MSU Cinema International presents "The People vs. Larry Flynt" This Week
Murray State's Cinema International continues its Fall 2023 season with a film about a landmark First Amendment case, The People vs. Larry Flynt. Tracy Ross speaks to Cinema International program director Dr. Thérèse St. Paul and associate professor of political science Dr. Paul D. Foote ahead of the screenings.
Note: We are experiencing technical difficulties with the interview audio. Please see the interview transcript below for more information on this week's screenings.
From the MSU Cinema International website:
"An American biographical drama based on the story of controversial pornography publisher Larry Flynt and how he became a defender of free speech — Miloš Forman made it 'out of admiration for the beauty and wisdom of the American constitution, which allows this country to rise to its best when provoked by the worst.' Feminist author Laura Kipnis compared Flynt to the ribald French Renaissance satirist Rabelais, calling it 'class-antagonistic.'"
"The movie is very important because it's a landmark case that protects the First Amendment, satire, ill humor," Foote begins. "It's symbolic, too, in a way. It's a 1983 issue of Hustler magazine that has a parody. The parody was a liqueur called Caprari. Larry Flynt took that and changed it — instead of an interview about your first time drinking the liqueur, it was about the first time that Jerry Falwell had sex, and he changed the commentary to make people laugh. He did have on the bottom a disclaimer that said this is only meant to be for entertainment purposes. It's not meant to be taken seriously."
"It upset Falwell and his ministry, and then he sued for libel, emotional distress, and the right to privacy. He actually won the court trial. I believe it was a 150,000 jury award," Foote continues. "But Larry Flynt, his entire life has fought for the First Amendment, has never given up since the '50s. He's always been defending his magazine and the right of adults to view nudity and what have you. He appealed it to the U.S. Supreme Court; then it became Hustler Magazine vs. Falwell. It's a landmark First Amendment case, and I teach it in my American government courses to my students when we go over that part of the First Amendment."
"When the Supreme Court heard this case, one of the most famous quotes is, 'no matter how outrageous a parody might be, it's protected by the First Amendment," Foote explains. "Even though I may be offended, or you may be offended, it doesn't matter. Parody is protected because if a parody is not protected, a political cartoon that could be considered by some to be obscene would then be unconstitutional, and political cartoons have had an important place in our history to teach the politics of our key figures. The First Amendment protects those."
"The film is wonderful because it really traces the life of Larry Flynt from when he was a little boy. He was hunting with his brother when he found these magazines, and he told his brother he wanted to be a publisher someday. That's how it begins, and all the way to the Supreme Court decision where you see Supreme Court justices sitting there for oral argument. That's highly unusual because they do not allow television cameras into the Supreme Court. A few years ago, someone brought their Apple device in and illegally recorded an argument and put it on YouTube. Quickly, I think Chief Justice Roberts contacted YouTube, and they took it down. That was the first time an oral argument was ever recorded. It's amazing. It never happened before or since. So, when they show at the end, they're all sitting there talking; that is something you usually do not see. It's not permitted unless they change the rules in the future. But it's a great movie. It teaches you so much about Larry Flynt, his sacrifices, and what happened to him dodging an assassin's bullet. It's something else. I hope you can watch it."
MSU Cinema International presents The People vs. Larry Flynt on Thursday, September 14, and Saturday, September 16, at 7:30 p.m. in Faculty Hall Room 208. Both screenings and the following discussions are free and open to the public.
For more information about the Cinema International program, including upcoming screenings and how to donate, visit its website.