Blame it on the 70s

>> Saturday, October 10, 2009

This NYT story argues that the American legal system and the culture in general have become far less lenient toward adults having sex with minors since the wild and crazy 1970s. While doing so it softpedals Roman Polanski's crimes, waiting until the 13th graph to mention that the girl he raped testified the rape was forcible, and failing to mention at all that Polanski now faces prison time for fleeing from justice for 30 years, in addition to the crime to which he pleaded guilty.

Worse yet, it frames Polanski's offenses by comparing them to the fictional romance in Woody Allen's film Manhattan, which involved a consensual relationship between a nearly 18-year-old character and Allen's middle aged alter ego. Whatever legal and moral objections might be raised to such a relationship (and they would be considerable if, for example, the Allen character was in a position of trust or authority in regard to the Mariel Hemingway character -- I saw the film 30 years ago and don't remember if this was the case), it nevertheless involves a radically different situation than that in Polanski's real-life rape drama.

The story also contains this almost unbelievably fatuous quote from Polanski's probation report:

Possibly not since Renaissance Italy has there been such a gathering of creative minds in one locale as there has been in Los Angeles County during the past half century. While enriching the community with their presence, they have brought with them the manners and mores of their native lands which in rare instances have been at variance with those of their adoptive land.

In this context it might be worth mentioning that the late 70s did feature high profile films such as Taxi Driver and Pretty Baby, in which 13 and 12 year old girl characters starred as glamorized and disturbingly sexualized siren/prostitutes (Indeed the sexualization of Brooke Shields in general was a creepy motif of the times). But life doesn't get to imitate art without criminal consequences, even in Hollywood.


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