Not Okay 101 (Being a brilliant artist is no excuse for being a lousy human.)

Prefacing these remarks with a little audio-visual aid:

This is Elizabeth Taylor at age 12...



And this is Elizabeth Taylor at age 19...



If any child molesters out there are still unclear about the Grand Canyon of difference that separates "little girl" from "young woman," I bet there's a suburban mommy who'd be happy to stop by with a baseball bat and explain it to you.

All week I've been listening to Hollywood power people, artsy apologists and hipsters attempting to convince us that Roman Polanski's brilliance somehow made his sexual assault of a little girl less reprehensible. Or that getting away with it for 30 years gives him a pass now. Or that the suffix "-teen" makes a child an adult. The girl in question was 13 -- a few months older than Liz was in "National Velvet" -- and a year younger than she is here in "Courage of Lassie." And this kid twarn't no Liz Taylor. This was an unsophisticated, druggy little LA wannabe with a stage-sucking mother who delivered her baby girl into the hands of a predator.

"I don't believe it was rape rape," Whoopi Goldberg was quoted, and if she actually said that, I'm sick with disappointment. I've always loved and admired her, and she's literally the last person on earth I would have expected to poopoo the sexual assault of a child. I'm not sure what rape rape is that regular ol' rape isn't, and I haven't been educated on forms of rape that are okay, but according to grand jury testimony from 1977, a seriously creepy crime was committed. It almost certainly was not an isolated incident. Polanski admitted guilt. There's no question concerning statute of limitation, and Polanski's "settlement" with the victim doesn't satisfy the charges against him. If Polanski was a plumber or a dentist, we wouldn't be having this conversation. If he'd been a gaffer or craft service provider on one of his own movies, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

But Polanski is a brilliant artist, so...what -- he's entitled to cross lines? Because brilliant artists are above the mores and folkways that apply to "normal" people? Or should he be pardoned now because he was rich enough to jump bail and live a life of luxury in Europe for 30 years? Or because there's no age limit on predatory "casting couch" manipulation and intimidation?

The bad behavior of artists and writers is such a time-honored tradition, those of us who've never been in a jail cell, bar fight, or nut house feel like underachievers. All that business about being polite, showing up on time, staying sober at least 85% of the time -- that stuff is like Pirate Rules for writers. "More like guidelines." Tortured novelists are supposed to screw around on their wives and neglect their children. If a poet's not completely insane, what good is she to anyone?

As a mom and an artist, I can't stomach the destructive fallout from the wrong-headed indulgence of bad behavior by authors and artists. It's privately corrosive and publicly devalues our work.

I'm an odd duck, I won't deny it. Eccentricity is a pretty standard byproduct of the writing life, and we do have to cultivate a healthy disregard for what's "done" and "not done." But there are rules, even for the unruly. Our freedom from convention doesn't authorize us to abuse people, physically or emotionally. If an artist is also a mother, she's morally obligated to keep at least one foot in the real world. Personally, I'm proud to be the uncool mom who would not in a thousand years allow -- much less encourage -- my starstruck teenage daughter to go off alone with a 43 yr old director. Professionally, I'm happy to be the pedestrian worker bee who honors my deadlines and survives industry cocktail parties upright.

Bottom-lining it: there's okay and there's not okay. That goes for everybody, including artists. No matter how much I love Roman Polanski's movies -- and no matter how much I love certain people in Hollywood -- I love my daughter more. I love anyone's daughter more.

"The whole art world suffers!" said Debra Winger, distraught that her pet film festival had been disrupted over what a famous Swiss director called Polanski's "little mistake." Please.

The idea that it is somehow understandable or okay for any man to exploit and brutalize any young girl is unconscionable, and no art of any value can come from a culture that condones it.

Comments

Pamala Knight said…
Well said. I agree with you one hundred percent.
I was sickened to hear that comment by Whoopi. She's now trying to backpedal from it, saying she was referring to the criminal charges rather than the actual crime. But I can't help thinking of her apologist comments re. Michael Vick's animal abuse and wondering if she's intent on playing devil's advocate for the sake of her own publicity or she really believes the garbage she's been spewing.

Anyway, while I do believe justice delayed for so many years is inherently unjust, it's Polanski's own fault that he chose to flee rather than staying and facing the music for a truly reprehensible crime. Regardless of the girl's age or intoxication - both of which made her legally and morally incapable of consent - she said no. Repeatedly, and haven't we all spent decades telling our young men that no means no, without exception?

Surely, we aren't going to show them now that no means something entirely different when you have the money and connections to flee the consequences long enough.
Linn said…
I agree 100%. The whole "Well, he didn't force himself" mantra some are sticking by--- she was a CHILD. 13 years old is a child. Heck, 16, 17 and 18 - CHILD.

Being an "artist" doesn't exempt you from the law.
TJ Bennett said…
And even, God help us, if she hadn't been a child, he'd drugged her and poured booze in her and she said "no." Repeatedly. Age considerations aside, that still makes it rape. That he used his position and authority to make her mother an accomplice only makes it sadder and more perverted.

I'm heartsick at what the Hollyweird elite is doing to excuse Polasskiss' crime, but let's not lose our focus: Let's turn that laser-hot, intensely righteous anger THEY can't seem to feel on the man who deserves it the most. Yes, Whoppie & Company need a good spanking, but Polasskiss needs to go to jail. Period. Finally. And at once.

TJB
Anonymous said…
I agree with you one hundred percent.

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