Saturday, October 10, 2009

Afternoon Delight

Roman Polanski's defenders are falling back on the classic defense: don't blame me! it was the spirit of the age. Cue the Wah-Wah Pedal Orchestra: In Polanski Case, '70's Culture Collides With Today

Roman Polanski’s arrest on Sept. 26 to face a decades-old charge of having sex with a 13-year-old girl stirred global furor over both Mr. Polanski’s original misdeed and the way the authorities have handled it — along with some sharp reminders that, when it comes to adult sex with the under age*, things have changed.

Manners, mores and law enforcement have become far less forgiving of sex crimes involving minors in the 31 years since Mr. Polanski was charged with both rape and sodomy involving drugs. He fled rather than face what was to have been a 48-day sentence after he pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor.

But if he is extradited from Switzerland, Mr. Polanski could face a more severe punishment than he did in the 1970s, as a vigorous victims’ rights movement, a family-values revival and revelations of child abuse by clergy members have all helped change the moral and legal framework regarding sex with the young.

Yeah and Fatty Arbuckle killed Virginia Rappe because of the raffish Twenties, Errol Flynn committed statutory rape because of the loose Forties, and Pee Wee Herman exposed himself because of the onanistic Eighties. Really, back in the Seventies, everyone was raping eighth graders at Jack Nicholson's house. That was the style of the time. Also, if the writer of the above really wants to "put things in context," he might have said that the vicitm's rights and family values movements arose precisely because of crimes like Polanski's that seemed to draw pathetically light sentences. But, no one wants to hear about that. They just want to believe Polanski can wriggle out of this. The "cultural defense" is just another tool in the toolbox.

* I seem to recall from my teen-aged reading of the Song Remains The Same that Jimmy Page had a 14 year old girlfriend during Zep's heyday, something his biographer glossed over pretty quickly because ... it seemed pretty creepy, even back then.

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