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Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
I’ve been on the Polanski beat all week, both here and at Jezebel (and on the “Today” show!), so I’ve read a lot about the story. A lot. And since I’m not sure I can bring myself to write one more word about it (at least until Monday), I’ll leave you for the weekend with a round-up of some of my favorite writing on the matter.
Amanda Hess: “Common Roman Polanski Defenses, Refuted” (The Sexist)
Ahh: “the real tragedy.” Some people may be under the impression that a 13-year-old being drugged and raped by a 44-year-old man constitutes a “real tragedy.” Others may contend that both Polanski and his rape victim have suffered “real tragedies” in their lifetimes. But no, there can only be one the real tragedy, and it is that people have “snubbed” Roman Polanski because he raped someone and skipped town. If only the recognition of the Academy Awards, the BAFTAs, the Berlin International Film Festival, Cannes, the Directors Guild of America, the Golden Globes, the Independent Spirit Awards, the Stokholm Film Festival, the Venice Film Festival, and dozens of other awards organizations could begin to heal that wound.
Jaclyn Friedman, “We Are All Polanski’s Victims, and We All Deserve Justice” (Huffington Post)
But rape isn’t just a crime against one person, and we don’t prosecute it in order to fulfill any one victim’s needs or wishes. Rape is a crime against the social fabric that binds all of us together. The act violates what should be one of our core values as a civilization: that every person of every gender and age has the right to bodily autonomy — to basic safety in our bodies. When that right is violated and the perpetrator goes unpunished, it makes all of us less safe. Not just because there’s one more rapist on the loose, but because that lack of accountability sends a message to other would-be rapists: Go ahead and rape someone. The rest of us don’t care that much, as long as it’s not us or someone we love. In this case, we might add a caveat: Especially if you’re rich and talented and have powerful friends.
Allison Anders: “Filmmaker Allison Anders on Polanski: Art Is Not Enough” (Miss Whistle)
[A]s sensitive as I may be to the loss and pain and tragedy which has colored most of Polanski’s life, it doesn’t ultimately matter to me either. Both of these men [Polanski and John Phillips] had terrible traumatic childhoods. Polanski’s life has been so harrowing that it long ago entered the realm of mythology. Phillips came from a terribly abusive alcoholic home ruled by a remote sadistic military father. But there is not one perpetrator out there who couldn’t cry me a fucking river. Trauma creates one of four types of people: victims, rescuers, or perps. And if you’re really lucky and really strong and very willing and brave — survivors.
Art should never be held above our decency to each other. And when an artist commits a crime, especially a sex crime and especially against a child, we do art no favor by giving artists a break we would never give to anyone else.
Melissa McEwan “Roman Polanski’s Life of Crime” (The Guardian)
Polanski has had a very successful career, working with a string of notable American and British actors who didn’t hold his “sexual peccadilloes” (such as, being a confessed rapist) against him: Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver, Johnny Depp, Adrien Brody, Ewan McGregor, Tom Wilkinson, Ben Kingsley, Kim Catrall, Olivia Williams. He even managed to win an Oscar for best director, in 2003, for The Pianist. It was an important victory in what had already become a very public crusade to rehabilitate his reputation and legacy.
In the Washington Post, the commentator Anne Applebaum – who calls Polanski’s arrest “outrageous” and passionately argues for his release — says: “If he weren’t famous, I bet no one would bother with him at all.” Which rather seems to be missing the point. If he weren’t famous, he would not have been free to flee in the first place. And he would certainly not number among his public defenders a columnist writing for the Washington Post.
In fact, I daresay he wouldn’t have many defenders at all.
Katha Pollitt “Roman Polanski Has a Lot of Friends” (The Nation)
The widespread support for Polanski shows the liberal cultural elite at its preening, fatuous worst. They may make great movies, write great books, and design beautiful things, they may have lots of noble humanitarian ideas and care, in the abstract, about all the right principles: equality under the law, for example. But in this case, they’re just the white culture-class counterpart of hip-hop fans who stood by R. Kelly and Chris Brown and of sports fans who automatically support their favorite athletes when they’re accused of beating their wives and raping hotel workers.
No wonder Middle America hates them.
And finally, absolutely nailing it, Abby McDonald: “Polanski, rape, and the myth of Not Like Us“
Rape, the myth goes, is something Other. It is separate, and dramatic, and above all, perpetuated by men we don’t know.
Rapists are not loving fathers, or supportive brothers, we tell ourselves — and each other. Rapists don’t go home for the holidays and help with the tree, and watch the big game with their father, and throw the football around with their nephews. Rapists don’t tip the homeless guy, because they have some spare change from Starbucks. Rapists don’t survive the Holocaust. Rapists don’t sit in the cubicle across from us at work, and send us funny xkcd cartoons. Rapists don’t have uneventful, long-term relationships with their college girlfriends. Rapists don’t show up on set every day, directing a critically-acclaimed movie. Rapists don’t get married, nervous in a tux at the end of the aisle. Rapists don’t spend their weekends browsing at the farmer’s market, and then stop for brunch and do the NYT crossword. Rapists don’t co-write this screenplay with us. Rapists don’t hang out at the pub with their friends, watching football and drinking just half a pint of beer, because they’re driving. Rapists don’t meet us casually at an awards ceremony, and charm us with wit and wry humor.
We tell these myths to ourselves and each other often, but of course, they are lies. A rapist is nothing but a man who doesn’t listen when you say stop.
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)