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Steyn on Law, Morality, and the Possibility of Art

Mark Steyn writes a very smart column today about the case of Roman Polanski.  He ends by suggesting that Polanski cannot have it both ways.  Polanski cannot be both a great artist and also expect to live beyond the realm of the moral universe.  A great artist seeks to glorify and affirm morality or, if not, his work can be said to be beautiful because of its marked and tragic struggles against it.  Yet, one way or another, the authority of the moral universe always wins.

Polanski and his friends suggest that the moral universe is passe and that they and their work ought to be regarded as transcending it.  As Steyn puts it, they cannot "transgress" because they "transcend."  The problem for them is that if we take them at their word, Polanski cannot be great.  He must be milquetoast--for greatness does not exist.  As Steyn notes, Polanski is not even a great rogue . . . a real rogue needs to function within a moral universe--he needs the tension and the drama to make his work great.  But in the view of Polanski's supporters, we cannot judge people (and certainly not their friends) according to these old standards.  Real freedom, real art, and real courage is doing whatever it is that strikes us at any given moment--being true to oneself and one's inner passions.  Well, Polanski certainly did that.  Even so, as Steyn says . . . Bitter Moon?  Seriously?

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