A newly resurfaced radio interview with Quentin Tarantino – recently accused of violent physical behavior on his film sets by longtime colleague Uma Thurman – reveals Tarantino defending Roman Polanski for sexually preying on a 13-year-old girl.
In 1977, Polanski was charged with drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles. He eventually took a plea bargain which did find him guilty of forcible sexual intercourse and has not returned to the United States for fear of being convicted and imprisoned.
“He didn’t rape a 13-year-old,” Tarantino told STern. “It was statutory rape…he had sex with a minor. That’s not rape. To me, when you use the word rape, you’re talking about violent, throwing them down — it’s like one of the most violent crimes in the world. You can’t throw the word rape around.”
On a purely semantic level, statutory rape is a form of rape. By definition, rape is forcible sexual activity carried out against someone who is either too young or too incapacitated to give consent.
Tarantino repeatedly defends Polanski, implying that the “13-year-old party girl” he was with was old enough and responsible enough to give sexual consent. He cites Polanski’s book and his own account of the events – cites it repeatedly, with an implicit refrain of you don’t know the whole story.
“That was not the case at all,” Tarantino said. “She wanted to have it and dated the guy and…He was down with the party, she was down with the party,” he said.
“She’s 13, she doesn’t get to be down with the party,” interjected Robin Quivers. “She can’t sign a contract, she can’t rent an apartment…she could not make the decision.”
“But now we’re not talking about rape anymore,” said Tarantino, while Stern repeatedly intoned “It’s rape.” (Again, it is).
When sexual assault allegations first surfaced against Harvey Weinstein, Tarantino revealed that he knew about the producer’s behavior toward women because he had chased around Tarantino’s then-girlfriend, Mira Sorvino. Tarantino said Weinstein had “horribly crossed the line” but took no further action. He confronted Weinstein once but continued to work with him for years.
The Time’s Up ideology is coming for longtime Hollywood favorite Woody Allen; It gave Thurman the strength to finally speak out against both of her biggest abusers. It will be interesting to see if stars reevaluate their thoughts on Polanksi — a man many in power have repeatedly excused.
Both Tarantino stories and Thurman’s disturbing account of working with him suggest that the director doesn’t remotely understand what’s driving the #MeToo conversation or nuanced discussions of consent, power dynamics, and what sorts of interactions can harm people. He would do well to examine those ideas.