Hollywood’s “compassion” and Polanski’s “so-called crime”

Yesterday, I expressed hope that Hollywood would continue its desperate attempt to explain how a crime isn’t a crime when the person committing it is Someone Like Them, so that they will finally lose their collective credibility as compassionate progressives on the side of goodness. It looks like I might get my wish:

“The split between what the rest of the world thinks about Polanski and what Hollywood thinks about Polanski is quite remarkable,” said film historian David Thomson. “It proves what an old-fashioned and provincial club Hollywood is. People look after their own.”

For example, Harvey Weinstein, one of the Hollywood moguls who thinks Roman Polanski should be released, calls drugging and sodomizing a 13-year old a “so-called crime”:

Whatever you think about the so-called crime, Polanski has served his time. A deal was made with the judge, and the deal is not being honored. . . . This is the government of the United States not giving its word and recanting on a deal, and it is the government acting irresponsibly and criminally.

If you’re wondering what “deal” he’s referring to, he’s getting all this from an HBO movie, the credibility of which has been called into question by Marcia Clark’s claims that David Wells told her he lied in the documentary when he said he convinced Judge Rittenbrand to impose on Polanski a sentence with jail time back during the plea bargain. Since the documentary came out, not before, Polanski’s people have claimed it was this gross miscarriage of justice that prompted him to flee “scary America.” First, judges are never bound to accept the terms of any plea bargain, so even if this conversation had happened, it would have been inappropriate, but not have deprived Polanski of anything he had a right to. Secondly, there is now some question whether it even happened.

In response to criticisms of Hollywood’s moral compass, Saint Weinstein adds:

Hollywood has the best moral compass, because it has compassion. We were the people who did the fundraising telethon for the victims of 9/11. We were there for the victims of Katrina and any world catastrophe.

And they have plenty of compassion for a man who drugged and sodomized a little girl. They just don’t have any compassion for the girl because she was not One Of Us. This is not reminiscent of Greenpeace or the Sierra Club, the sort of organizations Hollywood wants us to think it’s aligned with. No, this reminds me of Jim Bakker‘s followers defending him against the rape allegations made by Jessica Hahn. It also reminds me of how the good ol’ boys in a 1950s country club might react when one of their fine upstanding members gets accused of harming some woman or some person of color. How dare the world question the integrity of someone deemed special over someone deemed a nobody.

And sure, if a tragedy involves thousands of people and huge publicity, Hollywood’s all over it like a paparazzi on a celebrity’s newborn babe. That’s not compassion; it’s opportunism. Consider too that Hollywood’s response generally consists of yapping on TV (yeah, that’s really hard work, thanks a bunch) and fund raisers, which are always an excellent opportunity to pay inordinately huge “consulting fees” to yourself and your friends.

Conservative columnist Rod Dreher answers Weinstein’s compassion comment by alleging that Weinstein himself:

Weinstein is legendary in film circles for the foul-mouthed abuse he customarily heaped on his staff when he ran Miramax. You should talk to former Miramax employees, as I have, about their ex-employer’s compassion.

Note that Dreher then quotes a “liberal columnist”, among others. Liberals and conservatives have finally found something they can agree on? That rape is wrong and VIPs shouldn’t get special treatment when they commit crimes? Maybe there’s hope yet.

Oh, and if you’re concerned about Weinstein’s promise to try to influence Schwarzenegger on Polanski’s behalf, don’t be. Schwarzenegger has already said Polanski must not have any special treatment. Compassionate? Maybe. Or maybe it’s that if he intervenes, those allegations that he’s sexually assaulted a lot of “nobodies” in his time might resurface with a vengeance:

The allegations against Schwarzenegger suggested a pattern of behavior that’s at least disconcerting, if not criminal. None of the women pressed charges or sued Schwarzenegger for the alleged acts, many because they were employed in Hollywood and feared retribution, according to the Times. The reports were sought out by the Times because rumors of Schwarzenegger’s behavior have swirled for years in Hollywood, and the paper thought it important to see if they were true. The allegations were independently verified, and the details were as disturbing as they were obscene.


