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What if Polanski Were a Republican Senator?

In today’s New York Times arts section, film industry correspondent Brooks Barnes analyzes Hollywood’s attitude to fugitive sex predator/Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski.

Most prominent artists have lined up behind the push to let the famed director off the hook for having drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl over 30 years ago. Polanski fled the country to avoid sentencing after he plead guilty to the lesser charge of unlawful sex with a minor and has since lived in a cushy exile in Europe. After his recent arrest, Polanski is currently sitting in a Swiss jail awaiting possible extradition to the United States.

The fact that Harvey Weinstein, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, and Woody Allen (at least the latter is no hypocrite given his own past actions) are calling Polanski’s arrest an outrage shows how disconnected the film industry is from the rest of the country when it comes to morality. However, according to Barnes, Hollywood’s main problem with Polanski is that few of his films have made money recently. “Hollywood has most assuredly become a chillier place for Mr. Polanski over the last decade,” Barnes reports. “It’s a judgment that this guy is no longer readily commercial.”

But in an attempt to understand what he describes as the industry’s mixed feelings about the director, Barnes draws an absurd analogy between the fugitive rapist and Elia Kazan, the famed theater and film director who testified about secret Communists before the House Un-American Activities Committee. “The closest equivalent is Elia Kazan. In some film circles, Mr. Kazan was forever a pariah for his friendly testimony in 1952 before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Others finally looked beyond his McCarthy-era behavior to focus on his outsize directing talent.”

Thus, according to Barnes, telling the truth to Congress about the influence of active Communist-party members who supported Stalin in the film industry but who pretended to be merely liberal supporters of civil liberties is the moral equivalent of raping a 13-year-old!

Of course, not everyone in the industry who talked to Barnes has completely lost their moral compass:

“I’m kind of appalled,” said Alison Arngrim, an actress who is best known for her work in ‘Little House on the Prairie’ and who has spoken publicly in the past about having been sexually molested as a child. “If Roman Polanski were a Catholic priest or a Republican senator, would these people feel the same way?”

Not likely.



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