I’m not an HBO subscriber, so I didn’t see last night’s unveiling of the much-praised documentary film on Roman Polanski and his travails at the hands of the American legal system. But I know the film was sophisticated and nuanced, because everything I read about it told me so.
The film focuses on Polanski’s drugging and subsequent sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl, by the way. So, yeah, the filmmaker needed tons of sophistication and nuance to make us understand that the real victim was — well, Polanski himself. But that approach clearly worked. Here, for instance, is the final sentence from a story in Newsweek about the documentary:
This deft and subtle film is a fitting tribute to a man — like him or not — whose life deserves more than tabloid headlines.
It’s not every child-humper who finds himself the beneficiary of a forgiving press.
But my complaint isn’t with the film, which — again — I haven’t seen. Furthermore, I’ve got a healthy appetite for sophistication, nuance and subtlety, so much so that I think the world needs more of it, not less. But therein lies the source of my unhappiness in this matter: My suspicion is that the sophisticated understanding of Polanski’s profound flaws somehow would never be extended to certain other high-profile people.
Can you imagine a world in which, say, Sean Hannity was found to be a violator of girls barely in their teens, but was subsequently declared to be worthy of a more “deft and subtle” judgment? Or let’s take two real-life examples and hold them up to the light. What sort of nuanced understanding did Rush Limbaugh enjoy after his drug addiction was revealed? How much sophisticated indulgence was bestowed upon Mel Gibson after he uttered anti-Semitic and sexist slurs during a drink-driving arrest?
Surely I don’t have to explain what those three have in common.
I have no brief for any of them. I just think that the doling out of understanding and tolerance to such troubled souls ought to be a bit more — dare I say it? — democratic.