  1. sbg says

    Hollywood has the best moral compass, because it has compassion. We were the people who did the fundraising telethon for the victims of 9/11. We were there for the victims of Katrina and any world catastrophe.

    That might be the single most hilarious thing I’ve heard all week. Tragically funny, because I believe he really thinks this is true. And it sounds like the examples he touted were actually more lip service than actual beneficence, done to prove how wonderful rich Hollywood stars are. (Personally, rather than being in charge of asking us poor schlubs to throw down as much as we can, Hollywood itself (not the starving waitstaff Hollywood, mind you) could fund many recoveries for many disasters and still have plenty to go around for their frivolous needs. Does anyone really need to live in a home with 30+ bedrooms, a bowling alley and 16 bathrooms?)

    But I’m off track, sorry.

    I find it really scary to think anyone actually believes these big wig entertainment people are role models. I suppose in some arcane way it is admirable that they want to protect their own; I simply cannot figure out why there isn’t a line drawn, a point at which the brotherhood (and it is male, I think) says no.

    But then, I’m foolish enough to think the rape of a little girl (or anyone, really) is damned big enough to break that line. Silly me. I underestimated the asshattery.

  2. Eileen says

    First, the idea that Harvey Weinstein is a genius is laughable. I think the word gets used far too often in entertainment circles and it’s value has diminished. Business savvy does not equal genius. And I’m so glad that people are pointing out his well-documented lapses in compassion over the course of his years in the entertainment industry. He saves up all his good feeling for friends who rape children, it would seem.

    This has been a really disheartening week. My biggest problem has been related to compassion actually. I’ve been faced increasingly with arguments from folk saying that since the victim wants this to go away I’m being a heartless bitch for wanting him to be prosecuted anyway. “Because think what that’s doing to her.”

    My position… that this is between the state and a sex offender, and is important because it deals not just with one offender but with society and sex offenders as a whole… does not cover the fact that this is likely to cause her more pain. I blame Polanski for that, because this could have been over thirty years ago if he had behaved like an honorable person. Even slightly, even belatedly. I’m so frustrated about being accused of lacking compassion for wanting this taken seriously.

    It has been a problem.

  3. says

    In the course of the summer, I developed this cynical, mean theory, which is getting more solid by the hour.

    I think what Hollywood puts onscreen reflects their offscreen lives: a world where many (most?) of the women they know are trading sex for something: money, position, access. They’re living in a world where sexual harrassment is not a crime, but a perk — it is accepted by all that a powerful man can do things like make an actress wash his car as her “audition”. They don’t just have casting couches, they have casting *lives*.

    For them it is factually true that rape is controversial. They are so embedded inside rape culture that they don’t even realize there could be something outside of it. They keep showing rape as “edgy” because it is, in fact, not a black-and-white issue for them: they do not think of (or experience) sex as necessarily consensual, it’s always a power game. They think rape is “complicated”, emotional, compelling — but not, you know, *wrong*. If I think rape is always wrong, they say I must think sex is wrong — logic which is only logical if your experience of sex is all muddled up with rape.

    There is no liberal Hollywood. There is only the most naked power, in the hands of the powerful — and power for the powerful is the very essence of conservatism.

    It would be nice if someone could tell me I’m wrong.

  4. says

    Thanks for revisiting that topic! I, too, had an eye-opener today. I haven’t really followed this whole catastrophe online, but have seen it mostly happen on tv and in newspapers – where Hollywood’s voice was rather loud (two totally unimportant German male-starlets even voiced the question “what a 76 year old guy should do in jail *headdesk). Anyway, today I had an article in the paper that while Hollywood is not letting up about this, a lot of other people (mostly on the internet – bloggers and “the little man”) do agree with Polanski’s arrest.

