The Girl: A Life in the Shadow of Roman Polanskiby Samantha Geimer Published 17 Sep 2013
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In this searing and surprising memoir, Samantha Geimer, "the girl" at the center of the infamous Roman Polanski sexual assault case, breaks a virtual thirty-five-year silence to tell her story and reflect on the events of that day and their lifelong repercussions.
In this searing and surprising memoir, Samantha Geimer, “the girl” at the center of the infamous Roman Polanski sexual assault case, breaks a virtual thirty-five-year silence to tell her story and reflect on the events of that day and their lifelong repercussions.
March 1977, Southern California. Roman Polanski drives a rented Mercedes along Mulholland Drive to Jack Nicholson’s house. Sitting next to him is an aspiring actress, Samantha Geimer, recently arrived from York, Pennsylvania. She is thirteen years old.
The undisputed facts of what happened in the following hours appear in the court record: Polanski spent hours taking pictures of Samantha—on a deck overlooking the Hollywood Hills, on a kitchen counter, topless in a Jacuzzi. Wine and Quaaludes were consumed, balance and innocence were lost, and a young girl’s life was altered forever—eternally cast as a background player in her own story.
For months on end, the Polanski case dominated the media in the United States and abroad. But even with the extensive coverage, much about that day—and the girl at the center of it all—remains a mystery. Just about everyone had an opinion about the renowned director and the girl he was accused of drugging and raping. Who was the predator? Who was the prey? Was the girl an innocent victim or a cunning Lolita artfully directed by her ambitious stage mother? How could the criminal justice system have failed all the parties concerned in such a spectacular fashion? Once Polanski fled the country, what became of Samantha, the young girl forever associated with one of Hollywood’s most notorious episodes? Samantha, as much as Polanski, has been a fugitive since the events of that night more than thirty years ago.
Taking us far beyond the headlines, The Girl reveals a thirteen-year-old who was simultaneously wise beyond her years and yet terribly vulnerable. By telling her story in full for the first time, Samantha reclaims her identity, and indelibly proves that it is possible to move forward from victim to survivor, from confusion to certainty, from shame to strength.
"The Girl: A Life in the Shadow of Roman Polanski" Reviews
Much as I like Rosemary's Baby and I can sympathize with Roman Polanski over the heinous murder of his wife (Sharon Tate), as a person he's just another one of those degenerates who can only get away with what he's done because he's famous. You can bet your life that your average Joe who did this to a minor wouldn't draw up such polarizing controversy. In all fairness to Polanski, we don't know the full story. However, child abuse and sexual abuse are crimes, plain and simple. It doesn't matter if you live among the classy bohemian socialites or not.
Samantha Geimer takes a bold step forward as "the girl" who has both inspired and angered people for years. As a child she was taken advantage of by Polanski. Some of her writing is brutally disturbing and stuff nobody should ever have to endure. It was sad to find though that she seems to partially believe it was her fault, and that she still holds Polanski in high regard. However, to the reviewers judging her for this, it's not uncommon for victims of sexual abuse to be torn between hating and loving their abuser. The Girl also has some very unsettling and poignant things to say about our culture and legal system. "If I had to choose between reliving the rape or the grand jury testimony, I would choose the rape." I think it's also about time we as a society stop letting these people get away with crime simply because they're celebrities. The way we romanticize celebrity affairs as somehow enigmatic and strangely beautiful is something that people like Samantha Geimer definitely don't benefit from. No, it was not forbidden love. No, it was not just the "free love" era. No, even if you enjoy his films it's still no reason to defend his actions.The Girl shares a maddening mentality of somebody psychologically damaged not just by the rape itself, but by their own internalized attitude of "I deserved it."
I'd actually sort of be interested to read what Polanski's view on this "relationship" is. I don't think this kind of thing occurs in a bubble and it would be intriguing to understand why he did this and if he even had any regard for the impact it would have on Samantha's life. With the recent Bill Cosby scandal it seems that these incidents bring up many more questions than answers.
I could not wait to read this book, due to my long, complicated, imaginary relationship with Roman Polanski. I can't remember which came first, in a chicken or egg way: did I read Helter Skelter first (I think I was in tenth grade), or see a picture of Polanski in US Weekly or Newsweek (the two magazines my parents subscribed to in the early 80s, both of which were a formative part of my growing up), and seeing how cute he was (no kidding; his tiny, elfin foreignness was like catnip to my teenage self) go backward and read his memoir, then HS? I know I read his memoir in high school, too. Back then, I was probably even jealous of Samantha Geimer, as horrible as it sounds; I thought she was lucky to get attention from him, and the way he explained it in his book sounded way more consensual than the facts. I even took a quarter of Polish in college because of Roman Polanski.
