October 1, 2009

"Rape is - or should be - an art... And, as such, the privilege of committing it should be reserved for those few who are really superior individuals."

That's a quote from Hitchcock's movie "Rope" — with one word substitution: "rape" for "murder."
The few who are privileged to commit [rape] ... are those men of such intellectual and cultural superiority that they're above the traditional "moral" concepts. Good and evil, right and wrong, were invented for the ordinary, average man — the inferior man, because he needs them.
The scene, 9 minutes long, is embedded at Jac's blog, with commentary on Roman Polanski.


Fred4Pres said...

That is how many sociopaths feel. Interesting how many of them become film directors.

rhhardin said...

Like making movies, the universal analogy.

rhhardin said...

It's not hard to tie it to a context matters argument, which is in fact true for rape and murder both.

miller said...

Anne Applebaum, a columnist at WaPo: "And please don’t write back that “he drugged and raped a child” because that is not an accurate description of what happened."

Anne Applebaum: Telling the Whole Truth Now Would Be Too Confusing (Patterico.com)

Bender said...

Except the movie did not use the word "rape" and Polanski did not claim a Nietzschean moral superiority.

But I suppose there are those who are of "such intellectual and cultural superiority that they're above the traditional 'moral' concepts" like truth, that they can simply say anything, however false, to advance their argument.

Andrew D. said...

Awwwwww. That's sweet. Jac rallies around mommy, who has been back-pedalling so fast from her initial post about Polanski that I'm worried you might bruise your toe.

MadisonMan said...

I wonder if Anne Applebaum read the Washington Post editorial lambasting Polanski supporters and wondered, like I did, why she wasn't mentioned by name?

Bissage said...

There is a line between right and wrong and there are many people out there who are very good at moving that line, for themselves, depending on their specific appetite at any given moment.

I guess you get to think of yourself as an intellectual, with morals, if you can enunciate a system of rules that demonstrates personal consistency.

I had a professor in law school who said this to the entire lecture hall: “Someday you will all be lawyers and you will be in the justification business. It’s what we do.”

One’s understanding of that ought not be promiscuous.

wv = meners. Some people have them, some don't.

miller said...


I'm sure you're new here.

Ann Althouse said...

Bender said..."Except the movie did not use the word "rape""

Hey, do you think that might be why I wrote "with one word substitution: "rape" for "murder'"? Thanks for the poor-reader correction.

Andrew D. said "who has been back-pedalling so fast from her initial post about Polanski that I'm worried you might bruise your toe"

More criticism from a poor reader. Go back and read the discussion in the original comment thread on that post. And reread the post. We assume a certain level of reading sophistication here. Now, get up to speed and come back and explain to us why you are wrong. You can join us, but try to do better.

Henry said...

As the pro-Polanski equivocation has played out among the artistes, you could say that Althouse was prescient in that first post.

BTW, if you backpedal, you're more likely to hurt your heel.

Richard Dolan said...

None of those defending Polanski would put it that way, and it doesn't really fit. They aren't making a claim of privilege, but only offering a series of excuses -- it happened long ago, the victim has forgiven him, he suffered so much, he still has so much to contribute as an artist, blah, blah, blah. To offer an excuse is, in its way, to concede that the act needing to be excused wasn't privileged but rather the opposite.

As it happens, those excuses are laughably unpersuasive even in the context of Polanski's crime (just the child rape, putting aside bail jumping and flight to avoid sentencing), to say nothing of their larger implications. But it's different from the sort of ubermenschen idea that Nietzsche crystallized and Hitchcock was talking about. (While I don't know where Hitchcock got his title, it's interesting that in Zarathustra, Nietzsche compares man to a rope between animals and the ubermenschen.)

knox said...

That is how many sociopaths feel. Interesting how many of them become film directors.

Why shouldn't they be sociopaths? Hollywood encourages this behavior. And I don't mean the partying or the night life: I mean rank immorality. You are actually rewarded for having no shame. It gives you cache. An "edge."

They all trip over themselves to give the most America-hating dipshits awards and accolades. Jane Fonda. Sean Penn. Michael Moore. It's bullshit.

You'd think high-profile actors and directors would be ashamed to sign a petition in support of a child rapist. Instead, they're proud of it. These are the people who will be the popular ones at the next dinner party. Just look at all the actors who swarm to be in Woody Allen movies.

A pox on them all. They make me sick.

EDH said...


EDH: I’d have to guess a major source of the sympathy, woops empathy, for Polanski has to do with the murder of his wife, Sharon Tate.


Sharon Tate’s sister: Roman Polanski won’t get fair US trial

By Associated Press
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Celebrity News

NEW YORK — Debra Tate, the sister of Roman Polanski’s second wife, actress Sharon Tate, says Polanski is brilliant and a "good guy" and she doesn’t think her former brother-in-law can get a fair trial in the United States.

