I've been alternately avoiding and pondering the whole Polanski debacle for days now. As the list of celebrities who've signed the various petitions grows, I've become increasingly dismayed and confused. I mean, Woody Allen was a no-brainer. But Emma Thompson? Really? For some reason that's heart-breaking to me. And my (fairly predictable) response has been to avoid movies and TV altogether and lose myself in books and football games and playing with my kid. Because nobody has mastered the art of avoidance-of-depressing-stuff like me.
But my confusion and dismay has been largely resolved by this post by the inimitable Twistie Faster (I mean, Jill Psmith), who notes that in Hollywood, rape is nothing more than a plot device. And realizing that the Hollywood-types who have taken on the role of rape-apologists are so completely out of touch that they don't get that rape is not actually just a plot device in real life is sort of reassuring. Of course it still causes me to lose whatever respect I might have previously had for them. Of course it still makes me feel like boycotting movies in general for the foreseeable future. But it relieves my confusion. Rather than having to re-conceptualize all these celebs as horrible, malicious people, I can view them as clueless and out of touch. To them, the rape of a real-life 13 y/o was just a pivotal moment in the story of Polanski's life, and not actually a traumatizing, scarring event in the life of an actual flesh-and-blood vulnerable person in her formative years. Because when you're the secondary character in a plot device like this, you're not really a character at all, but just a sort of placeholder.
So, given that this is their General Understanding of Stuff (a technical philosophical term, y'all), they just become pathetic, ignorant people who are out of touch and potentially very dangerous. As such, they don't deserve a shred of respect or to earn a penny from this work that has so dangerously deluded them. But they aren't quite the monsters they had originally seemed to be. It's still frightening to think of the influence they have in our culture. And it's frightening to think of the danger a girl or young woman working in Hollywood is in, given the prevalence of this worldview there. But at least now I can make sense of their response and leave it behind.