  5. says

    SBG, I think no line is drawn because they actually lack exactly what Weinstein says they have: compassion. Compassion is not feeling sorry for someone who reminds you of yourself, whose sufferings you relate to. It’s feeling sympathy for someone whose sufferings you can’t relate to, but can try to imagine, and can understand as morally wrong.

    Eileen, I totally agree. It’s really difficult because in rape cases, the state generally can’t make its case without victim testimony, and I could never judge a victim for not wanting to go through testifying. Fortunately, the L.A. Times reported yesterday that if Samantha Geimer Gailey does not want to testify, they should be able to have her grand jury testimony from ’77 read out in lieu of it. That might be enough, actually. Or they may just end up sentencing him according to the plea bargain, which is a lot better than nothing.

    Doctor Science, I’m afraid you’re not wrong. Power is corruptive, and without strong, deeply-felt morals, I believe *any* individual will abuse power any chance they get (that is, when no one MORE powerful is likely to hold them accountable). I think it’s simply the nature of humans. This is why it’s so important that Polanski receive no special treatment. It won’t dissuade everyone, but some will think twice about what might happen if they “get caught” abusing their power over another person.

  6. Charles RB says

    I keep seeing people bring up “the victim has forgiven him”.

    What bearing does that have on whether or not he should do his time?

  7. Anemone says

    I didn’t know that about Schwarzenegger’s own misbehaviour. Not surprised, though. Has Whoopi Goldberg recanted at all?

    I’m actually at the point where I’m not being triggered any more. A good place to be at. Although it could start again . . .

    I do wonder how women in film here in Vancouver feel about the whole industry. What things are they not saying aloud? It’s interesting how many prominent Hollywood women haven’t said anything at all. I really wonder what it’s like being on the inside right now.

  8. says

    DoctorScience, I re-read your comment and realized I’d not enough coffee the first time around and kind of missed the point. I think you’re dead right, and it’s possible that those in Hollywood who have never known anything but the rape culture actually think the rest of us are deluded. Sort of, “Oh, come off it, you can talk pretty all you want and respect and Title IX and that bullshit, but we all know sex is a commodity, and as long as you get something in return for giving it, you have no right to complain.” If that’s true, then of course they would think it’s “edgy” to “tell it like it is.”

    Reminds me of serial killers who are convinced everyone really *wants* to go around murdering and dismembering and eating folks, and they’re just the only ones with the nerve to do it. Like Polanski saying (in that quote I cited yesterday) “Everybody wants to fuck young girls.”

    I really doubt that. At least, as a preference.

    Not everyone secretly wants to do what serial killers do, either. And not everyone has sex to get something. It takes a special kind of narcissism to be convinced that your POV is secretly shared by everyone else, only they’re too hypocritical to admit it.

    Anemone, the Schwarzenegger thing didn’t get nearly the press it deserved, which I found really disheartening. I think Whoopi has shut up since what I last reported, which is probably wise since her “clarifications” only made it worse. As for Vancouver, good question. I wonder about entertainment centers worldwide.

  9. Scarlett says

    One of the things that struck me about the Schwarzenegger thing was that a bunch of the women who had co-starred with him – Rosie O’Donnel, Rita Wilson (Tom Hanks’s wife) came forward and said he was actually a lovely man and blah, blah, blah. Yeah, ‘cos it couldn’t possible be that he was smart enough to not go around harassing women who had either clout of their own or via their husbands and only harassed women with no power?

  10. says


    Yes, exactly! And I think it’s the same mindset that we see in the (also supposedly liberal) mainstream media, and on Wall Street. Jay Rosen put it best (in an article at http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2007/08/14/rove_and_press.html that is currently having server trouble, so I’m quoting from a quote):

    Conservatives think the ideology of the Washington press corps is liberal. Liberals think the press is conservative in the sense of protecting its place in the political establishment.

