Emma Thompson Rethinks Her Position on Polanski and Gets Ready to Talk About Human Trafficking

by Melissa Silverstein on November 5, 2009

in Actresses,News

Emma-Thampson_491bea143e30dIt broke my heart when I read that Emma Thompson signed the petition to get Roman Polanski out of jail.  I could not believe that she of all people, a woman who has dedicated herself to bringing attention to the epidemic of human trafficking, would sign a petition to get a rapist out of jail. The good folks at Shakespeare’s Sister were also mortified and have been following the issue. One reader, Caitlin Hayward-Tapp a student at Exeter University in England put together a petition asking Emma Thompson to remove her name and got over 400 people to sign.

Caitlin was able to present the petition to Thompson at a recent event and got a very interesting answer as to why she signed it in the first place (This comes straight from Shakesville):

she [Emma Thompson] explained about how well she knows Polanski, how terrible his life has been, and how forgiving the survivor of the rape all those years ago now is. She said she thought the intentions of the judge were unclear, as were the intentions of those who arrested him recently. She told me that a lot of her friends had rung her up asking her to sign the petition, so there had been a certain amount of pressure. (My bold) She said that she had already been thinking a lot about the petition, as others had expressed their dismay at her signing it.

A certain amount of pressure.  I bet.

Here’s more:

She said, while she supported Polanski as a friend, a crime is a crime. I don’t know whether she had realised the extent of Polanski’s crime, but she is now fully aware. She will remove her name from the petition – in fact, she said she would call today and sort it out. Even though, she stressed, Polanski has had some truly terrible experiences in his lifetime, experiences that we couldn’t even imagine and which should not be taken out of the equation, she agreed that she could not put her name to a petition asking for his release.

Here’s a message Emma wanted to pass along:

“Know that I will remove my name because of you, and all of the good work that you have been doing. I have read your petition. I have heard you. And I will listen.”

I am so glad that Emma is removing her name.  She does such good work of human trafficking and will be in NYC next week with the installation Journey which highlights this blight that nobody seems to give a shit about.  Here are some details on the event.

Journey opens to the public on Washington Place, off Washington Square Park.

Hours of Operation are:

Tuesday, November 10 – Friday, November 13 12pm-8pm

Saturday, November 14 11am-7pm

Sunday, November 15 10am-3pm.

Produced in partnership with the City of New York and the City of London.  Here’s the press release.

Let’s organize a group to go and see the installation.

Emma Update (Shakesville)

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist November 5, 2009 at 11:35 AM

I’m still baffled about Whoopi Goldberg’s support for Polanski.

Now, about Thompson’s argument about Polanski having had a hard life– that’s bollocks. I know plenty of people who lead such sad, difficult lives with so many hardships and they had terrible childhoods, but they don’t go around raping little girls, selling drugs, or shooting up banks.

there is NO excuse for drugging and raping a 13 years old girl!

Tammy November 5, 2009 at 11:42 AM

Ditto. I have had just as much tragedy in my life as Polanski, without the success. Many of the world’s cruelest dictators (including Hitler) had horrific childhoods, do we give them a pass.

Caroline Picard November 5, 2009 at 11:50 AM

What Year Is This?

What I wanted to title this is “Are You New Here”? and yet I changed my mind because I am starting to realize that yeah, some people are new to this whole “sexism” thing. I had a weekend off, so I spent time catching up on some TV time, not the news channels, actually looking for shows. That was interesting, nothing, and I mean nothing was on, until I hit the biography channel. Two shows caught my eye, “Hippies” and “Sex In 69″, now that might hold my attention, since I lived it. Hippies is great and I recommend to anyone that has teenagers that think they are changing the world, to sit them down and watch this. But the show that really caught me was “Sex In 69″, I had no idea just how much the year 1969 changed the world. You see I graduated from high school in ’69, so I busy living it, never thinking that history was in the making. This show was a huge reminder of what our generation “the baby boomers” were doing back then. All the major revolutions in culture were happening, and watching it, instead of living it was eye opening. It was the beginning of the sexual revolution, gay liberation, the civil rights, music, art, everything changed in this country in that year. We not only went to the moon, we changed this planet.

I’ve always known that I came from a very special time. Just our music alone tells me that. I think anyone that is my age deep down inside realizes that. Even though today most would think that we a very open minded people, it’s quite evident to some of us, that isn’t quite true. In a lot of ways we have gone backward, especially when it comes to all the “isms”. Sexism, racism, genderism, chauvinism, all those lovely “isms” are back stronger than ever. And does it confuse the hell out of me.

All the talk about what happen on Letterman and the sexism, only proves it. It proves that somewhere along the way from 1969 to 2009, the ball got dropped. Women have regressed 40 years, from sisterhood to “hey, I got mine, you get yours”. Especially in the comedy industry. Watching all these shows for women from The View to Joy Behar’s new show and their shock about this is truly laughable. Like I said earlier “Are you new here?”. More men writing for Leno and Letterman than women, really? Please whatever sisterhood we had has totally gone out and has been replaced by, well it hasn’t been replaced, it’s just plain gone. It doesn’t exist anymore, especially in the world of comedy, and especially in stand-up. Take some time and count the female headliners in clubs this week. If you get five, you’ll be counting in “comedy math”. You cannot and will not find five female headliners. Now, count the male headliners.

