I've been way too nice to the folks at the Los Angeles Times lately. I mean, I joined GetReligion with complaints about how these weren't the days of Russ Chandler, or even Bill Lobdell, who was also great. But with the recent work of news columnist Steve Lopez and new blood Robert Faturechi, I've had nothing but nice things to say. So much for that.
All the Roman Polanski coverage was bound to sour me. And, actually, in this case the problem wasn't with the story. The Times story -- about how Hollywood seems to be on an island in defending Polanski against extradition to the United States for fleeing the country after pleading guilty to sex with a minor (that's the euphemistic, legal description of what he did) -- was actually pretty good.
But the headline, which popped up on my phone as I was flying up the 405 this morning, almost popped my head off my spine:
In Roman Polanski case, is it Hollywood vs. Middle America?
No, it's not. It's Hollywood versus most everybody else. And that's exactly what John Horn and Tina Daunt had reported.
In letters to the editor, comments on Internet blogs and remarks on talk radio and cable news channels, the national sentiment is running overwhelmingly against Polanski -- and the industry's support of the 76-year-old "Pianist" Oscar winner.
How can Hollywood (where it's almost impossible to find anyone publicly condemning Polanski) and almost everyone else see the same story in an opposite light? Is it proof that the movie business is amoral, or just that it believes that Polanski has suffered in his personal and professional life and paid his debt to society? Is Hollywood's position that we're-better-than-you elitist while the rest of the country's is everybody-obeys-the-law populist?
"The split between what the rest of the world thinks about Polanski and what Hollywood thinks about Polanski is quite remarkable," said film historian David Thomson. "It proves what an old-fashioned and provincial club Hollywood is. People look after their own."
Somehow, the copydesk missed that. (I'm not even going to touch the religion ghost here; you can make your own inferences.) With how inaccurate a reflection of the Times story that headline was, I had to wonder if the headline writer had just been scanning stories at the Huffington Post -- maybe this one -- before turning their attention to this piece. Otherwise, what were they smoking?
PHOTO: The Hollywood sign as altered by Danny Finegood