    Whereas I believe that the real—and undeclared—ideology of American journalism is savviness, and this is what made the press so vulnerable to the likes of Karl Rove.

    Savviness! Deep down, that’s what reporters want to believe in and actually do believe in— their own savviness and the savviness of certain others (including operators like Karl Rove.) In politics, they believe, it’s better to be savvy than it is to be honest or correct on the facts. It’s better to be savvy than it is to be just, good, fair, decent, strictly lawful, civilized, sincere or humane.

    Savviness is what journalists admire in others. Savvy is what they themselves dearly wish to be. (And to be unsavvy is far worse than being wrong.) Savviness—that quality of being shrewd, practical, well-informed, perceptive, ironic, “with it,” and unsentimental in all things political—is, in a sense, their professional religion. They make a cult of it. And it was this cult that Karl Rove understood and exploited for political gain.

    What is the truest mark of savviness? Winning, of course! Everyone knows that the press admires an unprincipled winner. (Of a piece with its fixation on the horse race.)

    Make a checklist, and see how many of those qualities are shared by the Hollywood power structure.

  11. Mickle says

    “Schwarzenegger has already said Polanski must not have any special treatment. Compassionate? Maybe.”

    yeah…my response to hearing Schwarzenegger’s statement was some serious eye-rolling. like I’m believing that he’s suddenly become interested in anything other than his own self-image as an action hero.

    and Jennifer, that’s funny that you bring up serial killers, bc the news of the day among my lj friends (who are, like me, criminal minds fans) is the post by Ed Bernero NOT in support of Polanski, and very much in support of victims of abuse/assault/rape.

    and yeah, Doctor Science, I think you make a good point, especially when it comes to the people in charge, those that greenlight movies, pick directors, etc. and because they are not only part of a privileged, powerful, insular group, but are also the people who determine a lot of mass medias narratives, they are also the least likely to be exposed to ideas that contradict theirs.

  12. MaggieCat says

    Mickle, I’m not in the least surprised to hear Bernero is on the sane side of the argument, but that post is awesome. ( Link for anyone who hasn’t seen it.)

    Yeah, ‘cos it couldn’t possible be that he was smart enough to not go around harassing women who had either clout of their own or via their husbands and only harassed women with no power?

    Yet another indication that the rule of thumb which says “someone who’s nice to you but isn’t nice to the waiter/waitress is not a nice person” might be the most universally accurate saying in history, whatever the context.

  13. Charles RB says

    In fairness, it should be noted that the majority of the people who’ve actually signed the Free Polanski petition aren’t from Hollywood but from the French industry.

  14. says

    Anemone: I know Lexa Doig has gone on record expressing bafflement at the support for Polanski. Nothing really concrete though.

  15. AmyCat says

    Right on, Lexa Doig.

    Too bad so many others in Hollyweird and in international film circles don’t seem to realize that the only way to deal with someone who’d drug and rape a 13-year-old is to put him down like a rabid dog.

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  17. Scarlett says

    I was watching the news with my brother about Switzerland refusing to extradite Polanski, and he said ‘so he commited a crime and all these celebrities are defending him?’ and I was like, yeah, that’s about the size of it. It was interesting to hear it summarised to succintly by someone who had never heard of Polanski before that and had no interest in feminism issues but still grasped ‘you don’t defend a convicted criminal’.

  18. Charles RB says

    It should be noted that Switzerland is refusing to extradite because they asked for data about the case/subject from the US and never got it. I don’t think they can extradite without full information. Which then begs the question of why on Earth the US/LA/whoever didn’t hand it over. Did they fuck up when gathering evidence way back when?

    • jennygadget says

      er, well, I’m no lawyer, but Scott Madin from Lawyers, Guns, and Money thinks their argument is bull (and Jill from Feministe clearly thinks so as well) so I’m inclined to see that as more of an excuse than an actual reason.

