Friday, November 11, 2011

Penn State, Paterno, and Polanski

Like many of my peers, I've been sickened at the details and the fallout of the Penn State football sex scandal. There's a timeline of the charges here, helpfully culled by author CC Finlay from the lengthy but clear (and harrowing/nauseating) Grand Jury Presentment here.

I find myself thinking back to two years ago, when filmmaker Roman Polanski was arrested in Switzerland and facing extradition to California where he would presumably finally be judged for his 1977 offenses against then-13-year-old Samantha Geimer. There was what felt like a deafening roar among those who were grateful that Polanski was finally going to receive proper justice. The fervor felt like that of a lynch mob (though only Jonathan Rosenbaum was brave enough to point this out), as did the outrage prompted by a petition of filmmakers from around the world asking for Polanski's release.

Back in the present, the charges leveled against Penn State athletic officials, including the allegations of a cover-up by many including beloved football coach Joe Paterno, have finally grown too big for Penn State to ignore. After Paterno's dismissal, thousands of outraged Penn State students took to the streets for a violent support of Paterno. There's been some disappointment expressed, but nowhere near the level of outrage expressed over Polanski's crime.

I'm wondering why the multitudes (and there were an awful lot of people) who were howling for Polanski's blood upon his 2009 arrest are not downright apoplectic over both the multiple sex crimes perpetrated within Penn State's athletic facility, as well as the institution-level cover-ups of those crimes. At least from the vantage point of my Facebook account I see scant few of those among the anti-Polanski mob sounding off with any of that fervor regarding the Penn State atrocities. I feel like the media coverage is similarly skewed, with far less bandwidth being used to cover the ongoing Penn State scandal than was used to pillory Polanski.

I'm asking myself if I too am biased - I engage film with the same religious fervor as many Penn State fans (and sports fans in general) engage football, and I've wondered more than once if I'm giving Polanski something of a pass simply because he made CHINATOWN and THE TENANT. And yet comparing the two cases, I can't help but feel like Polanski (who did submit to arrest, serve a court-ordered psych evaluation, and spent several weeks in jail) has held himself more accountable, and comported himself better, than anyone involved in the Penn State scandal.

Which, in and of itself, speaks to the depth of their depravity.


On whosever side you stand in this matter, be you film freak or football fanatic, if you're moved to outrage by anything you've read about this case, be it here or elsewhere, I hope you'll consider contributing time or money to a local charity in support of survivors of sexual assault. The crimes continue, and those affected by them could use your support.


  1. There is a cultural divide between some people who care about art vs. sports and I think this is a community defending their guy too much in both cases.

    I think with Polanski the petition was infuriating to me because they called what he did a "crime of morals". That's not really an honest way to describe what Polanski did to that child. Calling what Sandusky did abuse seems inadequate as well.

  2. What a giased and apologetic post. You claim he submitted to arrest? Polanski told the firl to be wuiet like a standard chile rapist does (there is actually an article about that, google it) and was shoked to have been caught and arrested in the first place. Plus Polanski received way more support at the tme and had way more of a chance of a fair trail (in that time) than the Penn State people do. Just watch CNN coverage about it. And watch the way Anderson interviewed and lightly wuestion debra tate about polanski if you want a comparison. You guillible small person you.

  3. Chuckola - yeah the "case of morals" part of the petition made me cringe, too. There was an argument to be made for Polanski's release - downplaying the original offense is not that argument.

    Masz27 - thanks for reading!

  4. An anonymous post deleted for dodgy looking link and for being Anonymous.

    When I write something I put my name on it, and I ask the same of commenters here.