The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
on entertainment and media

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Roman Polanski is a free man. You got a problem with that?

Roman_polanski I'm sure that Glenn Beck will somehow find a way to blame this on some Obamaian socialist conspiracy, but the news Monday morning that a Swiss judge has set Roman Polanski free is probably just the latest example of how different European attitudes about sexual abuse are from the views we hold here in America.

It may well be that the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office has bungled the Polanski case again, especially since Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf made it clear that the district attorney's request to extradite the 76-year-old filmmaker was undermined by "persisting doubts concerning the presentation of the facts of the case." But it seems clear that the Swiss -- and the French and the Italians, who keep electing as their presidents guys who seem more infatuated with young women than even Hugh Hefner -- just aren't that worked up about the fact that Polanski forced himself on an underage girl more than 30 years ago.

In America, having sex with a 13-year-girl is a crime worthy of punishment, no matter how talented Polanski is as a filmmaker. In Europe, it's hardly worthy of a raised eyebrow, which is why Polanski is still lionized in most European countries, receiving countless awards and happily accepted in polite society. This drives a lot of Americans crazy, since we're at heart a Puritan nation. But in Europe, attitudes are different. Not better. I'm not sure even worse. Just different.

I still believe that if Polanski wants to return to America, he should have to submit himself to the American judicial system and pay whatever price has to be paid. But I suspect this rejection of the district attorney's case marks the end of any persistent efforts to persuade the Europeans to go along with our mores. Hearing that the Swiss had rejected any extradition efforts, France's Minister of Culture, Frederic Mitterrand, said, "The time has now come for calm," as if he were speaking to the crazed Spaniards celebrating their World Cup victory. But what he was really saying, with a supreme Gallic shrug, is that it's time for us to move on. When it comes to Polanski, history will be the only judge.

Photo: Roman Polanski at the 2002 Spanish premiere of "The Pianist." Credit: Carlos Alvarez / Getty Images 

Comments () | Archives (66)

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"But in Europe, attitudes are different. Not better. I'm not sure even worse. Just different"

The author isn't sure if Europe is wrong to consider a 43 year old man raping a teenage girl as "OK"? I am amazed to say the least. Maybe he should try getting sexually assaulted or raped. I'd bet he would feel differently about it.

u say europeans have different attitudes than americans about sexual abuse etc?
give me a break
the continent of europe together with its bazillion countries in it dont add up to the sexual crimes commited a year in the usa,or murders, racism,u name it, usa is on top of the list,yet u have the nerve to point fingers and dare to think ur better ,HA!
so europe is not the problem,always pointing fingers thats the problem in usa justice system and dont mention denial omg
u guys never get it right,its always extreme never balanced
thats why none of u get ur current president,he is way too intelligent and doesnt act like a dumb puppet u all have been used to

So in Europe it's acceptable to give drugs and alcohol to a minor and then force them to engage in sexual intercourse including sodomy? Are you sure you really want to say that?

I'm not condoning his actions by any means. I'm merely suggesting it's possible the girl was a willing participant. I'm a young person in America and I personally think 13 is too young for sexual contact, especially with an adult, as would most normal Americans. However, I'm also a realist and I know that premature sexual intercourse has been condoned by young girls for decades. Nobody wants to believe that our children have sexual desires, but at 13 some do and they act on those desires whether it be with a boy their age or an older man. Obviously he used bad judgement but whether the girl was a willing participant in the act should be taken into moral consideration. I'm tired of young promiscuous girls accusing the rich and famous men they CHOOSE to sleep with of rape. By law it may have been rape, but was it really rape? That's one of the flaws of our justice system.

I read this and then almost laughed when I saw that your message board require the user to be no younger than 13.

So I guess that if your old enough to participate in these boards, you are old enough to be coaxed into use of illegal drugs and sodomized.

Sorry Mr. Writer sir, but I for one am not afraid to say "This was wrong, and if the Swiss don't think so then they - and any other Europeans that see drugging young girls and engaging them in forced sex - are wrong too."

Your write-up seems to make fun of Americans because we disagree with Europeans on whether engaging in drugging and sodomizing young girls is wrong. I asked around to a few Europeans I work with and definitely didn't get the opinion they condone this behavior. You should probably check your facts.

The Polanski decision is also further evidence that Europe, and the rest of the world for that matter, have had their fill with the Americanization of the planet. Perhaps they're telling us in their somewhat more temperate and sophisticated manner than is common to this side of the pond that "U.S." does not always have to equate to us, Us, US! It might be a good idea for America to begin the long, difficult process of getting over itself. (No, we're not the epicenter of the Universe, nor the world's only beacon of freedom and democracy, as incredible as that may sound.) As a young nation it was inevitable that our drunken teenager antics would wear thin and certainly the unfortunate leadership of the last decade has hastened the process. When we have domestic news reportage and a quality of life for the bulk of our citizens equal to that of most European nations, maybe then we can toot our horn a bit more. Until then . . .

I hope it is incorrect to say that European mores allow adult men to drug and rape minors.

Is the author really saying Europeans think it's OK to do this?

Now, maybe this particular judge ruled that it's not extraditeable given the time lapse, but that doesn't necessarily reflect a difference in sexual mores.

What a bunch of hypocrites these Swiss are. Entire EU, along with Swiss, wants the rest of the world including USA to live by what they preach. If swiss had an ounce of humanity or justice, they would have sent that child molester (Polanski) to USA by first flight out. But nooooo, they have reaffirmed that as long as someone pays taxes in Switzerland, it doesn't matter to them what kind of crime that person has committed. Shame on you, Swiss justice system!

Perhaps most of you are too young to remember, but...
-Polanski drugged a 13 year old so that he could take advantage of her
-Polanski fled to avoid prosecution
-The victim was repeadtly raped anally and vaginally

If any of you have a daughter and are still ok with this behavior you have some serious issues.

You have to be 13 years old to even post a message on to this board, but Mr. Goldstein is not willing to say that the assumed European attitude towards forcing sex on a 13 year old is wrong? How afraid are we of coming off as arrogant or elitist that our journalists won't even take a stand and say that Roman Polanski drugged and raped a child and that it was WRONG. Even the language Mr. Goldstein uses when describing us as a Puritan nation is, I feel, meant to paint a picture of Americans taking this issue a bit too seriously, and needing to loosen up over the whole thing. I could be way off here but I think Mr. Goldstein missed the mark here.

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