I've been going back and forth about if the whole "Roman Polanski finally arrested for sodomizing a thirteen year-old girl after weakening her resistance with drugs and alcohol and ignoring her protests of 'no, no, no'" was worth commenting on in this blog. After all, it's a complicated issue, and as Whoopi told us last week, we don't have all the facts so maybe it's best not to take a side yet. After careful thought, I've decided that it wasn't worth devoting a whole blog post to hashing out how guilt is a complicated thing when discussing the anal rape of an inebriated tween. So if you're looking for someone to take a hard stand for or against Roman, you won't find it here.
By the way, a great blog I've been meaning to recommend is writer Peter David's. He's a novelist and a comic book writer who's probably best known for his work on The Incredible Hulk and several successful Star Trek novels. He's often quite insightful.
Annnnyway... the reason I bring up Polanski in a completely non-partisan way is that this whole situation has got me wondering if one's personal indiscretions should taint their work, and conversely, if one's extraordinary artistic achievements should excuse any wrongdoing. After all, despite the serious nature of the charges, several Hollywood luminaries have rushed to Roman's defense, arguing that this rapist has suffered enough by being forced to live in exile in his extravagant French mansion. But really, it feels like they're defending him because he's the filmmaker responsible for such great films like Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby.
So if you make a movie as good as Chinatown, does that mean you can have sex with an unwilling seventh grader? If so, how many Hannah Montana fans could Steven Spielberg violate before he'd face a hundred or so hours of community service?
But let's say that you feel Roman deserves to spend the rest of his life in jail, with each day bearing an ironic resemblance to that one night he spent at Jack Nicholson's villa. (I assume... everything I know about prison comes from Oz. And not the one with Scarecrow and Tin Man.) Does that mean you will now boycott Chinatown on purely moral grounds? Does it mean that you won't even acknowledge the many merits of that film?
Maybe I'm not being fair. Let's look at this another way. Suppose O.J. Simpson somehow gets early release and directs a movie. Would you even consider seeing it? Would it even matter to you what it's about? Suppose it's a ground-breaking summer movie that is hailed as "the next Star Wars." What if it's a film that changes the way an entire generation thinks about movie-making? Will you see it - or do you boycott it on principle because it was directed by a double murderer? Allegedly. (The murder part, I mean. In this hypothetical, there's nothing alleged about O.J's directing) Is a brilliant movie suddenly less brilliant simply because a killer was at the helm?
If you boycott O.J.'s movie because you object to him personally, is that any more hypocritical than arguing that Roman's film earns him a Get Out of Jail Free card? And in that situation, which is the right choice?
If we find out tomorrow that Paul McCartney doped up a 13 year-old and ran through the Kama Sutra with her, does "Penny Lane" instantly go from being a fun little ditty to a song that should never be played again? Is "Yesterday" now a song that I have to erase from my iPod and petition my local DJs to ban from the airwaves permanently?
And that's today's Tuesday Talkback question: Should we allow the personal actions of an artist to taint their art? And does artistic brilliance pardon personal bad behavior?
Where do you draw the line?