It’s Time We Stop Giving Awards to Rapists

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Published September 18, 2019
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The Montclarion
Roman Polanski, an award-winning director, was convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl in the 1970s and continues to be celebrated by the film industry. Photo courtesy of Dartagnepol via. Wikimedia Commons

Roman Polanski is a convicted child rapist. He raped a 13-year-old girl in 1977 and does not travel much since he fled from America while awaiting his sentencing.

As of last week, he is also a winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice International Film Festival for his movie about a wrongfully accused criminal.

A jury voted the film, his 14th since he committed rape, the second best of the esteemed festival. Polanski has also been awarded an Oscar, two Golden Globes and the Cannes Palme D’or since he was found, say it with me now, guilty of raping a child.

Call me an oversensitive millennial, but I do not particularly want to see convicted rapists supported by the arts community. By continuing to encourage, and even celebrate, the work of rapists, we insinuate that sexual assault is meaningless compared to the perceived merit of the art.

Each time we hand Polanski another award (or, I guess, mail it to him since he can’t travel to participate in many award ceremonies because he is currently a fugitive), we are basically saying that the rape was a bummer, but man, does he make great movies.

Yes, he does make great movies. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge this. But one of art’s primary functions is to reflect societal values, so we have to stop pretending that we can separate the man from the art just because it feels convenient to do so.

He is a rapist who directs movies, not a director who happened to rape someone.

Dismissing Polanski’s rape because he makes good movies is also irresponsible because it’s not like he is the only person capable of making good movies. Allowing Polanski to lead the entertainment industry despite raping a child actively takes opportunities away from equally talented filmmakers and creatives who have not committed sexual assault.

Industry leaders are quick to say that minority filmmakers are not making successful films because they do not have the talent and experience for it, but they continue to champion a rapist, so these filmmakers do not have the chance to even try.

I took a major film directors class last semester that highlighted the work of three (white male) directors, including Polanski. After we watched “Chinatown,” a quiet woman in the back of the room raised her hand for the first time all semester.

“Yeah,” she said, “but isn’t Polanski a rapist?”

My professor shrugged and a few people chuckled.

Roman Polanski is a convicted child rapist, but I guess we are okay with that, for now.

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