As many years have passed, and I've grown up and gotten some sense, my thoughts have on this have changed. But I was also one of those people who blamed Geimer's mother as much as, if not more than, Polanski. What kind of idiot lets her teenage daughter have a photo session ALONE with a middle-aged man? Of course this European man, whose mother died in a concentration camp and whose pregnant wife was killed by the Manson Family, is dead inside and decadent, and again, European, where the cliche says it's okay to fuck little girls. The Aesop's Fable of the scorpion and the frog comes to mind.
This book (and the 2008 documentary "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired") has changed my opinion again. When Samantha Geimer details her rape by Polanski, it is clear that it is not consensual at all; she is no Lolita. She is a naive teen, using lies and bravado to seem more mature than her years, and finding herself in a situation where her "no's" aren't heard and she has no choice but to disassociate from her body and hope it's over quickly. Her mother is not some scheming pimp/stage mother, but is also trusting (How could a famous, respected director be a bad person?) and is full of anger, regret, and guilt once she realizes what has happened to her daughter. In the aftermath of the rape and prosecution, Geimer's life is reminiscent of the Jodie Foster/Cherie Currie movie "Foxes"--a whirl of sex, drinking and drugs. It's the classic seventies teenage nightmare, and it's also a more innocent (and more decadent) time than we live in today.
Geimer clearly doesn't want to see herself as a victim, at least not of Polanski. After many dark years, she has made a happy life for herself in Hawaii. A lot of readers may even be angry with her for not excoriating her rapist, but she refuses, while saying what he did was wrong. She does, however, paint herself as a victim of the press and the justice system. The case was bungled by a media-obsessed judge, whose rumored change of mind led Polanski to flee rather than be sentenced to up to 50 years in jail, after a plea deal had been worked out by the prosecution and the defense. Since then, every time he has been in the news, for winning an Academy Award, or being arrested in Switzerland in 2009 after a zealous Los Angeles district attorney tried to stir things up again, Geimer's house has been stalked and surrounded by reporters who clamor for a sound bite or opinion. Nancy Grace and Phil McGraw, those vultures of crime, have both tried to lure her to their horrible shows. The back third of the book bogs down in Geimer's railing against "justice" and the media, and is only enlivened with the inclusion of a note written to her by Polanski in 2009, in which he apologizes and takes full responsibility for his actions.
I wish Geimer well, and I hope people remember that she is allowed to feel about this any way she wants. It is HER story.
A follow up documentary, detailing the Switzerland arrest, is soon to debut on Showtime. I can't wait.
Wow, just wow. What did I just read? Several hundred pages in which the author blames everyone but her rapist for the messy stuff that happens as a result of her rape? Why is she so quick to forgive Polanski but holds grudges against the media and the justice system? I understand her desire to put it all past her and live a normal life, but it was Polanski who robbed her of her normalcy, and it is Polanski who still evades justice. Infuriating. Heartbreaking. And fascinating. I'm glad I read it, but boy did it hit a nerve.
2.5 stars. I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. It was sent by Atria Books.
This book is, on one hand, completely fascinating. As someone who was not terribly familiar with the Polanski case other than in the broadest of terms (and someone who somewhat sheepishly loves US Weekly), I found the events themselves riveting, and I could not put it down for the entire first half (I read the entire book in one day). The first half reads somewhat like a long US Weekly interview.
On the other hand, the further into the book I read, the less I was able to like the author's voice-- the theme is overwhelmingly that she sees herself as a survivor, not a victim; however the bulk of the second half of the book is about how she and her family have been repeatedly victimized by the media and the justice system. Her anger, not toward Polanski, but toward the press and the legal system, is so palpable. Because of that tone of anger, the end of the book feels like it lacks any closure. I wonder if Geimer's lifelong desire for privacy has made her memoir less sympathetic, as she writes very little about any happiness in her life, and I hope that is because she doesn't want to share that part of her life with the world, and not because she continues to be as angry and unhappy as the tone of this memoir makes her out to be.
"The Girl: A Life in the Shadow of Roman Polanski" is powerful. Samantha Geimer has a "tell it like it is" voice and comes right to the point. Her story is compelling and strongly told. After so many years she says it her way. This book stayed with me for a long time.
I loved many of Roman Polanski's early movies - Chinatown is still my all-time favorite movie. I was 22 in 1977, and remember all of the horrible things about Roman Polansky's raping a 13-year-old girl, fleeing the country, and all of the many years this continued on in the news. And I always wondered about "The Girl". It seemed to me that Roman got off easy, living a high lifestyle in his various mansions around Europe and still able to make all the movies he wanted. I wondered about all of this for a very long time, and over the years forgot about it. When I saw this book had been released, I got a copy as soon as I could and read it in one day. Was Samantha's life forever affected by this one awful event? Yes, but not in the way you'd think. The rape itself was nowhere near as traumatic a thing compared to what she has gone through for the last 35 years with the media's non-stop hounding of her and her family. This is a sad and awful story, but ultimately, forgiving and redeeming. Thank you, Samantha, for finally sharing your story. I hoe you now have peace in your life.