Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Roman Polanski, Salvador Dalí, and Shakespeare

The New York Times's Opinionator blog


and Robert Baird's Digital Emunction blog


link to an interesting array of blog comments about the arrest of Roman Polanski. Collectively, the comments tend to break neatly on either side of George Orwell's "Benefit of Clergy," an essay about The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí.

In that 1942 memoir, Dalí joyfully chronicles his experiments in transgression, from coprophagy to kicking his infant sister in the head. As Orwell ponders this document, he considers the hypothetical case of a Shakespeare whose hobby was raping little girls. Meanwhile, this morning's edition of my local newspaper, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, September 29, 2009, brings us news from what I guess we could call the Leona Helmsley side of the debate.

Helmsley, you'll recall, was the hotel magnate who boasted, "We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes." Above a story about the Polanski case, then, a pair of Star-Bulletin headlines read, "Rapist sentenced to 50 years" and "Man, 22, gets 15 years for sex with 2 teen girls." When the judge told Mr. Fifty Years, "You are a serial rapist. You are a violent and dangerous guy," Mr. Fifty Years replied, "Judge, please, I have too much to lose. I'm an only child." In the other courtroom, however, Mr. Fifteen Years was more philosophical. He sagely commented, "This is a perfect example why I shouldn't date younger girls."

What do you think -- is there a movie in that script?