As for the Roman Polanski case, I admit to not having followed it especially closely, though Scott's takes seem about right to me. The best defenses of Polanski I've seen so far have struck me as wildly beside the point (which point would be "rape and subsequent flight from justice"). The worst have struck me as apologies for rape on the part of people who think that because a rapist belongs to their intimate little magical club, he shouldn't be prosecuted for rape. From a moral perspective, to me even these "best" defenses ("best" being a heavily relative term, as in, "best of a lot of shitty rationalizations") smell like a great big pile of special-pleading bullpoop, and the worst of them sure seem to involve a lot of blame-the-victim garbage that makes me want to throw up. And that's pretty much that, as I see it.
But that said -- as bluntly as I could manage -- let's not go all googly-eyed and pretend that because I think a sick fuck of a rapist should get what's coming to him, I'm even remotely sympathetic to the Conservative Blog theses, such as they are, about the Polanski case and how it relates to Art, Feminism, and Politics. These theses, as usual, are a mess of sullen incoherent resentments gussied up as Ideas and Morality, and are also, as is so often the case, expressed in ridiculously hysterical prose stylings reminiscent of a particularly pungent Anthony Comstock sausage burp. Hello, Ann Althouse!
I thought I saw a pedophilia trend in the most honored films of 2008. I talked about that in this blog post...
I'm seeing all the well-reviewed year-end movies, and there's an awful lot of wrong-age sex. "Doubt" is about a priest accused of molesting children. "Benjamin Button," with its backwards aging character, had scenes of an old man in love with a young girl and an old woman in love with a toddler. "The Reader" had a 36-year-old woman seducing a 15-year-old boy. "Milk" had a man in his 40s pursuing relationships with much younger (and more fragile) men. "Slumdog Millionaire" shows a young teenage girl being sold for sex. I say that Hollywood is delivering pedophiliac titillation with the deniability of artistic pretension.
"Is is just art"...? No, of course not. "Benjamin Button" really did film an old woman fucking a toddler, and that happened in real life.
Or maybe it didn't. There's a bunch of nonsense to untangle here, but let's be clear about at least some basic propositions.
If Roman Polanski had made a fictional film about drugging and raping a 13-year-old, and had been prosecuted for it, I would probably be in his corner as far as having the freedom to do so goes, as brutal as the portrayal might have been. I am not, you know, annoyed with Nabokov for writing Lolita, which is a brilliant novel (in no small part because it's so damn creepy). Where Polanski went wrong was in actually drugging and raping a 13-year-old. This is one of the reasons I'm irked, by the way with a lot of the Polanski apologetics; the concept of artistic freedom applies to the freedom to create art. It's not a license to shoplift, embezzle, or rape. Or murder, Raskolnikov.
And so as for Althouse -- many films are concerned with forbidden forms of love! Shocking. Whatever will these "creative" types come up with next, why can't they write nice stories about non-controversial forms of sexual desire that never cause any problems omigod.
But moving past that. Anyone who has any familiarity at all with standard narrative tropes in English-language literature (and beyond!) knows full well that "wrong-age sex" is hardly a new titillation. It's actually the norm. As long as you recognize that the norm is "much older man/young woman." I mean, come on.
What's actually fascinating about the films Althouse mentions, is that none of them are following the standard narrative line -- older man/younger woman. To be sure, I mostly hated all of these movies. But to look at all of them and deduce "Hollywood is all about pedophilia nowadays" is silly.