Criminal, Genius, Or Both?
Crisis in the media is often controversial. In fact, the most famous scandals are faced with moral and legal questions that must be considered in order to make appropriate, fair judgments. However, for celebrities, decisions aren’t always rightfully based on both law and morals. Too often their fame dismisses them of their inappropriate actions, leaving society unsure of how to view them as former role models. In the cases of Woody Allen and Roman Polanski, I struggle with accepting the crimes they committed, their inadequate punishment, and separating their crime from their talents. Questions arise such as; is it appropriate to consider these men artistic geniuses, or do their criminal pasts trump their achievements? Opinions vary surrounding this controversy making my personal perspective one of many.
Woody Allen has been a respected filmmaker, actor, and director for decades. His movies are dynamic, full of truth and reflect his passion. He continues to have a very successful career and receives recognition for his work to this day. In my opinion, he is undeniably gifted in the film industry. When focusing on strictly his talent for producing films, I see him as an artistic genius. However, I find it challenging to respect, admire, and especially award Allen knowing his criminal history. I must consider this case from a legal standpoint and perhaps, more importantly, from an ethical perspective to classify him as a potential criminal. According to the law, Allen allegedly molested his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow and participated in incest by marrying his ex-wife Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn. I view the alleged sexual abuse as a legally punishable crime, and the incest as a morally corrupt offence. Even so, Allen has yet to accept his legal felony or receive any form of punishment for it. Thus, I would also consider him a criminal, raising the question: does criminal status overpower his recognition as an award winning genius? In my opinion, yes. It is one thing to simply applaud his good work at the end of a film, but for Allen to receive the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award for his many films at the Golden Globes this year is despicable. Society and Hollywood shamelessly ignore his criminal past simply for art. Therefore, a large problem surrounding this case reflects society’s contributing role and the intersections between classes, which I will expand on later.
It is also questioned whether Roman Polanski should be considered a genius or a criminal. While he is many things such as; an international film marker, a highly accomplished director, a producer, an actor, and potentially a genius for his artistic work, but altogether he remains a criminal. Polanski’s crimes include the rape of 13 year old, Samantha Geimer, and failing to serve time for his conviction. Instead of rightfully serving jail time, he fled the United States to enjoy a first-class, luxurious life where he continues to produce films and receive awards. I feel both of these offences are morally and legally wrong. Yet, some suggest that Polanski’s talents must be kept separate from his personal behaviours, but I tend to disagree. Not only did he commit a capital crime and fail to accept his punishment, but it’s the fact that he continue to receive and accept awards that is inconceivable. His fame makes people perceive him differently, even when in the wrong. Again, society is partially to blame for this corrupted behaviour.
Society’s flawed role in these cases involves our distorted, conventional images of abuse. Allen and Polanski are two old, famous men with whiteness in their favour. The poor victims happen to be young women objectified and highly sexualized into being characters for abuse. But imagine the roles flipped, a coloured female raped a man, society would be appalled. Why is this? We have become accustomed to associating rape as a normal act when it involves a white man as the perpetrator and young women as the victims. Adding to that, the fame Allen and Polanski have make us further dismiss the case because they are held to different standards – they are seen as a superior class. Their upper class status provides them with ‘get out of jail, free’ cards, something anyone of a lower class would never receive. Moving forward with these cases, class intersections must be broken down. This is a dominating problem where relationships of inequality are created within society amongst the upper, middle, and lower classes. It is an unfair advantage and deceitful way of avoiding proper punishment for an ethically and legally wrong crime. Therefore, as a society, it is our responsibility to see past the fame, properly address intersectionality among the oppressed middle and lower class groups, and treat this rape, abuse and incest case like any other. The award distribution process is based on decisions made by committee members and the people’s popular vote. We, the people, are awarding Woody Allen and Roman Polanski with a blind eye to their past. I think it is morally unfair to praise Polanski and Allen, thus it must be stopped to eliminate this detestable inhumanity.
While society has a job to fulfill in moving forward with this case, Allen and Polanski must change, as well, by accepting and repenting for their crimes. As a related example, consider Lance Armstrong. Following the reveal of his criminal offence, involving performance-enhancing drugs during multiple Tour de France races, many fans and supporters did not condone his actions. His awards were revoked and he was prohibited from participating in future races. Though, unlike Allen and Polanski, Lance accepted his actions and punishment. Once he took responsibility he could rightfully gain the support of his fans again. While Allen’s and Polanski’s crimes may not have directly affected their career as Lance’s did, their criminal actions may have provoked ideas for films or plots. It is uncertain what they took away from their crimes or the impact they had on their creations. However, the problem is Allen and Polanski have yet to accept or serve time for their crimes, and continue to be rewarded and admired in the film industry. A large congratulation goes to Woody Allen for recently winning the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, and to Roman Polanski for his dynamic film productions, but I think these men need to pay for their crimes and society must withhold further tributes. They may be artistic geniuses, but that does not dismiss them of being criminals. Until they are able to take ownership for their actions, there are numerous other talented and inspirational, film writers, actors, and directors that deserve to be praised and spoken about.