So... Roman Polanski!

2009-10-02 12:33
That's not because I'm afraid of discussing the rules of sexual consent - I'm not - but because I really like Roman Polanski movies, no matter how bad a person he might be. Like Michael Jackson's songs, there's really no arguing with the value of the art, just as there's really no moral excuse for what the artist did. I've read Polanski's autobiography, and it's as hilarious as Margaret Thatcher's in its failed attempts to justify idiotic personal judgements.

So here's the solution: stop defending the individual. When they're wrong, they're wrong, and being good at something glamorous doesn't make them admirable as people. Sure, with great power comes great responsibility, blah blah blah etc. But responsibility to do what, and for whom?
Great work exists in its own right, and can't be judged by the morals by which an artist lives. In the digital age it doesn't even practically belong to its so-called originator. The artist certainly can't take their art with them when they die, any more than they do their shoes or the money they made. And although 31% of Channel24 readers claim they don't watch Polanski movies because he's a bastard, I'm guessing it's because they actually just prefer comedies with fart jokes. I bet the same morally outraged people dance to "Billie Jean" when they're drunk (I know I do) even though Jacko allegedly had a thing for teenage boys.

While admirable, emotionally balanced role models may marvel at the way a fragile poppy flower gently grows through concrete and delicately blooms despite all the obstacles facing it, a creative genius is more likely to smash open the concrete, plant a freaky tree, set it on fire with a litre of petrol, and film the whole thing. We need both kinds of people, but which movie would you rather watch?

It's the "problem children" that will always fascinate us, help us look at who and what we are, and provide a way to understand those around us. Nobody's writing stories about Mother Theresa anymore. But Woody Allen's in the news once a month – most recently for signing a petition to have Polanski pardoned. And we think our politicians are members of a corrupt boys' club?  They have nothing on Hollywood, apparently.

The stories of creative people who're jerks are many. Woody Allen married his life partner's adopted daughter, brilliant record producer Phil Spector is a convicted murderer. A friend who works in movies saw the alcoholic-addict director of a teen UK series called something like "Clan of the Cave Bear" force an actress who'd been badly burned on set to continue shooting her scene. 

These are not nice people.

No, I'm not saying that you have to be an arsehole to do inspiring things. It's not like you can go rape a few teenagers and - hey presto! Wake up the next morning as a famous movie director. I'm just saying that... well... being a total jerk seems to help. I'm also saying that most of the brilliant and/or creative people I know are, if not at least particularly odd and alienated, extremely difficult and troubled - and that without these bastards, our global culture would be a lot poorer, and a lot less entertaining.

So should Polanski be let off the hook because he's an old man? No! It's not like he let his victim off the hook because she was a child. He drugged and raped a 13-year-old. He must go to jail.

But don't tell me I should feel bad about still loving his movies. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

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