Larry Flynt: The Right to Be Left Alone
Here in the United States, we are privileged to have a set of inalienable rights that are guaranteed in writing within our constitution and its subsequent amendments. Lately, some of these rights have been tested in the higher courts of our land, debated, and even superseded to afford a greater sense of security. We even have the right to challenge these rights in court and public. There is an established procedure to have a review of our rights and how they should apply in our lives. Constitutional issues can work there way through the lower courts and eventually be brought before the Supreme Court. There is one man who is extremely familiar with this procedure, Larry Flynt. When you look at how he gained his fortune and fame you might think him to be an odd choice for the defender of rights. He is a pornographer with magazines that go far beyond the limits of any concept of good taste. He is regarded by most as rude, crude, vulgar and obscene and that is just what his friends say about him. His opponents consider Flynt as the incarnation of the devil. For most of his career Flynt has been fighting for his right to do and say whatever he wants in speech and publications no matter how many people are offended. As an American he considers it is right to rub people the wrong way. He has made millions from his magazines and other sexually explicit enterprises. For him this is a very good thing since being the champion of constitutional rights can be a very costly matter. No matter what you think of Flynt as a person the fights he has taken on do affect us all. In the current climate of international terrorist threats some basic rights are being altered to allow for a sense of greater security. The documentary ‘Larry Flynt: The Right to Be Left Alone’ looks at Flynt and his persistent battle to maintain and advance our fundamental rights. He was reported as saying ‘If the First Amendment protects a s***bag like me, it will protect all of you,’ which basically is at the heart of the matter. To protect the best of us, the laws need to be able to protect the worse. This documentary is not always the easiest thing to watch but it serves an important purpose and needs to be seen. Now it is released to DVD by Anchor Bay and it should on the must-see list for anyone concerned with their civil rights.
This film does not really concern itself with the colorful life and rise to infamy and wealth of Flynt. That was more than covered with the docudrama ‘The People vs. Larry Flynt.’ The focus here is on the unlikely role that Flynt has played like the champion of First Amendment rights in America. He reportedly once told his lawyer that he is the perfect client, filthy rich and always in trouble. Say what you will about the man, but you have to give him credit for being determined and a survivor. He is still going strong and has to lose the use of his legs after an assassination attempt and still gets his points across, although his speech is slurred by a stroke. It does appear that there are a lot of people not offended by his publications and movies; his wealth is estimated well over $400 million. While some of this goes to supporting his pornographic empire he does spend a lot defending rights that affect us all. He is also a man with a certain style, albeit one that crosses over the limits of good taste. In one case he was fined $10,000 for as long as he would not reveal a confidential source. Each day Flynt had a case of cash delivered to the court by an adult film performer. He enjoys rubbing the nose of the establishment in his crusade for the First Amendment. Flynt is disturbed by the fact that most Americans take these rights for granted so he presses on in one court after another.
All of his work for civil liberties does also serve another aspect of Flynt’s personality. He loves being the center of attention. His passions allow him to combine the three things in life he truly enjoys; sex, attention, and arguing. He also feels that he is on a mission to expose hypocrisies, especially those in the highest levels of the government. When President Bill Clinton was embroiled in the Monica Lewinsky scandal he offered $1 million to anyone with proof of a Republican politician engaging in extramarital affairs. Flynt lives for the flamboyant stunts as much as he does for the rights he supports. The thing is Flynt has been incredibly successful in his court dates. In 1976 an obscenity was leveled against him by Charles Keating of Cincinnati’s ‘Citizens for Decency Through Law.’ He was convicted of pandering and organized crime charges and sentenced to 25 years. This was later overturned in a higher court. Later in 1983 Jerry Falwell brought similar charges against Flynt but once again he was cleared by the Supreme Court in a unanimous decision.
Many consider the right to be left alone as our most fundamental right. If you are acting by the Constitution, then the government should stay out of your business and your life. The film starts in a place that is very familiar to Flynt, jail, where he speaks of his pride in the American heritage of liberty and freedom. The film does try to embody some of the bawdy humor that Hustler magazine has used over the years by including cartoons and animation to make a point. One of the points taken on in this documentary is how many rights are being eroded and changed. This is something that has fired up Flynt in recent years and the film shows the foundation he has for his stance. The movie also goes back several times to a commencement speech Flynt gave to the Harvard Law School. There he said that he may not have had the formal education in the law but he certainly knows his way around a courtroom.
Director Joan Brooker-Marks is presenting an option piece with her documentary. Most of it is, naturally, from Flynt’s point of view and glorifies him as a hero of the battle of civil rights. Sometimes, not much is spent presenting the other viewpoint that there are limits to good taste, and Flynt is constantly going way beyond them. Flynt has stated that if no one was offensive, we wouldn’t need a First Amendment. Actually, this is true as we are provided the right to disagree and offend people with our way of communication. This film does show something that we do take for granted, free speech. Most of us cannot imagine living in a country where you can not speak your mind. Flynt may not be the kind of person you would invite for Sunday dinner, but he serves a purpose and that is keeping those rights for us all.
The film is well presented and will hold your interest. If nothing else, this man has put it all on the line for our liberties, and he should receive some recognition for that fact. This is the type of film that needs to be watched and, most importantly discussed.
Posted 09/11/08 Posted 02/09/2020