Tate told NBC television Wednesday that the U.S. justice system is broken.

Polanski was arrested Saturday in Zurich. The U.S. has been seeking his extradition for having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

Tate says Polanski did not forcibly have sex with the girl, calling it a "consensual matter."

Sharon Tate was murdered in Los Angeles in 1969 by followers of Charles Manson. She was eight months pregnant.

Debra Tate says it’s been a devastating few weeks for her, with her sister’s killer, Susan Atkins, dying Sept. 24 and now her late sister’s husband jailed.

miller said...

Excuse me for pointing this out, Ms. Tate, but the trial *already happened*.

What we're waiting on is the *sentencing*

Polanski is *already a criminal*

Are ALL Hollywood types this dumb?

Paddy O. said...

As has been said here and many places, if this was a priest and not a director, the Hollywood sort would be the first to condemn and attack the victimizer.

Which goes to show, I think, they really have constructed an alternative religion. Directors are priests, leaders of the liturgy. Just as the bishops of the Catholic church excused, ignored and shuffled around pedophiles, so too do those in this new celebritized religion.

It might be said the mantra is "do not judge" but of course that's wrong. They have a very strict and ordered ethics that absolutely has do's and don'ts. It's just that these line up differently than normal human morality.

The frustration is that this means their art-the expression of human creativity-is increasingly without real human connection. I think of the Matrix movies as a great example. The first was extraordinary in raising questions and pointing towards new perception. The following two were horrible, as the art got utterly lost, the answers provided were absurd, and everything just became utterly distant from human connection. It was bad art.

I strongly suspect that if Polanski had served his time he would have continued to direct and made even more art--maybe even better art.

WV: appropriately enough it's "jacticin".

AllenS said...

Is this the post you are refering to Althouse?

"He did that that 32 years ago, when she was 13. You would think that by now it would be — if not forgotten or even forgiven — at least irrelevant. He's avoided capture for so long as he's lolled about in Europe, collecting kudos, and he's gotten so old — 76 — that it seems as though the reprehensible crime only exists in the sealed-away past.


Oh! There is memory, and there is law, and you cannot rise above it, not by extreme suffering or extreme old age, not by great fame or great accomplishment, and not by profuse reconciliation with the victim.

Roman Polanski has been called to account at long last."

Perhaps they're reading skills aren't that bad. Your first paragraph doesn't seem to jive with your last two paragraphs. Maybe that's what confused everyone. It sure confused me. Read my last post on the subject, and you'll see me try to adopt your writing skills.

AllenS said...

their not they're. My writing skills, bad.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Except the movie did not use the word "rape"...

No, they used "murder" because the movie is about a murder. (The first scene is two of the main characters strangling a man to death.) It was released in 1948 -- it would have been unthinkable for the characters to have a conversation about rape.

Many people would say that murder is an even worse crime than rape; thus, if murder is acceptable when committed by superior individuals, I would think that rape would also be acceptable.

HoTouPragmatosKurios said...

Has anyone else observed -- or better yet, pondered in print better than I am doing now -- how Polanski's case resembles that of the most literary uebermensch criminal, Raskolnikov. Not a rapist he, of course, but he had a similar contempt for an innocent girl, helpless and uncomprehending as the hatchet fell.

Or how (gratias tibi F. Dost.) the case differed: That he could still be redeemed -- in prison, in Siberia -- by witnessing two helpless other girls, abused yet still happy because they found men who actually loved them.

Has the Gulag completely shut down? Can it take just one more felon?

Henry said...

@AllenS -- My reading of that post has always been that Althouse wanted to fairly characterize both the pro- and anti-Polanski arguments before asserting judgment.

To you and I and many others the idea that anyone could find the pro-Polanski argument compelling seemed ludicrous.

Yet so many have. As I wrote above, in the context of how so many intellectuals have diminished themselves by pushing the very type of argument that Althouse presents (and subtly undermines with phrases like "lolled about in Europe, collecting kudos"), her post is prescient.

MrBuddwing said...

Interesting choice of excerpt from ROPE. Of course, when curmudgeonly James Stewart finds out what John Dall and Farley Granger have been up to, he adopts a very different, very moralistic tack. (Good movie.)

chickenlittle said...

Because it seems to be French day here today on Althouse, give me a shot at coinage:

cause célébrité

ricpic said...

Promiscuous justification: that's the name of the game:
In each generation they rationalize different but the same.

rhhardin said...

It's interesting that the term raperape comes out and is instantly understood.

It's not a repeated term - the first rape is narrow and carries a pregnancy, and qualifies the broader second term.

The first term needs the second, however, in order to become narrow.

jimspice said...

The quote actually reminds me a lot of the "C" Street House philosophy; a certain few are ordained to rule and are above the law.

Cedarford said...

miller said...
Excuse me for pointing this out, Ms. Tate, but the trial *already happened*.

