Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Art For Art's Sake?

I'm not really sure what I think about the arrest of Roman Polanski in Switzerland this week.
In spite of being a "convicted felon and fugitive" it's been over 30 years since he fled to France.
Isn't this really about his denying a court order and not showing up in court, not the fact that he raped and sodomized a 13 year old girl, who was pimped out by her mother, in 1977? That unfortunate young lady is now well over 40 years old. Does she want to dredge all this up or remain anonymous and get on with her life?

Jim Lindgren of the Volokh Conspiracy had an interesting post on the subject of artists and their behavior
Roman Polanski, George Orwell, and Salvador Dali
When I was running university film societies in the 1970s and early 1980s, I considered Roman Polanski’s Chinatown the best film made in the 1970s. I don’t know what I would think today because I haven’t seen it for three decades. And I still consider Rosemary’s Baby one of the best horror movies ever made.
I mention this because good artists are not necessarily good people and bad people are not necessarily bad artists.


In George Orwell's Notes on Dali, an essay about a good artist but a disgusting person, he wrote
It will be seen that what the defenders of Dali are claiming is a kind of benefit of clergy. The artist is to be exempt from the moral laws that are binding on ordinary people. Just pronounce the magic word “Art,” and everything is O.K.: kicking little girls in the head is O.K. . . . It is also O.K. that Dali should batten on France for years and then scuttle off like rat as soon as France is in danger. So long as you can paint well enough to pass the test, all shall be forgiven you.

One can see how false this is if one extends it to cover ordinary crime. In an age like our own, when the artist is an altogether exceptional person, he must be allowed a certain amount of irresponsibility, just as a pregnant woman is. Still, no one would say that a pregnant woman should be allowed to commit murder, nor would anyone make such a claim for the artist, however gifted. If Shakespeare returned to the earth to-morrow, and if it were found that his favourite recreation was raping little girls in railway carriages, we should not tell him to go ahead with it on the ground that he might write another King Lear.

In a culture that commends Art for art's sake
is any behavior acceptable?

Your thoughts?
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9 comments:

The Townhouselady said...

I don't know, My gut says that just because you had the means to avoid prosecution until now doesn't erase that you committed a crime. Being an artist isn't an excuse.

Sher said...

One should be responsible for one's actions.

Jill said...

I think the girl/woman in question just wants it to go away. She received a settlement years ago. I wouldn't want it dredged up again...but artists are much the same as celebrities these days. They are not held to the same moral standards as the "average" man.

~Tessa~Scoffs said...

Verrrrrry interesting. This brings to mind the umbrage I take with artists/writers whose work I admire but who (obviously later) committed suicide. Does their lack of life-affirming values and attitudes cancel out their artistic vision and sometimes very valid point of view?

~Tessa~Scoffs said...

Oh my gosh, my word verification was "dedli".

WendyB said...

I always thought the mother sounded vile -- you're right about the girl being pimped out. And she's moved on. Really, I don't think this is a good use of state money. Prosecuting this 70-something who hasn't committed any other crimes? Aren't there people on the street now who really need to be put away because they're active threats to society?

Belle de Ville said...

Wendy, I'm in agreement with you. If the debauched girl, now woman, does not want to pursue the matter, I think that the state should drop the case.
Right now with the amount of gang crime on the street, the government's resources ought to be allocated to stop the violence.

But I just want to note that in spite of Whoopi Goldberg's stupid apology for Polanski on The View, saying that the girl wasn't, you know, raped-raped, the girl was given alcohol, drugged and raped. I don't believe that she was in any state, or even of age, to give informed consent.

Anonymous said...

Even if the girl involved wants the rape case dropped, it doesn't change the fact that he is a fugitive from the law. He willfully and knowingly jumped bail and fled the country and by doing so, he broke the law. He is accountable for his actions, even if they were made 30 some-odd years ago. And, seriously, this whole "the girl was a Lolita and the mom basically pimped her out" is ridiculous and irrelevant, respectively.
The mother isn't responsible for Polanski's drugging her daughter with sedatives and champagne. She is not responsible for his repeated violation of the girl, even as she was begging him to stop. The mother may be a shitty person but she did not in any way INSTIGATE the actual rape of that girl.
As for remarks which have been made that the girl was a "Lolita" type who looked much older than her age (meaning, of course, that she was just begging for a 45 yr old man to commit atrocious acts on her body), there is nothing more disgusting or despicable than rationalizing his actions by demonizing (with a common fallacy, no less!) a CHILD. In Nabokov's novel, Lolita was FORCED into sex with her stepfather and exuded an air of sullenness and absolute hatred for him for the remainder of the book. It is clear that any "seduction" on her side was fabricated by Humbert Humbert in order to validate the actions that he acknowledged as disgusting and unacceptable! Lolita was a victim of rape no less than the girl in question was and every time a comparison is made between them, I want to scream.
Finally, the absolutely abhorrent comments made by Polanski following his flight to Europe only reitarate his douchebaggery. I guess "everyone wants to fuck little girls" is his worldview. He should be thrown in prison for the remainder of his life.
No art is brilliant enough to invalidate the awful nature of its artist.

Belle de Ville said...

So Anon, dono't hold back.
Tell me how you really feel.

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