What do you do with someone like Roman Polanski? I have heard all the arguments for separating the artist from the art, and none of them sit quite right with me.
It isn't that I expect the world, or art to be perfect. I recently read a very good essay on how to be a fan of problematic art while not being a bad person. That is something that everyone must struggle with at some point, and certainly it comes up a lot in my own horror movie fandom. It is almost impossible to be a serious fan of horror movies if you limit your appreciation to unproblematic films. There are some shining examples of films that aren't problematic of course, but often being a horror fan requires acknowledging the problematic elements and allowing yourself to appreciate the film anyway.
But where do you draw the line? A film that has problematic scenes is one thing, a film directed by a child rapist is another thing entirely.
Roman Polanski's crime is a topic that has been debated to death, I suppose, and while it is not for everyone, I have come to a conclusion that works for me. I will not watch his films. I understand that they are influential, and have been important to our film history in general, and even to horror film history in particular. It would be irresponsible of film schools to ignore them, but I do not have the same obligations as a film school or museum, and I can evaluate historical relevance lower than my moral requirements.
But it is still a murky subject for me, because I find myself being inconsistent. I will, for instance, watch the films of Victor Salva, another pedophile director. His Jeepers Creepers films are worth discussing, though they are of course far less influential or critically acclaimed than Polanski's. The crucial difference to me is that Salva was arrested and charged with his crimes, and he went to prison. He was punished (however adequately or inadequately he was punished is a different matter, and a complicated topic that I feel very conflicted about. But for our purposes here, he answered for his crimes in the only way our society knows how.) Roman Polanski, on the other hand, fled prosecution for his crime, and is completely unrepentant.
I don't know if I believe that someone can ever atone for a crime like raping a child, but it is a lot easier to be convinced by arguments about separating the art from the artist if the artist has had to answer for his crimes. If he hasn't answered for his crimes elsewhere, I can't watch his films without feeling that I myself am letting him get away with it.