In a 1979 interview with British author Martin Amis, Roman Polanski made the genius observation that, “If I had killed somebody, it wouldn't have had so much appeal to the press, you see? But…fucking, you see, and the young girls. Judges want to fuck young girls. Juries want to fuck young girls. Everyone wants to fuck young girls!”
I couldn’t agree with Roman Polanski more. The modernist painter Balthus knew this to be true. Abercrombie & Fitch know this to be true. Brittany Spears’ producer Max Martin (“Hit Me Baby One More Time”) knew this to be true. Billy Cyrus knows this to be true. Whether selling denim skirts or directing a psychological thriller, the sexual objectification of pubescent girls is good for business and makes for great art. If you don’t understand and/or accept this you are a Philistine. Just ask Debra Winger.
Winger criticized Swiss officials for their “Philistine collusion” in arresting Polanski. She also said that, “This fledgling festival has been unfairly exploited, and whenever this happens, the whole art world suffers. We hope today this latest (arrest) order will be dropped. It is based on a three-decades-old case that is dead but for minor technicalities. We stand by him and await his release and his next masterpiece.”
I take exception with Winger on two fronts. First, Polanski is not a genius. He has never created a masterpiece. Second, she and Polanski both fail to understand the art museum principle, Look, don’t touch.
The genius of Balthus and Abercrombie is that they make you feel guilty for wanting to fuck young girls while somehow making it socially acceptable and profitable while you look and ponder. You’re allowed to pay admission to see the artwork. You’re allowed to buy the denim skirt or the Oops!...I Did It Again album. You can buy the merchandise, but you can’t touch the models. The sexual objectification of pubescent girls has become one of our primary aesthetics in selling art, books, films, fashion, and music. It’s illegal to have sex with a minor, but it’s legal to profit from the desire. This is a precarious construct. It’s perhaps one of the ugliest contradictions of our capitalist society. Roman Polanski, the evil genius that he is, rubs our face in this truth while Debra Winger calls us stupid. Worse, we watch while he touches—literally and cinema-graphically (Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby, The Tragedy of Macbeth, and Alice in Wonderland).
The urge to fuck young girls exists, as Polanski not-so-eloquently points out, but the truer, more philosophical question should be why does it exist, and why do we let artists and corporations exploit it? Making Polanski pay will at least give the appearance that society actually cares about the issue. Meanwhile, Abercrombie will continue manufacturing skimpy outfits and record producers will keep inventing new pubescent sex symbols. Debra Winger will also continue to have her head up her ass, especially in regards to recognizing a masterpiece.
Debra Winger is wrong. The art world doesn’t suffer when male artists emotionally and/or physically abuse women. Just ask Miles Davis or Pablo Picasso. It doesn’t make paintings ugly. It doesn’t make songs cacophonous. Ovid and Shakespeare aestheticized rape. Jerry Lee Lewis married his thirteen year-old cousin. Great Balls of Fire! Artistic geniuses get away with it. Polanski just isn’t that important of an artist. In his defense, I’m not sure if a Guernica or Kind of Blue would provide immunity for an artist in Philistine America these days. If Roman Polanski wants to get away with raping a young girl in this country, he’d better learn how to dribble a basketball.
Americans are willing to forgive and forget rape and other forms of violence against women, but only for the true geniuses of sport and political punditry. The privilege of sexual harassment and rape are reserved for the likes of Kobe Bryant and Bill O’Reilly. As a film director, you’ve got to be a Spielberg or Lucas to get away with drugging and sodomizing a thirteen year-old. The Pianist is no Schindler’s List. Too much melodrama. Not enough action. Polanski’s movies are very good, but he’s not a genius, especially not here in the United States of Philistines. Personally, I find the rape scenes in his films and life to be gratuitous. He doesn’t even have the decency to aestheticize them. Therefore, he can be tried and convicted like the rest of us perverted dummies.