Academics Discuss 'Flynt'

Professors, Director Debate Film's Meaning, Message

Harvard academics discussed the controversial "The People vs. Larry Flynt" with the film's director last night at the ARCO Forum.

The round table, titled "The People vs. Larry Flynt and the First Amendment" was intended to foster discussion about free speech and its Constitutional protections.

Director Milos Forman called the movie "my love letter to the Supreme Court of the United States," stressing that "Flynt" is first about free speech, not the pornography industry.

Forman's "love letter" stars Woody Harrelson as Larry Flynt, founder of Hustler magazine. The movie documents the unlikely hero's court struggle and his eventual vindication by the United States Supreme Court.

"I didn't make this movie to glamorize pornography," the director said. "This film is not about pornography. I was not trying to find a dividing line between unacceptable and acceptable pornography. I don't like pornography.


"I really, honestly made this film out of admiration for the unique Constitution of America."

Frederick Shauer, Stanton Professor of the First Amendment at the Kennedy School, and Wendy Kaminer, public policy fellow at Radcliffe College criticized Forman's film on the ground that it reconstructed Flynt as a likable champion of the first amendment.

"[The film] did romanticize Larry Flynt by romanticizing what his magazine does," Kaminer said. "It makes it look like defending the first amendment is easy."

Schauer based his criticism on the historical precedent of free speech cases in the United States, arguing that the film left viewers with the false impression that Falwell vs. Hustler was a landmark decision in the American legal battle over free speech.

Forman responded vigorously to Kaminer's contention that the film glossed over Flynt's smuttier side.

"A lot of adversaries of this film go on television and say, 'Why isn't he showing these images [of explicit intercourse and sexual violence]?,'" Forman said. "Why don't they show these images? I'll tell you why. They would never go on the air."

The audience of 400 to 500 people applauded Forman's defense of the film, though Kaminer and Schauer received some applause as well.

Many of the audience members had also attended a 5:30 showing of the movie at Sony Theaters on Church Street that was free to Harvard students.

Questions from the audience ranged from how much artistic integrity Forman felt he sacrificed to Hollywood producers to whether or not he was accurate in his depiction of Flynt's story.

When asked what the impetus was behind Forman's decision to speak at Harvard, the director said:

"Vanity, I guess. This school doesn't have a bad reputation.