      If I recall, the *reason* they said they needed said information was to determine whether Polanski had served his time already – which isn’t a matter for Swiss courts to decide, it’s a matter for American courts to decide. It would be one thing if whether or not Polanski had served his sentence could be clearly answered “no” by the information they requested, but as his sentence hadn’t even been officially decided upon the information they were asking for wasn’t going to give them much either way.

      It’s entirely possible the LA County dropped the ball (deliberately? bc of pressure?) but either way the Swiss were clearly looking for a reason to say no.

      • says

        I’m always quick to believe the L.A. DA has screwed up, but unless Switzerland’s side is being misrepresented by the English-speaking press, I tend to agree with JennyGadget’s conclusion. I read that Switzerland was also arguing he wouldn’t have expected extradition because he’s gotten away with appearing in public so many times over the years.

        And? But? So? Therefore? Did he think the statute of limitations was up? Was he genuinely misinformed by someone with a law degree? Because when you’re a fugitive, law enforcement isn’t obligated to expend resources on you every minute of every day. They can suddenly pounce when they feel like it.

        Somehow I can’t imagine they’d let a little lost paperwork hold up extradition if he was a serial killer.

        Wry humor: I know a way to test this, though. Let’s take a bunch of rapist prisoners, preferably men of color and/or from impoverished backgrounds, from California’s over-crowded jails and offer them release on probation if they’ll move to Switzerland. I want to see how quickly they BEG to extradite them back here. Then we’ll know how much the Who’s Who aspect of this is coming into play.

        • jennygadget says

          Even worse, this isn’t even as issue of statue of limitations (as far as I understand it).

          He is convicted, but has yet to be officially sentenced – because he fled. He’s a fugitive, and there’s no statue of limitations on that (as far as I know).

        • Charles RB says

          Thing is, if Switzerland wanted an excuse to do nothing, they wouldn’t have arrested him in the first place (since the arrest was tied to extradition) and held him for 11 months. That’s too much effort if you can’t be arsed and just want to make a gesture.

          re declaring length of sentence, going by the Swiss-US extradition treaty (here, Article 9) that would seem to be necessary info for the Swiss: requests for extradition are meant to include the punishment and “time limit on the prosecution or the execution of the punishment”. Also, since he came to conviction, they’re supposed to have a copy of the judgement or a statement equivalent to a judgement and a statement on “the remainder to be served”. The Swiss also have the right to request more info if they think it relevant (so does the US), Polanski’s appeal revolves around claims that the sentence was going to be changed from what he’d been promised so that makes it arguably relevant.

          That all said, the Swiss mentioned “national interests” were considered and I’d REALLY like to know what those were.

        • jennygadget says

          Charles RB:

          Re: wanting an excuse or not and arresting him in the first place – it’s not like Switzerland couldn’t have changed their minds over time. Or the people making the arrest would be the same people who are making the decisions now.

          Also – the very reason why the information they wanted was a little ridiculous was simply because they are asking about the deal and the time served – rather than just the conviction. Because deals like that aren’t sentences; they aren’t official until the sentencing is actually done, the state is under no obligation to adhere to the deal. So they don’t really have the information that Switzerland was asking for. They may have the exact pieces of paper they are asking for – but they don’t have information on sentencing, time served, etc. – because that’s something that has yet to be decided.

          So essentially Switzerland also seemed to be asking that LA County stick do a deal made decades ago despite Polanski’s actions after pleading guilty? And therefore is essentially saying they will only extradite Polanski if LA County agrees to their judgement of what constitutes the sentence and time served? Yeah, that’s what it sounded like to me. And why it seems to me that Switzerland is trying to make decisions for LA County*. Whether it was the right move or not, I can understand LA County being reluctant to go through with any action that makes it seem like they agree that the deal should still be on the table.

          *unless they are trying to suggest that LA County should sentence him in absentia? So then they can have an actual sentence to evaluate? I kinda agree with that at this point, but I don’t really see how that fits with the Swiss looking out for the rights of the people on their soil.

