Friday, October 02, 2009

The Messages We Send Young Men: Roman Polanski as a Hollywood “Our Guy”

In 1998, investigative journalist Bernard Lefkowitz published Our Guys (which later went on to be A New York Times Notable Book of the Year).

Lefkowitz conducted hundreds of interviews to tell the story of a 17-year-old mentally challenged young woman and a group of high school boys in Glen Ridge, NJ, an affluent, idyllic suburb. She had been lured into the basement by one of the teens she had a crush on. Four of the young men gang raped her while a number of others watched.

They were all popular athletes who came from good families – the kind of young men who could do no wrong in the eyes of the community. When rumors of the sexual assault started circulating, the town rallied to the defense of their “guys” and further ostracized the young woman.

Part of the point of this book is that Glen Ridge is no atypical town. And apparently Hollywood is not so atypical when it comes to the likes of sexual assault and Roman Polanski. They are claiming him as one of their “guys.” Stars of all stripes are rallying around him, from the likes of Harvey Weinstein to Whoopi Goldberg to Woody Allen to Harrison Ford. Of course, a significant difference from the citizens of Glen Ridge is that these artists are supporting someone already known to have committed rape. It’s common knowledge that after giving a 13-year-old girl Quaaludes, Polanski proceeded to rape her vaginally and anally. The girl pleaded for him to stop and he did not. While on bail, he fled the country to France. These facts are indisputable.

Granted, the violence took place in 1977. So should we let bygones be bygones? What’s the point of putting him in prison for something that happened 32 years ago?

How about this: What message do we want to send young men now?...That accountability fades with time, especially when you’ve made some highly acclaimed movies? That if you have enough friends in high places who make enough noise, you’ll be freed from any responsibility for your actions?

What does it mean to be a friend? Do you have to excuse someone’s harmful actions and stand by him no matter what? Or can you be a friend to someone by holding him accountable for his behavior? The answer is clear for us at Men Can Stop Rape. Share

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous7:20 PM

    Our society continually sends the wrong message to young men and women on a daily basis in regards to the treatment of women and this is a perfect example. We never fail to somehow excuse the behavior of the perpetrator, point the blame at the victim and somehow make the offense, whether it be a sexual or physical assault not all that serious. We also send the message loud and clear that public figures and the wealthy are more easily forgiven and face lesser consequences than the average person. The entire situation sickens me. Until each and every one of us are held accountable for our actions and until each and every one of us speaks out against all forms of violence against women, it will never end.

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  2. I am a victim of rape and incest. The incident affected my entire existence… my attitude, speech, the way I felt about myself; it never gave me a moment’s peace. I blamed even my appearance for the acts perpetrated against me… I developed an eating disorder to become unattractive to men. Fear enveloped every corner of my life. Not until the day my perpetrator died did I feel whole… free… alive.
    Why should this person whoever he or she escape the hell of the victim? It is a myth; (Time heals all wounds.) The victim never heals. Their life is changed forever! He should be held accountable for his actions. If it were feasible I would order the perpetrator receive their just deserts… subject them to the same demoralizing exploitation as the victim.

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