Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Et tu, Debra Winger?

I'm not a fan of the capitalist state, any capitalist state. Especially the state in its purest form, which is its armed bodies of repression, above all the police and the prosecutorial/prison system with which it is linked. These entities have nothing to do with justice, especially class justice or anti-racist or anti-sexist justice. I'm never in favor of strengthening them, of confusing them with some sort of ally which they can never be, of looking to them to do the right thing or intervene on behalf of the workers or members of oppressed groups.

It's necesary to preface any comment about this Roman Polanski business with those disclaimers. To make clear that it's not my wont to support the armed apparatus of the capitalist "justice" system, and that I'm not in doing so in this case either. If I had my way a people's tribunal -- no, a women's tribunal -- no, a tribunal made up of women who were raped and molested during their childhood -- would be the ones to try Polanski and decide his fate. That would be justice. Nobody should expect even a facsimile of it in this case, especially given the hell the police and courts have already put Polanski's victim through over these many years since the day when she was 13 years old and the great director drugged and raped her at his pal the great actor Jack Nicholson's house.

The high dudgeon with which directors, actors and others in the film industry and other arts are rising up in defense of Polanski is a revolting display of many things, but one of those things is how intrinsic misogyny is to bourgeois ideology. How women can be in its grip too. Sure, it's no surprise that the odious Woody Allen tops the list (luck of the alphabetical draw), along with Pedro Almodovar (did you see that film of his a few years ago in which the protagonist repeatedly "has sex with," that is, rapes, a comatose woman?). From their statement:
Roman Polanski is a French citizen, a renown [sic] and international artist now facing extradition. This extradition, if it takes place, will be heavy with consequences and will take away his freedom.

Filmmakers, actors, producers and technicians -- everyone involved in international filmmaking -- want him to know that he has their support and friendship.
Others happily along for the ride include Jonathan Demme, Ariel Dorfman, Stephen Frears, Buck Henry, Martin Scorsese and many more. The fine actor Debra Winger, the not fine but famous actor Harrison Ford and others have also spoken up for Polanski. Liberal arts darlings Paul Auster, Mike Nichols and Salman Rushdie have signed up for Bernard-Henri Levy's pro-Polanski crusade.

They all argue that Polanski is a great artist and it happened a long time ago and the victim wants the case dropped so leave him alone. The first point, the great man (oops, I mean artist) point, is clearly the central one. To call Polanski a great artist is bizarre but the issue, of course, is that it's irrelevant. The implication is that if he were only a mediocre artist (which he is) it would be okay if the state went after him.

The manifest truth is that this guy is damned lucky he's not Black or poor or obscure. Even if he were innocent, which he's never pretended to be. Because he's rich and famous he not only skipped the country and has ever since lived the good life, but is now being celebrated as some sort of martyr to art.

It would be great to see another group of artists organize and disseminate a statement disassociating themselves from, expressing shock at, and condemning the Polanski partisans for defending a rich, famous, artistic rapist. I'd sign on to that.