What we're waiting on is the *sentencing*

Polanski is *already a criminal*

Are ALL Hollywood types this dumb?

Evidently not as dumb as you.

Plea bargains are not trials, and people plead guilty to many things they think they are innocent of - because the American legal system and the cabal of lawyers behind it imposes huge financial penalties if you fight torts...and in criminal cases where lawyers sincerely tell clients that it is smarter to plead guilty to a drug bust you weren't involved in and take the misdemeanor and 4 months in jail and a fine you will be let off having to pay because you are indigent -- than fight for your innocence and risk a 50-50 shot at 20 years in jail and a 1st-degree felony rap.

No trial.
Guilty plea conditional on trust between defense, prosecutor, and judges that the quid pro quo of the guilty plea will be preserved.

It wasn't after the judge told prosecutors he was going to sabotage the plea deal because the publicity over time served as the penalty, plus civil fines and restitution wasn't enough...and he was planning on blind-siding Polanski's defense council with a jail sentence up to 50 years and for prosecutors to "keep all the changes needed in the deal quiet until sentencing".

blake said...


You're wrong: He is a criminal. You can argue about the legal status of this, but he committed a crime, hence, he is a criminal.

And he'd done it before. And would do it again. Criminal.

Fled the country on fear of what the judge would do? Understandable, perhaps, but criminal.

I get that you don't think much of the various laws—and apparently that a lot of people doing things that, to you, seem the same makes this pointless—but he broke them nonetheless.

Hence, criminal.

Christopher said...

AllenS wrote:

"Perhaps their reading skills aren't that bad."

If people read Ann's first post on the subject as a genuine defense of Polanski, they are either lazy readers or illiterate.

"Your first paragraph doesn't seem to jive with your last two paragraphs. Maybe that's what confused everyone. It sure confused me."

If her first paragraph doesn't seem to jive with her last two, it may be because she did something between the first paragraph and the last two that changed the direction of her blog post.

She may have been doing something different in the first paragraph than what she was doing in the last two.

(Hint: Together, the title and first three paragraphs make up a question. The last three paragraphs make up the answer to that question.)

Father Martin Fox said...

This post eventually led me to you tube, where I watched the entirety of "Rope" in 12 parts. I had seen the second half of "Rope" several times, but never seen it from the beginning--how did that happen?

After seeing Rupert's (Jimmy Stewart) comments earlier at the party, and the way the two Brendan and Phillip cite his mindset, and then saw Rupert's moralizing at the end, I saw him a lot less sympathetically.

It seemed to me that, as Hitchcock staged it, that Rupert really was promoting the sort of thinking the two murderers said he was; then, at the end, he says lamely, something like, you've given my words a meaning I never intended--and I said, no, they heard you far better than you heard yourself.

And then I wondered: was that a dodge at the end, by Hitchcock, to rescue the Jimmy Stewart character from being seen as nearly as monstrous, only more feckless?

Was it a mistake? (I don't believe it, yet even the great Hitchcock can make a mistake.)

Or was he hoping his viewer would catch this and see the Rupert character attempting to weasle out of his responsibility?

Director Mitch said...

Does anybody read the classics? This quote is practically stolen from "Crime and Punishment". Go read it - great book.

Director Mitch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William said...

I think the Rope characters were based on Leopold-Loeb. These were two very wealthy kids who kidnapped another wealthy kid because they thought it would demonstrate their brilliance. They were smart kids but the crime was amateurish and they were soon caught. Smart people are rarely aware of their areas of stupidity....Most criminals don't think they are above the law. They think they are beneath it--the world and all its rules have treated them badly and it is thus OK to take your own back. Maybe something like that was going on with Polanski......I always had the theory that Raskalnikov murdered the old pawnbroker not to show that he was more daring than Napoleon, but that he was more despicable than the pawnbroker. There was a streak of masochism about him. Exile in Siberia and marriage to an ex prostitute was the consumnation that he wished.

blake said...

Interesting, Father.

Yes, I've always found that a little uncomfortable: "Oh, I just spout this crap, I don't really believe it."

But then, Stewart can't really be as monstrous as he needs to be. The audience would reject it.

Kylos said...

Martin, Stewart had to be the one to expose the murderers so that he could see the error of his views. But, like you say, he did not take as much responsibility as he ought to have. He did acknowledge he was wrong, but he still expressed shock that some actually took his philosophy to its natural conclusion.

careen said...

Late with commenting on this, but it is a version of the enlightened guru excuse - i.e. "I laugh and cavort on a plane above mere sex or abuse. My vision is non-dual."

To which I say, you are claiming non-dual vision? Fine. You should also be able to eat a plate of steaming human excrement and see no difference between that and the finest dining. That's an accepted test.

So get to it. Prove it. Let's see how you do.

And let's not forget, the victim also should have nondual vision.