 65 counts, and freed on bail after more than five years in jail. Nine of 11 jurors at a press conference following the trial stated that they believed the children had been molested but the evidence did not allow them to state who had committed the abuse beyond a reasonable doubt. Eleven out of the thirteen jurors who remained by the end of the trial voted to acquit Buckey of the charges; the refusal of the remaining two to vote for a not guilty verdict resulted in the deadlock. The media overwhelmingly focused on the two jurors who voted guilty at the expense of those who believed Buckey was not guilty. Buckey was retried later on six of the 13 counts, which produced another hung jury. The prosecution then gave up trying to obtain a conviction, and the case was closed with all charges against Ray Buckey dismissed. He had been jailed for 5 years without ever being convicted of any wrongdoing.”
— Wikipedia, “McMartin Preschool Trial.”

Even though no one was ever convicted in the McMartin case, all of those charged suffered irreparable harm to their reputations and prospects of future employment. Perhaps Polanski noticed that, and the fact that Ray Buckley spent five years in jail even though he had not been convicted of any crime. There was a child abuse hysteria in this country at that time (still is), and, as a foreigner and easy target, maybe Polanski didn’t want to be a focal point of the witch hunt.

Again, all of this is hard to say without the details of what Polanski did available. He’s been convicted in the US media, of course, but so was Richard Jewell.

RS Janes
14 years ago

Re: the Richard Jewell case. At one point, thanks to the Big Media hysteria and constant assurances by their ‘experts’ that Jewell fit the profile of a typical disgruntled bomber, it was impossible to find an unprejudiced jury anywhere in this country, so you’re right — if Jewell had been tried, he would have doubtless been quickly convicted.

As Ron Ostrow at writes in “Richard Jewell and the Olympic Bombing”:

“Jewell was interviewed by the Secret Service, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the FBI on July 27, the day of the explosion, and again on July 28. In those interviews, investigators considered him a witness, not a suspect. That began to shift during the afternoon of July 28, when, according to the Justice Department, the president of Piedmont College, Ray Cleere, called the FBI in Atlanta after seeing Jewell interviewed on television.

“Cleere raised the possibility that Jewell could have been involved in planting the bomb, basing the suggestion on problems in Jewell’s earlier record as a policeman at the school. On the strength of this information, the FBI decided to run a background check on Jewell. As an example of how this could happen, agents recalled a case in Southern California not long before in which a volunteer firefighter had apparently set a series of fires so that he could extinguish them and become a hero.

“Later the same day, the idea that Jewell was criminally involved was passed along to FBI officials in Washington during a conference call with the Atlanta field office. A participant in the call mentioned that a security guard at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles had planted a bomb on a bus so that he could discover it later and be a hero. FBI headquarters agreed it was logical to conduct a preliminary investigation of Jewell’s background. But most of the discussion during the regularly scheduled call dealt with other suspects.

“That evening, the FBI learned Jewell had been arrested in 1990 for impersonating a police officer and had had employment problems while serving as a deputy sheriff in Habersham County, Georgia. Agents from the FBI’s profiling and behavioral assessment unit in Quantico, Va., reviewed videotapes of the young guard’s television interviews.

“By the next morning, July 29, FBI headquarters was advised that the profiling unit agents “concurred with Atlanta’s assessment that Jewell fit the profile of a person who might create an incident so he could emerge as a hero.” In a more-detailed written analysis faxed to Washington and Atlanta two hours after the preliminary report, the profiling team said Jewell’s “account of the bombing seemed vague on important points and that he seemed uncomfortable discussing the victims.”

No evidence, no proof of anything, just vague suspicions based on FBI profiling and a college president’s wrongheaded hunch. As Ostrow mentions:

This case study of the Richard Jewell story was written by journalists, not lawyers…” and not evidence.

But did it teach our Big Media a lesson? Keep dreaming — except they now use the term ‘person of interest’ rather than ‘suspect,’ but the same hired ‘experts’ are still on the air giving their opinions on important cases.

Of course, it was ultra-right-wing nutcase Eric Rudolph who actually committed the Atlanta Olympic Park bombing, as well as other crimes, but not one BM ‘expert’ even mentioned his name at the time.

RS Janes
14 years ago

Sorry, Ken, but I’m not familiar with Dave Marsh — is he coming at it from the right or left perspective or what?

This country is having the same problem with sex we’ve had since the idiot Puritans — talk about a love-hate, mostly hate, relationship. Sexual repression detrimentally affects the mind and lack of sexual expression tends to make one obsessed with sex, especially the sexuality of those who apparently are enjoying themselves without guilt. (Sound like any Republicans we know?) An unfortunate, if not permanent, part of the American character is that we always want to deny to others the pleasures we’ve forsaken, whether it be smoking tobacco, drinking, food or sex. This why these and other issues are so intensely personal rather than just a scientific disagreement or ‘policy difference’, i.e.: look at the leaders of the anti-smoking movement — they were all once moderate to heavy smokers.

Conflating whatever Polanski did with a 13-year-old girl with a consensual relationship between Bill Clinton and the 22-year-old Monica Lewinsky is surreally absurd on its face — it’s the kind of comparison only a Teabagger or Beckophile could make. I also don’t agree that pedophile’s are necessarily incurable — there really isn’t enough scientific information to make that kind of definite judgment, and much of what is available is often tainted by someone who has an axe to grind.

One minor point: Up until recently, it was legal in some states to get married at 13 and 14. I met someone whose grandmother was married to his grandfather when she was 14 and he was 18 in some rural part of the South. In today’s current state of hysteria, his grandpa could have been carted away to jail and labelled a pedophile.

I also know of cases where people were charged with statutory rape and contributing to the delinquency of a minor because the girls came in a couple of hours after curfew on a Saturday night — the girls thus ‘corrupted’ being 17 and the boys being 18. There was no accusation of rape or anything else from the girls involved — the police and prosecutor, with the help of the girls’ parents, made that up on their own. The two boys were convicted and given a year’s supervision — which meant if they were areested for anything within a year’s time, even a traffic violation, the orginal charges would be fully prosecuted. That happened over forty years ago. In today’s crazed legal atmosphere, those boys would have had to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives, for ‘crimes’ that never occurred.

I think we’d be better off with a new designation for kids in their teenage years, one that doesn’t deny the biological fact that they are in puberty, capable of having children, and are, or would like to be, sexually active. Our society’s prescription that teenagers shouldn’t have sex until marriage (at 18 in most states) obviously is a complete failure. It’s time we stopped being ignorant about the matter. But I don’t expect that to happen in the current anti-intelligence, anti-sanity cultural climate.

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