October 23rd, 2009
I love Rosemary’s Baby. I particularly love the Castanets and their over the top intrusive hospitality. I’m fascinated with little details, like how hideous Rosemary’s party dress is on the night that they have friends over and announce the pregnancy. It looks like a giant, mauve, polyester nightgown. I’ve always wondered what the ‘vitamin shake’ tastes like or why Rosemary actually consents to wear the smelly charm around her neck.
However, I don’t think it’s enough to save Roman Polanski. Polanski’s been in Swiss custody for nearly four weeks now and it’s starting to look as though he really is going to be extradited back to the United States despite the complaints and grumblings that have rolled back and forth across Hollywood.
No one wants to believe that Polanski is guilty, and when faced with the cold, hard facts that he confessed to drugging and raping a thirteen year old girl – they call it a ‘supposed crime’ or in Whoopi Goldberg’s words: “…something else, not rape-rape…” Evidently, rape is only rape when it happens twice. Or maybe rape is only rape when the accused rapist-rapist is not a hot Hollywood director with a tragically scarred past.
I give Polanski that – I wouldn’t wish his past on anyone. His mother was killed in Auschwitz, he was smuggled out of the Jewish Ghetto as a small child. His wife, Sharon Tate, and unborn child are murdered in cold blood by Charles Manson’s henchmen.
However, I don’t think it’s enough to save Roman Polanski. Lots of people have had horrible, terrible life stories and somehow they fought the urge to feed a bottle of Quaaludes to a child and sodomize her in Marlon Brando’s house. Yes, it was in Marlon Brando’s house while Brando’s then girlfriend, Angelica Houston, slept in another bedroom. That’s some good trivia.
I just don’t think that being a great artist cancels out rape, whether you call it ‘rape’ or ‘rape-rape’ or ‘date rape’ or ‘something else’. It just doesn’t work that way.
I have the same problem with Michael Jackson. His new movie ‘This Is It’ is going to be out on the 28th for a two-week, limited run. I have extremely mixed emotions. On one hand, he revolutionized an entire industry, created a musical empire, inspired countless artists. A world without Michael Jackson would be like a world without Elvis. He ceased to be a man and became an icon.
However, the part of him that was still human was horribly, terribly flawed. So flawed that he died in a drugged comatose state, so flawed that he was accused of multiple counts of molesting children. The fact that it never went to trial is more a testament to his money and ability to settle out of court than to the validity of the charges.
What do you do with artists that cross the line from flawed, tragic figures into felons? How much do you look past? How much can we forgive for entertainment?
They aren’t the only ones of course. At the height of his fame back in the late 1980’s, Mathew Broderick veered into the wrong lane of traffic in Northern Ireland and instantly killed a mother and daughter in an oncoming car. Although it was widely thought that Broderick was drunk, he was eventually only accused of careless driving and paid a grand total of $175 in fines.
Yet, he’s gone on to have an incredible career, entirely because we keep on watching him despite the fact that he destroyed a family back in 1987.
Shouldn’t this stuff count? Shouldn’t this stuff be enough that these ‘artists’ shouldn’t be allowed to keep on making Oscar winning movies just outside of the arms of the law? Shouldn’t someone pull Broderick off the stage on Broadway and demand justice?
I venture that art is more than just the final product. It is a sum total of its parts. Every piece of ‘art’ that follows heinous actions carries the weight of blood, and that blood becomes our responsibility when we pay for it to continue.
I think the responsibility of art lies not only in the hands of the artist but also in the integrity of the audience.
A little heavy maybe, but rest assured, Rosemary’s Baby was made in 1968, and therefore is unscathed, so is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, as it was made in 1986. I feel slightly less guilty because of this, but not much.