Artistic talent should not be a get out of jail free card

This may well be the first of Clive Hamilton’s pieces I am pretty much in unqualified agreement with:

When we project our love of an artistic work onto the artist, we cannot bear to accept the creator of something beautiful, inspiring or meaningful could not embody those qualities.

We want to believe the qualities we see in the creations must be direct emanations from the soul of the creator, and the more so as the culture becomes higher. Painters, composers and poets seem to be granted the greatest moral latitude …

Yet artists, all too human, are prone to interpret society’s leniency as a licence to do as they please, the more so as their renown grows.

Not all taboos are there to be broken. Perversion is not subversion (to borrow from Slavoj Zizek) and, painful as it may be, we must allow our heroes to fall when they cross into the forbidden zone. Grey areas it may have, but that zone always includes the sexual abuse of children.


14 Responses to “Artistic talent should not be a get out of jail free card”

  1. BirdLab Says:

    I agree with every point he makes, Donald Friend being a particularly good example. And their should be no forgiveness for Polanski either.

    That is not to say that we should not divorce the creators from their creations, even though, in the end their personal failures may colour our views of those creations.

    But a question. Where does this place Oscar Wilde? Jailed and banished for a crime common but overlooked amongst the British upper-class?

  2. jtfsoon Says:

    Oscar Wilde’s case was borderline wasn’t it? He wasn’t doing it with children but the youngest was 17 which is close to the age of consent for most states in australia.

  3. jtfsoon Says:

    oh I see what you mean. obviously in his day artists didn’t necessarily get off lightly but upper class people with connections did. too true. However in modern times at least we are prone to forgive artists for all their vices, perhaps a subconscious reaction to what happened to wilde?

  4. BirdLab Says:

    The problem wasn’t paedophilia Jason, it was “gross indecency”, which implied homosexuality.

    He made the mistake of suing the Marquess of Queensbury who was angry about Wilde’s relationship with his son, lost, and following a further trial was sentenced to two years prison.

    After his release he fled to Paris and died in poverty:

  5. Adrien Says:

    <i.Where does this place Oscar Wilde?

    Oscar Wilde engaged in sexual acts with consenting adults. He lived in a society that publicly abhorred homosexuality. It was illegal and soon to be defined as a mental pathology. Now we know better. Polanski’s victim was neither consenting nor adult.

  6. Tinos Says:

    But Polanski’s victim has forgiven him (or at least doesn’t want him punished). There’s the crime of fleeing the police, but I think that carries a lesser sentence.

  7. Steve Edney Says:

    I don’t think they have forgiven him from what I read, I think they have moved on an are not interested in the personal cost to themselves of pursuing the case.

  8. BirdLab Says:

    Forgiven or not Tanos, I’ll let others be the judge. It’s worth posting the Grand Jury testimony from the victim:

    Q: Did you take your shirt off or did Mr. Polanski?

    A: No, I did.

    Q: Was that at his request or did you volunteer to do that?

    A: That was at his request.

    She said Polanski later went into the bathroom and took part of a Quaalude pill and offered her some, as well, and she accepted.

    Q: Why did you take it?

    A: I don’t know. I think I must have been pretty drunk or else I wouldn’t have.

    So here she is, at 13, washing down a Quaalude with champagne, and then Polanski suggested they move out to the Jacuzzi.

    Q: When you got in the Jacuzzi, what were you wearing?

    A: I was going to wear my underwear, but he said for me to take them off.

    She says Polanski went back in the house and returned in the nude and got into the Jacuzzi with her. When he told her to move closer to him, she resisted, saying, “No. No, I got to get out.”

    He insisted, she testified, and so she moved closer and he put his hands around her waist. She told him she had asthma and wanted to get out, and she did. She said he followed her into the bathroom, where she told him, “I have to go home now.”

    Q: What did Mr. Polanski say?

    A: He told me to go in the other room and lie down.

    She testified that she was afraid and sat on the couch in the bedroom.

    Q: What were you afraid of?

    A: Him.

    She testified that Polanski sat down next to her and said she’d feel better. She repeated that she had to go home.

    Q: What happened then?

    A: He reached over and he kissed me. And I was telling him, “No,” you know, “Keep away.” But I was kind of afraid of him because there was no one else there.

    She testified that he put his mouth on her vagina.

    “I was ready to cry,” she said. “I was kind of — I was going, ‘No. Come on. Stop it.’ But I was afraid.”

    She said he then pulled off her panties.

    Q: What happened after that?

    A: He started to have intercourse with me.

    At this point, she testified, Polanski became concerned about the consequences and asked if she was on the pill.

    No, she told him.

    Polanski had a solution, according to her.

    “He goes, ‘Would you want me to go in through your back?’ And I went, ‘No.’ ”

    According to her, that didn’t stop Polanski, who began having anal sex with her.

    This was when the victim was asked by the prosecutor if she resisted and she said, “Not really,” because “I was afraid of him.” She testified that when the ordeal had ended, Polanski told her, “Oh, don’t tell your mother about this.”

    He added: “This is our secret.”

    Complete transcript here:

  9. Legal Eagle Says:

    My god, wonders will never cease, I agree with Clive entirely too. There you have it.

    It’s always different knowing of a crime in the abstract than knowing the details of it. It’s also why people are generally more lenient in sentencing when they know more details than if they read a newspaper report.

  10. Tinos Says:

    Steve: It’s not just that she’s not pursuing the case; she’s formally filed for the charges to be dropped. That’s the end of the story for me. Of course there’s still the ‘failure to appear’ crime.

    BirdLab: Polanski denies drugging her.

    My guess is she’s been paid off, because some of the stuff she’s said doesn’t really make sense. I don’t think Polanski regrets what he did, for example.

    I’ll have to check out The Pianist to see if it’s any good.

  11. BidLab Says:

    You make a fair point Tinos.

  12. skepticlawyer » Artistic talent and crime Says:

    […] Jason Soon’s Sick of Politics blog I came across an interesting piece by Clive Hamilton on talented artists who commit crimes. Like […]

  13. jc Says:

    Why are people cheerful that he’s finally said somehting normal? Even Bird can do that once year?

    I’m sorry but I don’t trust him. I think he uses any opportunity to gain public face time with his religious crap. I’m sure he believes it, but big deal, as far as I’m concerned.

  14. Legal Eagle Says:

    I wouldn’t say I’m cheerful that Hives has said something normal. I’d say rather that I’m surprised. Doesn’t change my basic opinion of him, but I’m not going to discount the 1% of sensible stuff just because 99% of the other things he says are BS.

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