The critically acclaimed and award-winning movie, “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” portrays Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt as a champion of the First Amendment. But some local feminist and anti-pornography activists disagree.
A panel of three joined a group of about 30 students Wednesday in Coffman Memorial Union to discuss pornography, feminism and Flynt. The event was sponsored by University – YW, an organization working to empower people to speak out against racism and sexism.
Based upon the true-life story of Flynt’s courtroom battles to protect his freedom of speech, the movie presents the man’s life from a poor Kentucky childhood to the growth of his successful porn empire. Most notable is his appearance before the Supreme Court when the Rev. Jerry Folwell sued Flynt for libel because of the magazine’s parody of the reverend as a drunk whose first sexual encounter was with his mother.
The night began when Laura Kuhn, director of Public Outreach at Media Action Alliance showed slides from Hustler magazine to give people an idea of what it prints.
“I really dislike showing people these images, but I think most people don’t have a clue about what pornography really is,” said Kuhn. “Pornography is not speech but acts of abuse and degradation on women and doesn’t deserve to be protected under free speech.”
The movie has sparked protest from both men and women across the country who say the movie does not give an accurate description of Flynt.
Laurel Parrott, president of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Organization of Women, said the movie was mainstreamed to satisfy the general public, and the images of women that Hustler portrays, such as women being gang raped and partaking in bestiality, were missing.
“This was a made-for-Hollywood film and it’s a very slanted story dealing only with aspects of Flynt’s life that he and the producers wanted to deal with,” Parrott said.
Commercial Sexual Exploitation Resource Institute Executive Director Evelina Giobbe spoke about the physical and emotional hardships that women suffer in the pornography industry.
“My message to you tonight is don’t let (producer) Oliver Stone and Woody Harrelson `hustle’ you,” said Giobbe. “The bridge connecting pornography and sexual abuse is a well-worn road suspended over an endless river of women’s bodies.”
Giobbe said that viewers can be easily fooled by the movie, and defending pornographers’ rights doesn’t necessarily help defend one’s own civil rights.
Panel participants and students discussed the possibility of organizing protests at local movie theaters. They also signed a number of petitions sent to Stone and other people involved in the production of the movie.