It is a well-known fact that certain members of Hollywood have contributed their fair share of criminal conduct to the world. However, how does pop-culture react when we are made aware of the crimes that our so called “stars” have committed? In particular, this article focuses on crimes and incest committed against minors. These minors are merely children who are victimized by our so called “stars.” These genius producers and directors are still idolized by Hollywood and today’s pop-culture, their crimes simply omitted and forgotten. In this article, the criminal actions of famous icons such as Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, and even Charlie Chaplin are explored in depth and cross-examined with the way they are rewarded in the media. After cross-examining the crimes of these men with the way their legacy is portrayed in Hollywood we are called to question not only the way in which pop-culture choses who is a criminal versus who is a genius but also the type of message reinforced when we categorize people as one or the other.
Roman Polanski is famously recognized for being many things including a director, producer, writer and actor. However, he is not commonly referred to as a rapist. In 1977, Polanski lured and raped thirteen-year-old Samantha Gailey. Polanski pleaded guilty to the rape charges but soon fled the country after serving merely 42 days and being freed on bond. He currently resides out of the United States but continues to produce films with quite well known actors. Polanski’s quick departure was supported by Hollywood. Strong figureheads such as Jodie Foster and Harvey Weinstein spoke out in response to public outrage by claiming that Polanski had served his time. This is evidence that Hollywood choses to see only the genius in an idolized figure such as Polanski, rather than acknowledging that what he did was a crime and that he should be justly punished for his actions just as any other civilian would. In a late night interview with George Stroumboulopoulos, Kim Catrall defended Polanski by saying “that kind of passion you have to respect.” Indeed, Polanski is talented and possibly genius judging by the work he produces, but the truth of the matter is that we are all a bit of a genius in something. Each individual has their talents along with their flaws. The difference is that our talents do not in any way make our crimes acceptable. There is no scoreboard in life. The fact that I contribute something beautiful to the world does not give me the justified right to destroy a part of it. In this case, Polanski destroyed the innocence of a little girl. But why do we allow pop-culture to categorize celebrities like Polanski as a genius without recognizing his crimes?
False God Syndrome
Over the years we have allowed the media to idolize celebrities more and more. Each time we idolize them we place them in a class higher than us until being even remotely similar to them becomes out of our reach. This gap between the Hollywood Gods and the middle class eventually becomes too large to surmount. It is evident in magazines such as People and OK where there are pages dedicated to showing the average guy or girl that stars are in fact “just like us!” The media uses this as a tactic in making the stars appear relatable by snapping pictures of them doing their groceries and pumping gas into their car. However, this is just a tactic to sell magazines. Our admiration of famous people is similar to the way a young child idolizes their mom or dad. Every person goes through a developmental stage in your life where your mom and dad are the ultimate human beings. They are looked up to with strong admiration because in the eyes of their child they are the coolest person and can do absolutely nothing wrong. We all reach a breaking point, as we get older we realize that our parents are just people and that they too make mistakes. Our image of them shatters and we see their flaws. So, I then wonder when will our images of our beloved Hollywood Gods shatter? When will we realize that the men who we once saw as genius film directors and producers are also rapists and child molesters? If we are able to break that image we also close the gap that separates celebrities from regular people, because when it comes down to it that’s what they are… REGULAR people. They in no way deserve any better treatment than anyone else and thus, deserve to serve a just punishment for their crimes.
The response to an atrocity committed by Polanski, Allen and Chaplin say more about our society than we think. The feedback from the media and famous individuals to an act such as rape has a strong impact on the way we view the male/female dynamics. For example, celebrities, especially female idols in my opinion should be sending a message out to youth that this behaviour is not okay, not their fault, and most importantly needs to be dealt with. Instead, they are justifying the rape, which sends a convoluted message that rape is not serious enough to require proper punishment. To make a tragic matter even worse, pop-culture has once again provided us with a perfect list, telling us what we should be and how we should act. Specifically, society has created “victim culture,” as said by Gailey herself in an interview with BBC. But as we begin to understand with most boxes given to us by the media, not everyone is the “cookie cutter” version of a victim. In the case of Gailey, as a result of the conditions of her rape she received a large amount of accusations questioning whether or not it was in fact rape. The real fact however, is that she was thirteen years old, a child, and she said “no.” Rape is rape and it is that simple.