For as long as I can remember the pitchforkers have come out of the woodwork almost every time Roman Polanski is mentioned in any context. They certainly jumped in yesterday when I posted about the Cesar Academy having announced its intention to resign following the 45th Cesar Award telecast on 2.28, “partly for the crime of handing out 12 Cesar nominations to Polanski‘s An Officer and a Spy, and partly for insufficient nursing of political ties with feminist or #MeToo-supporting filmmakers.”
The piece was titled “French #MeToo-ers Boot Cesar Academy,” but before you could turn around the discussion had devolved into a condemnation thread about Polanski’s predatory behavior with under-age girls in the ’70s and ’80s, which allegedly included rape and assault. Rape is obviously a vicious crime, but because I tried to mitigate the vitriol by referring to European cultural imprints about ages of consent between 14 and 16, I was called a “piece of shit”; another Polanski qualifier was called a “loathsome fuckstick.” As if we were somehow attempting to excuse the odious scenario of a 42 year-old man having it off with a 13 year-old girl.
This morning I noted that “Americans have always plugged their ears over the European age-of-consent norms but cultural imprints matter, and the vast majority of European countries set their ages of consent between, believe it or not, ages 14 to 16, which strikes me personally as way too young. I’ve always thought 18 was a decent benchmark.
“13-14 is definitely, emphatically too young. Ditto 15. When you hit 16 you’ve stepped into American cultural imprint territory because of Ringo Starr’s ‘you’re sixteen, you’re beautiful and you’re mine’ and Randy Newman‘s ‘half pound of cocaine and a 16 year-old girl in a long black limousine on a hot September night.’ But 16 is too young, I feel, and so is 17. 18 seems right. We all know about teen hormones and that nobody’s going to stop basic impulses, but women under the age of 18 are arguably lacking in judgment. They should be entitled to all-hands-off status if they want that, and the law should enforce this.
“And in terms of older guys having it off with younger women, they should steer clear of anyone under 20. Once women hit 20, or the average age of a junior in college, they’re on their own.”
HE to pitchforker: “Your Clem Kadiddlehopper viewpoint is largely informed by cultural imprints you received as a young lad, and continue to receive from your community. My cultural imprint told me as a teen (and continues to inform me) that 18 is a reasonable age of consent. Likewise, for a guy who grew up in Poland and France he is likely to be imprinted by the fact that the vast majority of European countries set their ages of consent between 14 to 16. The age of consent in Poland is and was 15. Perspective and culture really do have a lot to do with these matters.
“On top of which Polanski’s 1977 victim — Samantha Geimer — has been pleading with yokels like you for years to give it a rest. Yes, other women have come forward so let’s have no illusions about Polanski’s basic nature and tendencies, certainly back in the ’70s and ’80s. By any reasonable standard he’s been accused of behaving brutally when he was in his late 30s and 40s, at least in some instances.”
I still say that the essential message conveyed by the anti-Cesar board Le Monde petition is as follows: “The Cesar Academy’s failure to judge Polanski’s film according to political currents, as opposed to purely artistic criteria, requires harsh measures.”
Polanski quoted in Sam Wasson‘s “The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood“: