Academic journal article Journalism History

The People vs. Larry Flynt

Academic journal article Journalism History

The People vs. Larry Flynt

Article excerpt

The People Vs. Larry Flynt, Columbia Pictures, 1996. 2:01.

In the film The People Vs. Larry Flynt, Flynt compares his upstart Hustler magazine to an automobile accident: no matter how much you try not to look, the voyeur in all of us makes it difficult to resist even a sneak peek. In many ways, Milos Forman's film reflects the same dilemma. Regardless of the film's emphasis on the important First Amendment cases involving Hustler, it is hard not to get equally involved in the film's portrayal of Flynt's sleazier personal life.

Although the film chronicles Flynt's ascent from adolescent moonshine peddler to president of an adult material publishing empire, much of the movie focuses on Flynt's First Amendment court battles. Here the film remains true to the court record, exploring the clash between judicial reasoning and moral judgment. Flynt and his attorney argue passionately for the same free speech protections that are afforded other more mainstream publications. There are no delusional statements here as each acknowledges the largely unpopular subject matter of

Hustler. Still, they argue that unpopular does not equal unprotected.

The account of Hustler's ongoing legal battle with Jerry Falwell takes the viewer on a crash course of the judicial system as the case progresses through the appeals process until it lands at the U.S. Supreme Court. The moments before the high court are among the film's most dramatic, and they reportedly are a verbatim record of the attorney's oral arguments.

For students who might view the film, it may be Flynt's courtroom antics that best illustrate the debate over freedom of expression. …

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