Debate over filmmaker grows more shrill

Mention Roman Polanski at a social gathering and you are likely to find yourself in a heated argument. With bail now formally denied by the Swiss (Polanski already has spent one month in jail) and with extradition to the U.S. seemingly inevitable, the debate will grow ever more shrill.

Even in Germany, where prominent filmmakers initially denounced Polanski’s treatment, the co-heads of the German Film Academy have been impelled to soften their protest, citing “the sensitive nature of the matter.”

Paradoxically, it was the normally passive Swiss who turned Polanski in. For reasons unknown, they alerted Los Angeles officials that the director would be attending a festival in Zurich. Were the clueless law enforcement types unaware that Polanski has a chalet in Switzerland and frequently visits there?

If the 76-year-old director’s trial is, in fact, re-enacted in Los Angeles, proceedings will surely be as surreal as they were 30 years ago. Even within the film business, normally calm, dispassionate types seem inflamed by the controversy.

On the one side, there is, obviously, simple outrage over the nature of Polanski’s crime, but there’s also a retroactive resentment that the filmmaker somehow got off easy as a result of the relaxed (if not somnolent) moral standards of the ’70s. Raping an underage girl is a heinous crime, and Polanski has emerged as a symbol of a society fueled by sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. To be sure, he has exacerbated his problems by seeming to flout standard-bearers of authority, even going back to the party photos with beautiful women after his flight from the U.S.

Polanski’s defenders are equally exercised. They remind us of the erratic behavior of the judge who mishandled the case 30 years ago, and point out that Polanski was incarcerated at that time and has now served additional time in Switzerland. They also remind us of Polanski’s tragic, almost operatic life — surviving the Nazis, the Russians, the Manson killings.

I realize there are grounds for disagreement here, but the nastiness of the debate surprises me. If there is yet another act to be played out in the Polanski opera, one would hope it would be conducted with greater restraint and civility.

The ’70s were a long time ago; it would be bizarre to put a decade on trial.


Hardly a week goes by without the advent of another “power women” event heralding the advances of that gender on the corporate pyramid. Now Time magazine has delivered some sobering data, indicating that women are not only wielding power, they’re also doing most of the work.

The magazine reports that 57% of college students are women, which is a portent for the future. But here’s another portent: 45% of women feel female bosses are harder to work for than male bosses, vs. only 29% of the men.

According to studies cited by Time, the majority of workers in the U.S. by year end will be women – that’s an historic first. In the typical household, father may know best, but he’d better salute the breadwinner.

Are we facing some reverse sexism here?

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