The gulf between the entertainment world and America

The gulf between the entertainment world and America October 5, 2009

Over 100 Hollywood moguls and insiders–including Woody Allen, Martin Scorcese, David Lynch, and Harvey Weinstein–have signed petitions urging the release of child rapist Roman Polanski, who has been arrested after fleeing a plea bargain 30 years ago. What impresses me is that pretty much the rest of America–the whole range of conservatives, liberals, feminists–are on the other side, demanding that Polanski face justice for raping a 13-year-old (not a statutory rape, but forcible sex against her will), even though he is a famous movie director.

The moral nihilism of the entertainment industry manifests itself again in the case of David Letterman, who admitted to being blackmailed to the tune of $2 million for having sex with his staff members. We’ll doubtless learn more about that, but what struck me is who the blackmailer was. Not a pathetic loser snooping from the shadows, but a big-name, high-powered television executive, Robert “Joe” Halderman, a CBS News producer.


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Evangelical
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Mary Ann

    In centuries past, actors and others from the entertainment field were not idolized as they are now…perhaps for good reason.

  • Mary Ann

    In centuries past, actors and others from the entertainment field were not idolized as they are now…perhaps for good reason.

  • It’s interesting prior to the 20th century, actors were considered a fringe social group. Perhaps folks in the entertainment industry have always been this way? (I hate to make such sweeping generalizations, especially considering the reputation that we artists have. Once I told someone I was an artist and he immediately asked me if I was bisexual!?!?! It was a casual conversation at the Home Depot, not anyone I knew.)

  • It’s interesting prior to the 20th century, actors were considered a fringe social group. Perhaps folks in the entertainment industry have always been this way? (I hate to make such sweeping generalizations, especially considering the reputation that we artists have. Once I told someone I was an artist and he immediately asked me if I was bisexual!?!?! It was a casual conversation at the Home Depot, not anyone I knew.)

  • Tom Hering

    Sarah in Exile, just remind people there’s a difference between the “art world” – where LGBT are highly visible and influential – and the whole world of artists out there. The “art world” is not representative of either the mass of artists or the true state of the arts.

  • Tom Hering

    Sarah in Exile, just remind people there’s a difference between the “art world” – where LGBT are highly visible and influential – and the whole world of artists out there. The “art world” is not representative of either the mass of artists or the true state of the arts.

  • Who knows how many creative people have turned to alternative sexualities because they felt like unwelcome aliens in aesthetically sterile church communities? I’m generalizing here but I do know several people for whom this is pretty much what seems to have happened.

    Art needs community nourishment. To the extent that the church abandons art it also abandons artists, leaving them to find communities that will support them. The stereotype that the church hates creativity is directly linked to the stereotype of the church hating homosexuals. The Biblical injunction to care for widows and orphans also applies to cultural widows and orphans. But the church has a way of orphaning and widowing artists.

  • Who knows how many creative people have turned to alternative sexualities because they felt like unwelcome aliens in aesthetically sterile church communities? I’m generalizing here but I do know several people for whom this is pretty much what seems to have happened.

    Art needs community nourishment. To the extent that the church abandons art it also abandons artists, leaving them to find communities that will support them. The stereotype that the church hates creativity is directly linked to the stereotype of the church hating homosexuals. The Biblical injunction to care for widows and orphans also applies to cultural widows and orphans. But the church has a way of orphaning and widowing artists.

  • Terry Culler

    Re: Mr. Polanski. I noticed 2 news stories last week on sexual child abusers. The one concerned Mr. Polanski and how everyone from the Cultural Minister of France to Hollywood biggies thought it such a shame that a creative person would be hounded for raping a child. The 2nd story concerned released sexual abusers in Ga. who were unable to find anywhere to live so their probation officer set up a tent city in the woods for them. Gee, all it takes is money and connections and rape becomes an alternative lifestyle.
    Terry

  • Terry Culler

    Re: Mr. Polanski. I noticed 2 news stories last week on sexual child abusers. The one concerned Mr. Polanski and how everyone from the Cultural Minister of France to Hollywood biggies thought it such a shame that a creative person would be hounded for raping a child. The 2nd story concerned released sexual abusers in Ga. who were unable to find anywhere to live so their probation officer set up a tent city in the woods for them. Gee, all it takes is money and connections and rape becomes an alternative lifestyle.
    Terry

  • Polanski is a scumbag. I feel no pity for him.

