Week 4; January 27th- February 2nd Blog Entry #1 (Done by J).

Director Roman Polanski attends a news conference for the film "La Venus a la Fourrure" during the 66th Cannes Film Festival

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.

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4 Comments

  1. Week 4; January 27th- February 2nd Blog Comment/Response #1 (Done by S).

    As I read your blog I was reminded of the statues that reside outside the Supreme Court of Canada; Truth and Justice. Growing up in Canada, a country founded on principles of democracy we are taught to ‘do the right thing’, ‘be honest’, and to believe that the truth will set us free and that justice serves all. However, it isn’t long before we realize that truth doesn’t always bring about justice and justice doesn’t always serve everyone equally. It begins early in life as children in elementary school face situations (of personal involvement or as witnesses) where conflict with another student happens and a teacher, vice-principal or principal (ie. someone in an authoritarian position) decrees the outcome of the conflict. They are the judge and jury; determining the verdict and handing out rewards and punishment. Sometimes the outcome isn’t always based solely on fact and advantages are given based on some criteria other than what transpired, resulting in the words that we’ve all said at some point in our childhood, “That’s not fair!” Fairness, justice, and equality do not always go hand-in-hand as we think they should. The simplicity of a child’s view of right and wrong is lost very quickly as we grow older, overshadowed by an awareness that we (people) are different. Regardless of the differentiating criteria we are not all equal in the eyes of each other. Power and authority are given to some and not to others resulting in the destruction of truth and justice and as a society we pick and choose who will be held accountable for their actions and punished and who will get off ‘scot-free’. Following the commissioning of the statues, Truth and Justice went ‘missing’ for more than 50 years and were finally found in a government warehouse and were finally erected outside the courthouse where they stand today. Perhaps like the statues, society will find its way back to truth and justice. Let’s hope so!!!

    – S.

  2. This blog passionately calls our legal system into question with the accusation that our courts are giving criminals a ‘get out of jail free card’ because of their status.
    One question you posed that was particularly hard hitting was this: is it appropriate to consider these men artistic geniuses, or do their criminal pasts trump their achievements? In my opinion, it is still okay to call them artistic geniuses and criminals. One does not necessarily negate the other. While the general public will (as they should) look down upon convicted criminals, their personal life’s work is entirely independent from their conviction.

    Something I disagreed with was that we should revoke the accolades that Woody Allen and Roman Polanski have acquired over the years. I fail to see how Woody Allen’s accusation and Roman Polanski’s conviction are comprable to Lance Armstrong taking performance enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France. This being said, I entirely agree that if Allen and Polanski are convicted in court of their respective crimes, they should serve the exact amount of time an average civilian would have in prison—no more, no less. Furthermore, unlike Roman Polanski, Woody Allen has not been convicted of any crime, and I do not think it is just to punish a man who is supposed to be considered innocent until proven guilty.

    I would have to agree with you that as citizens, it is our job to ensure no one gains special treatment because of their status. By the same token, it is our job to ensure that no one be condemned for a crime they have not been convicted of.

    -M.

  3. I completely agree with the points you made in your blog post. When you raise the question, “does criminal status overpower his (Woody Allen) recognition as an award winning genius?” I thought the argument you raised about society and Hollywood ignoring his criminal past purely for art is so true and I agree that its not acceptable at all. I also liked that you involved the concept of white privilege when talking about Polonski and Allen. The racial dominance that Allen had over his adopted daughter, who he ended up marrying, most likely played a big part in the incest and relationship that followed her adoption. You also said that society is becoming accustomed to associating rape as a normal act when it involves a white man as the perpetrator and young women as the victims. It is really true that if the rolls were reversed and a woman of color raped a white man, especially if they were famous, I feel that the consequences would be very different and probably more severe. Even the fact that the thought of that happening would be shocking is sad because even though it may happen, society is so used to men raping women and not the other way around.

    -R-

  4. Your point about Polanski’s talents being kept separate from his personal behaviours made me question if they ultimately should be. I completely agree with you that what these two men did in relation to rape is deplorable, but I believe that their achievements are separate from their actions. Maybe if he had received a greater punishment, he would have been a good example of what happens to people if they do rape. Unfortunately, because he didn’t, it makes it more difficult to teach people that if they do commit such a crime they will be punished so they shouldn’t (if the fact that it’s wrong isn’t enough). Your blog made me question if the two parts of his life should be kept separate and I ultimately came to the conclusion that they should because his artistic achievements are separate from his actions, but he should have received a harsher sentence. Another part of the blog that made me question my entire thoughts on this article was when you introduced their race as a factor of why they received almost no punishment. I would like to think that it had no involvement, but that’s highly unrealistic and thought it was a good connection of what we’re learning about to the article.

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