To quote one club owner “I already have four women headliners, that’s enough”. Are you serious? Four women, four weeks out of the year, the other 48, men, normally, three men, talking about the same thing men talk about—-mostly us.

If men are uncomfortable with women, especially in comedy, it’s because we know your show and we know your mind, you are idiots, nasty, stinky, arrogant idiots. And screw you, women are funny, and I have had enough of this bullshit.

And the fact that women that are in positions to help other women in comedy are sitting around in their happy hosting chairs even promoting this stupid line of questioning, makes them idiots too. I’m sorry ladies, I know just how much “sisterhood” we have in this business, none, nada, neit, uhuh, there is none. So stop, take a deep breathe and think about all this. Start asking the questions that we care about. Some of you were ready to hang Clarence Thomas, while some of us were saying “this woman is an idiot”, but then again I came from a different time period. I was a secretary back then, yes we had these problems, but we also had the phone number of the wife and the mistress, game over.

So to answer the question “Why is this still happening?” Answer: Because you let it, that’s why, and the ones of us that trying to stop it, well I think you know what we are called. Sisterhood is a memory, a good memory, but a memory still. It’s a shame that the young women of today never got to understand what that truly meant.

Thank you,

Caroline Picard

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist November 5, 2009 at 12:26 PM

Caroline, well said.

we’re in the 21st century and I can’t believe we’re still dealing with -ism bullshit.

sara lee November 5, 2009 at 12:56 PM

hell yeah! well said caroline.

d November 5, 2009 at 5:43 PM

There’s no difference between us, the metaphoric “us”, pressuring Emma to not sign the petition than for the others to pressure her to sign? Women are not a monolithic group – if that were the case we wouldn’t be so torn over the different films that come out – with people vehemently wanting to see a flick and people vehemently wanting to not see the flick.

Why does what anyone thinks in the today somhow taint or nullify what they did in the past? If that were true, there would be a SLEW of people from our past who we should no longer care about because they did horrible stuff co-mingled with good stuff. Even if Emma thought he was totally innocent, that doesn’t take away from all the stuff she has done for women in her movies and outside of them as well. I want sisterhood, but I don’t want group think.

And are there not ugly truths to this case? I feel like both sides now are ignoring them – the one group to call him a monster, and the one group to call him a saint.

Did he admit that he raped her when he was being charged way back when? Not in his books and stuff, but on record somewhere in the police record? Because if not, then isn’t it too late to prosecute him for anything else other than what he pleaded to: having sex with a minor? So he comes back, and does his time, which is what a couple of years because that’s all the time that is allotted for that? If the window is passed, the window is passed.

I am torn because I get that it is symbolic. At the same time, maybe if we highlighted the stuff that was going on now then we could change things. I don’t want to give him a pass just because he’s a great director. But I don’t want to over trump a guy getting time for basically statutory. had this happened back then we could have really done something. I don’t think this is totally wasteful, but I aslo want to focus on rape that is happening now, on sexual abuse that is happening now.

And really, I think it will take a lot more than one petition for me to throw out people who have demonstrated years of helping women.

Chris Evans November 5, 2009 at 8:58 PM

“Because if not, then isn’t it too late to prosecute him for anything else other than what he pleaded to: having sex with a minor? So he comes back, and does his time, which is what a couple of years because that’s all the time that is allotted for that? If the window is passed, the window is passed.”

Is anyone actually TRYING to prosecute him for anything else than what he already plead to? Beyond that and y’know, fleeing the country, I’m not aware of any plans to prosecute him for any other crimes.

e November 5, 2009 at 9:24 PM

Congratulations to Caitlin!!!! What a great bit of activism.

Thomai in L.A. (it rhymes) November 5, 2009 at 10:34 PM

Good for Emma Thompson.

barry dank November 6, 2009 at 12:53 AM

The culture of celebrity does not reflect feminism; if anything it represent the opposite-the adoration of the stars and their opinions. Such is reflected in people becoming distraught over Emma Thompson opinion, a great actress, but as for her opinion on Polanski- so what? No better or worse than anybody else’s opinion including Whoopi Goldberg or Harrison Ford. If you want to worship celebrities fine but don’t put it under the rubric of feminism. The only ism that fits- its a form of cultism. See my full position on this- http://dankprofessor.wordpress.com/2009/11/04/emma-thompson-and-roman-polanski/

Eileen November 6, 2009 at 3:05 AM

Poorly thought out, Caroline, and off topic as well.

Well done on the petition. I’m so glad it was effective.

Marco Hyppolite March 15, 2012 at 7:20 AM

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