    That said, I find the idea of justice here questionable, given that the victim does not feel a need for more of it. Our idea of justice tends to be an idea that spending time behind bars pays society something. (Alan Bock argues against that idea here.) It costs society money. Some victims might feel vindicated. Others feel that the process takes more away from them.

    The victim in this case says that the media hurt her more than Polanski did. And here the actions of the justice system are spurring the media to hurt her more. I think that it is clear that the state does not have this victim in mind when it pursues this course.

    Even if this is the right thing for the state to do, what it is establishing is not justice, but respect for the law, even at the expense of the victim. I would prefer a justice system where the victim’s rights had a greater place in the grand scheme of things.

  • Polanski is a scumbag. I feel no pity for him.

    That said, I find the idea of justice here questionable, given that the victim does not feel a need for more of it. Our idea of justice tends to be an idea that spending time behind bars pays society something. (Alan Bock argues against that idea here.) It costs society money. Some victims might feel vindicated. Others feel that the process takes more away from them.

    The victim in this case says that the media hurt her more than Polanski did. And here the actions of the justice system are spurring the media to hurt her more. I think that it is clear that the state does not have this victim in mind when it pursues this course.

    Even if this is the right thing for the state to do, what it is establishing is not justice, but respect for the law, even at the expense of the victim. I would prefer a justice system where the victim’s rights had a greater place in the grand scheme of things.

  • Terry Culler

    Rick: The state does have a valid interest in punishing criminals, whether or not the victim wants them punished. I seriously doubt that the victim in this case would be required to come forward at all. Polanski has been convicted. He fled his sentencing. So his fugitive status can be resolved without the victim’s input. Unfortunately, countries like France give safe haven to people like Polanski, believing that child rape shoudl not be punishable if the rapist is a clever person. Had they sent the fugitive back 30 years ago we wouldn’t be having this conversation and the woman would not have to relive it. If you want someone to blame, blame France and Hollywood.

  • Terry Culler

    Rick: The state does have a valid interest in punishing criminals, whether or not the victim wants them punished. I seriously doubt that the victim in this case would be required to come forward at all. Polanski has been convicted. He fled his sentencing. So his fugitive status can be resolved without the victim’s input. Unfortunately, countries like France give safe haven to people like Polanski, believing that child rape shoudl not be punishable if the rapist is a clever person. Had they sent the fugitive back 30 years ago we wouldn’t be having this conversation and the woman would not have to relive it. If you want someone to blame, blame France and Hollywood.

  • Jonathan

    Though I don’t agree with his conclusion, I think Rick’s right in one sense: “justice” in the sense of eye-for-an-eye would involve Polanski behind bars meeting the same sort of unwelcomed and unwanted treatment he gave to his victim. Maybe the thought of that occurring to him is what made him flee in the first place. Otherwise, that the media destroyed the victim’s privacy is indeed a shameful travesty, but that is not the justice system’s fault. Polansky pled guilty; the victim was spared from testifying in open court. Her wishes were taken into account. But, justice in the form of deterrence, not just “respect for the law” is what is at stake here. Whether you are one of the “beautiful people” or a mere commoner, there must be a price for violating the law that all must face, otherwise, our principle of “equal justice under the law” is a sham.

  • Jonathan

    Though I don’t agree with his conclusion, I think Rick’s right in one sense: “justice” in the sense of eye-for-an-eye would involve Polanski behind bars meeting the same sort of unwelcomed and unwanted treatment he gave to his victim. Maybe the thought of that occurring to him is what made him flee in the first place. Otherwise, that the media destroyed the victim’s privacy is indeed a shameful travesty, but that is not the justice system’s fault. Polansky pled guilty; the victim was spared from testifying in open court. Her wishes were taken into account. But, justice in the form of deterrence, not just “respect for the law” is what is at stake here. Whether you are one of the “beautiful people” or a mere commoner, there must be a price for violating the law that all must face, otherwise, our principle of “equal justice under the law” is a sham.

  • Terry and Jonathan: I probably do see the state as pursuing a good end in punishing some crimes even despite the victim’s wishes. I would like to see the case on both sides. Our current system differs from many in the past, and tends to become better and better at satisfying a narrower and narrower number of requirements.

