I have no argument with those who find some
of the contents of Hustler objectionable. I myself find some of
its stuff objectionable. I had never bought Hustler in my life.
When I was preparing this film and had to go through endless
amount of Hustlers, I cringed. Men as well as women are often
portrayed on its pages with brutish vulgarity. Sexual and
But surely to equate - as one of my film's critics does - a
printed page, however tasteless, with the Nazi slaughter, a
slaughter that deprived a sizable portion of the earth's
population of their lives is, to say the least, intemperate. The
critics of my film know that it is not possible to legislate
taste, therefore they argue that pornography results in acts of
Well, I don't know whether studies have proved this assertion. I
do know, however, that a study of human social history will
unarguably disclose that one of our most noble emotions - love -
has prompted more damage, more violence, more suicides, even more
murders than can ever be ascribed to pornography.
Should we blame Romeo and Juliet or West Side Story every time an
unhappy lover loses control and does something damaging because
of the unbearable pain of love in his or her heart? Should we
call on Hollywood to stop making these kinds of movies?
I did not want to make pornography the focus of this talk. It is
a digression. I did so because the same few critics are trying to
convince the public that the goals and themes of my film are
identical to those of Hustler.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
My film is not, and never was intended to be, about pornography,
pro or con.
Its writers did not conceive it that way and nor did I.
That's why the film's climax is the case Larry Flynt and his
lawyers brought before the Supreme Court. And this case itself is
not about pornography.
The case is about our right to satirise, to be irreverent in
newspaper columns, in political cartoons, in books and theatres
There has been a concerted attempt to trivialise this victory for
the First Amendment, to sneer at it as insignificant.
I am not a civil rights specialist but I believe that this
victory, far from being trivial, is vital.
I would hate to think of the voices that might be silenced or
their owners placed in jails had the Supreme Court ruled
And I am not ashamed to say that this film for me is a love
letter to the Supreme Court of the United States.
As to the objections to Larry Flynt as the main protagonist: I
hardly think the First Amendment would have been put to the test
by somebody who, on occasion, used a few profane words. I
understand that irony and ambiguity can make some people feel
uneasy but I am drawn to both.
And for good reason: comfortable certainties in human behaviour
are rarely worth exploring and, moreover, they are boring. I am a
filmmaker, so you do understand that I am not averse to
entertaining the audience.
Or myself. In truth, I think it essential. Especially when you
are trying to get across ideas that I believe are more important
than just a car chase.
The ambiguities in Mr. Flynt's actions certainly engaged my
And still do.
Was he a sincere, tenacious battler for freedom of expression or
is he a cynical smut peddler who used his constitutional rights
to ensure that he would be able to sell more dirty pages?
Is it possible that he is both?
And if he is, is he more one than the other? Which? Was Oscar
Schindler, the German industrialist who aided Jews, a humane
saver of lives or a Nazi, an exploiter who used slave labor for
notably profitable results? Which? Or both?
These issues, and many others, will, I hope, make us think. But
is thinking about such matters - even if we are using the
pornographer as the protagonist of our story - so dangerous that
it could destroy the moral fibre of our society?
Some insist that it will do just that. If this is the case, we
have a serious problem on our hands. Including rethinking the
wisdom of our Founding Fathers.
The argument that they would be shocked to see what's published
today on the pages of Hustler doesn't really persuade me that we
should turn the clock back. I don't buy that.
First: I am convinced that the English and European politicians
of the seventeenth century would have been absolutely alarmed by
some of the ideas of our Founding Fathers.
Second: I doubt that they were so ignorant as not to be familiar
with Boccaccio or Rabelais or the etchings of the period which
would make Larry Flynt blush. Which is probably exaggeration.
Not every country has the guts to rise to its best when
challenged by its worst. In this century alone, the countries of
Goethe, Schiller, Beethoven, Mozart, Freud - when challenged by
the Nazis - buckled.
The countries of Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Kafka,
Dvorak - when challenged by the communists - buckled.
Does anybody believe that Hitler or Stalin could have survived if
they had not muzzled the free press? If people could have read,
heard and discussed the atrocities committed daily by these
I doubt that.
And it was always the pornography that was their first target.
Who would object to cleaning up smut? As a matter of fact, the
majority usually welcomes such high moral purpose. But how
surprised this same majority was, when they realised that the
official definition of smut included not only pornographers,
prostitutes and homosexuals, but Jews, Blacks and Slavs. The
Communists expanded the list to include Christians, Moslems, the
capitalists and indeed all of western culture. Finally both
regimes commonly labeled anybody who didn't agree with the
official regulations and taste as criminal enemies of the state.
Regaining their lost freedoms did not come cheap for these
people. Millions paid for it with their lives.
Maybe I am oversensitive about these issues because of my life
experience but I really believe that it is a sign of ignorance or
over-security to think that our freedoms are a permanent gift,
without daily obligations, that nothing will happen to us if we
bend our Constitution a little to satisfy a particular group or
The problem is that even in the most civilised societies the
demagogues are always in wait, ready and testing. They are
indefatigable and we will never entirely prevail over them. And
that is OK.
But if we stop resisting them, they will prevail over us. And
that is not OK.
If you open the door to censorship just a little, it never stays
open just a little and the draft that follows is always more than
That's why the real hero of my film is not a person but the
Supreme Court of the United States.
Our country (The United States) is the strongest country in the
world not because it is the biggest or the most populous. Our
country is the strongest because it is the freest. And if my film
disturbs some people because they must digest its points through
an uncomfortable character, then, I am sorry, I have to turn to a
voice from the seventeenth century: John Milton of Paradise Lost
fame writes in his "Areopagitika about the freedom of the
press" something like this: if a stomach is unable to
distinguish healthy food from a bad one, then it is the stomach
who is sick.