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 riot...in 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.