    As to the state’s valid interest in punishing criminals, the language is interesting. If you take the word “valid” out, then what is in the state’s interest is whatever makes the state more powerful. In the field of education, a certain amount of failure means that cries for more funding are heard. So it is in the state’s interest to fail a bit at whatever it attempts. You add the word “valid” in and things change. But I’m not sure whether this just means that the state pursues things that will make it grow, but stops at actions that are clearly immoral. What we need instead is a concept of the state having a motive to do something for the sake of its citizens. Yet even this is slippery. Should it only be interested in them in the aggregate? You will end up with pragmatic decisions that can hardly be termed “justice” even if they work. I fear that this is where we are.

    I am less addressing here whether what the state is doing to Polanski is a good idea than the broader principles at issue. Even if I approve of the state’s actions here, I don’t want to say what was served was justice. Actions taken to make society better as a whole can often be justified. They don’t generally offer me a sense that something has been put right, which is the sense of justice generally worth discussing. I might say that something was a just decision if it follows all the rules, but not that justice was served.

  • Terry and Jonathan: I probably do see the state as pursuing a good end in punishing some crimes even despite the victim’s wishes. I would like to see the case on both sides. Our current system differs from many in the past, and tends to become better and better at satisfying a narrower and narrower number of requirements.

    As to the state’s valid interest in punishing criminals, the language is interesting. If you take the word “valid” out, then what is in the state’s interest is whatever makes the state more powerful. In the field of education, a certain amount of failure means that cries for more funding are heard. So it is in the state’s interest to fail a bit at whatever it attempts. You add the word “valid” in and things change. But I’m not sure whether this just means that the state pursues things that will make it grow, but stops at actions that are clearly immoral. What we need instead is a concept of the state having a motive to do something for the sake of its citizens. Yet even this is slippery. Should it only be interested in them in the aggregate? You will end up with pragmatic decisions that can hardly be termed “justice” even if they work. I fear that this is where we are.

    I am less addressing here whether what the state is doing to Polanski is a good idea than the broader principles at issue. Even if I approve of the state’s actions here, I don’t want to say what was served was justice. Actions taken to make society better as a whole can often be justified. They don’t generally offer me a sense that something has been put right, which is the sense of justice generally worth discussing. I might say that something was a just decision if it follows all the rules, but not that justice was served.

  • Booklover

    I could be wrong, but I wonder if David Letterman isn’t gleeful with all the extra advertising–I heard about his boring story on every single radio station I turned to. 🙁 I also wonder if it isn’t a little satisfying for him that the world knows he is able to bed many females.

    Sort of in that same vein, I was even more sickened and disappointed to hear a preacher from the pulpit announce that he used to be a bad boy, selling drugs and sleeping with every girl that he could. It was a well-known preacher from an “orthodox” church on an “orthodox” Christian station, but it left me feeling uncomfortable, for many reasons. I couldn’t detect remorse in his voice but did detect a slight giggle.

    As I read this, it sounds judgmental, but I’m just giving my reaction.

  • Booklover

    I could be wrong, but I wonder if David Letterman isn’t gleeful with all the extra advertising–I heard about his boring story on every single radio station I turned to. 🙁 I also wonder if it isn’t a little satisfying for him that the world knows he is able to bed many females.

    Sort of in that same vein, I was even more sickened and disappointed to hear a preacher from the pulpit announce that he used to be a bad boy, selling drugs and sleeping with every girl that he could. It was a well-known preacher from an “orthodox” church on an “orthodox” Christian station, but it left me feeling uncomfortable, for many reasons. I couldn’t detect remorse in his voice but did detect a slight giggle.

    As I read this, it sounds judgmental, but I’m just giving my reaction.

  • rlewer

    It is not just that Hollywood’s morality is different, but that Hollywood seeks to promote its own form of morality in what it presents to us as art and truth.

  • rlewer

    It is not just that Hollywood’s morality is different, but that Hollywood seeks to promote its own form of morality in what it presents to us as art and truth.

  • Rose

    You’re right, rlewer.
    It disturbs me that we seem to have an insatiable need for violent and sleazy movies. As a church librarian, I’m working to build a DVD collection of family movies. Mardel.com is a good source. I just ordered “Faith Like Potatoes.”

  • Rose

    You’re right, rlewer.
    It disturbs me that we seem to have an insatiable need for violent and sleazy movies. As a church librarian, I’m working to build a DVD collection of family movies. Mardel.com is a good source. I just ordered “Faith Like Potatoes.”

  • Tom Hering
  • Tom Hering