        • says

          Re: statute of limitations. If you flee before you can be convicted or sentenced, the clock on the statute of limitations stops running. It’s suspended indefinitely until you submit to the court and normal procedures resume.

  19. Scarlett says

    Really? I didn’t know that. I just thought it was noteworthy that a 23-year-old male with no interest in feminist issues – or sexual abuse cases beyond whatever salacious storylines SVU can come up with – still got ‘you don’t defend convicted criminals’ (or at least not the crime they did).

  20. Chaim Paddaman says

    The old Hollywood and liberal ploy, smear the victim to defend Polanski. It is obvious that the defenders on these threads are Hollywood flacks attempting to make us believe that the behaviour of Polanski and Sheen are with in normal social norms and values. The world is not that morally debased yet. However, with the influence of the celebrity culture on our children, and the sheer might and power of Hollywood propaganda machine, they will eventually achieve their goal.

    Chaim Paddaman

    • says

      It’s not a “liberal” ploy. Hollywooders are extreme hard-right traditionalist conservatives using PR to spin the idea that they are liberals, which just isn’t true. Don’t buy into it.

      • The Other Anne says

        Yeah, I always wonder why I hear the Hollywood-is-liberal claim all the time. Same with news media. It makes me realize that the people making the claim (usually my relatives) have no idea what that word means.

        Sure, they do a REALLY good job spinning public perception, but if the media and Hollywood were TRULY liberal (same as I think if many politicians were truly liberal, not to mention people), there would be less blatant oppression of marginalized people and a more progressive and obvious evolution towards liberal ideals as opposed to, well, the exact opposite.

        If I want to watch something that matches up with my liberal ideals I usually turn to international films and BBCI (for news). BBC International because, well, my liberal self wants to hear what’s happening, not what people are judging out of what’s happening, or anything obsessively focused on random-loudmouthed-celebrity-of-the-moment. And international films because, well, when I watch films by Deepa Mehta or when I watch Moolade or Black Girl, well, they make me think, and angry, but not AT THE FILMS. It makes me feel like, for once in my film-watching life, I am angry WITH the filmmaker, wanting change WITH the filmmaker, instead of watching something and getting pissed that a filmmaker would make such utter bullshit.


        • says

          Sure, they do a REALLY good job spinning public perception, but if the media and Hollywood were TRULY liberal (same as I think if many politicians were truly liberal, not to mention people), there would be less blatant oppression of marginalized people and a more progressive and obvious evolution towards liberal ideals as opposed to, well, the exact opposite.


          Before Affirmative Action, businesses said they couldn’t hire women and minorities because clients/customers wouldn’t work with them. AffAct gave them the public excuse they needed to bring women and minorities in and, as we’ve seen, eventually customers and clients got the fuck over it… if they had ever even been the real problem, that it.

          To this day, Hollywood claims they can’t make movies as progressive as what they were making in the 1970s, ffs, because the audience won’t tolerate it. They swear they’d love to be progressive, it’s just the mean ol’ bigoted audience holding them back. Would real liberals not notice, “Huh, you know – people got over it when businesses started hiring women and minorities as sales consultants, accountants, and even eventually doctors and lawyers. Why not, you know, make a couple of movies every year that are progressive in some way, then REALLY give them a good chance with good promotion and so on, and see what happens?”

          Yes, real liberals would do that. Ergo, Hollywooders are not real liberals.

        • says

          There was a lot of it around the time this story was in the news. Actually, conservatives kept suggesting child-molesting was okay with liberals, hence the attitude of some HW rape apologists.

          To which I just wanted to say: “Don’t make us bring up the Catholic church’s ‘conservative’ response to an epidemic of child molestation from their own priests.”

          Nobody’s in favor of child molestation, except some really fringe groups who get no respect at all. It’s just they’re so in favor of men, sometimes they have to make hypocrites of themselves to keep supporting men no matter what.

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