The debate over Roman Polanski boils down to two essential positions. Feigned, ignorant outrage or the sad realization that the rule of law doesn't mean anything. It is useful to look back at the era with context, and I find that to look at it with the sports culture in mind, since we're talking about sex and the entertainment industry, makes sense. Anyone can cite the sexual freedom expressed in the films of that era. Few can tie that to the idea that sports began to serve as a mirror to show us what we looked like back then.
If Polanski had been any other man living in this country in the 1970s, he would have been treated to a stint in jail, if caught, and that would have been that. During the anything-goes era that followed the 1960s, we didn't have so much as free love as we did love with a huge ethical blindspot. Wife swapping, getting a taste of the young stuff, swinging, and Hustler magazine were king. North Dallas Forty, which is a film which very ably encapsulates what the time was like, was a documentary, in my view, not a piece of fiction. The worst kind of male chauvinism was ascendant. Ugly, mean, sexual humor was everywhere. Were you alive then? Do you remember what was on television? Do you remember the times? Did you spend any time in Manhattan, as I did, and see the decadence and the wanton horndoggedness of it all? Perhaps not.
We live in a time of old scolds and phony outrage. When a video surfaced of Chris Collinsworth talking about how he liked them young and dumb, which also proves that those attitudes about sex with younger women carried on into the 1980s and was a staple of the culture, it caused shockwaves. Collinsworth was just carrying on the tradition as he believed it to be espoused by young men who had a lot of money and a lot of fame for running around in front of people. Collinsworth was just out of date in his thinking, much to his current chagrin. I don't condemn him for being late to the party, but it's important to remember that here was a relatively savvy football player talking to media in the time in which he lived, and him joking about statutory rape was good for a laugh. At the time, of course.
By the way, do you know your legal age of consent laws? They're all 18, right? In every state of the union, the legal age of consent is 18, of course? Eh, might want to look at some of the weird states, sir. I expect the scolds to get back to work on this issue.
Now, does that excuse anything? No. Sex with anyone underage, male or female, is a crime and I do not condone it at all. I think that we make far too much of sexualizing young people. I abhor Rolling Stonemagazine--they make pedophilia look too normal for my taste. And while I think Polanski is a reprehensible character who should have found someone his age to hang around with, the fact remains that he went way too far over the line to excuse his conduct. His relationship with Natassia Kinski, his abuse of alcohol and drugs, his proclivity for depravity--these are nothing to excuse.
As to the case in hand, so many people gloss over the details of what really happened. The legitimate outrage that comes from the entertainment community is based on the fact that most people don't know what really happened--they're so far removed from the event that they don't get that it wasn't so much that Polanski fled, it was more along the lines of a general sentiment that said, he would have been an idiot not to flee from what they were going to do to him. The verdict was, well, there wasn't a verdict because Polanski plead guilty. He knew he was wrong, so he plead guilty. Rather than take his chances, he plead guilty in order to show some form of remorse (he probably had no remorse, but oh well) and some form of culpability. He didn't draw this out and protest his innocence. He got lawyers involved. He made a deal to avoid jail time, something that is allowed in this country. He served 42 days in jail.
Then, the prosecutor bent to public outrage (scolds abound, you see) and did something unthinkable--he made noises about reneging on the plea deal and sentencing Polanski to return to jail, this time for a stint that no one had agreed to. If Polanski had been a mobster, a petty thief, or a Senator, this would have invoked high outrage. Once you plead guilty and take the deal, the deal is set. Quite stupidly, the legal system did not force Polanski to surrender his passport. He went through customs and flew to France, and that's the end of that. Let us also not forget--you can go into quite a few Catholic Churches and invariably find a man being hidden there who has done worse than Polanski, and that man will either be running things or helping to run things, if you want to get technical about it.
Or, it was the end of that until the government got their man. There are some who openly question whether or not the legal system in California is even capable of focusing on what is truly important to that community.
It's a losing proposition all around--the original judge is dead and his actions prejudice the case. Nothing is served by bringing Polanski back to Los Angeles county--he could very well walk out a free man and go see everyone in Hollywood for some catching up to do. That would evoke more outrage than if he had just been left alone. How would you like to see Polanski sitting in the front row at the Oscars with luminaries all around him? Think he would care what anyone thinks? Or was his exile punishment enough for his terrible conduct all those years ago?
When you look at this, I notice that "prosecutorial misconduct" and a glossing over of the corrupt actions of the judge is dealt with without hindsight--Polanski fled because of a fear of being unjustly imprisoned AFTER he had served 42 days in jail after pleading guilty. In this country, you make a deal, you serve your time, and the system has to absorb the political implications of that. In this case, the judge starting to tear up the deals and appeal to the media. In case anyone has forgotten, the legal system in southern California has always been on the "dicey" side.