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‘The People vs. Larry Flynt’ Saga, Continued : The Film Is About Best and Worst of America--and Is a Compelling Drama

Janet Yang is producer of "The People vs. Larry Flynt."

For Gloria Steinem to wage a campaign against “The People vs. Larry Flynt” is not surprising. Her agenda has always been narrow and predictable--what better way to place herself in the limelight after all these years but by seizing upon the accolades of a movie that conveniently has the words “Larry Flynt” in its title?

Never mind that she obfuscates issues, makes specious analogies and uses the most inflammatory language about our film to further her political cause to the point where one wonders if she really saw the film at all.

But for Robin Swicord, a well-respected screenwriter in the Hollywood community, to join in the fray is, in my opinion, shameful (“A Modest Proposal for a Sequel to ‘Larry Flynt,’ ” Counterpunch, Feb. 10).

Swicord should know that simply portraying a character in a film does not necessarily mean that one is unequivocally raising him or her to heroic status or condoning or championing his or her every action. Swicord should know that making a movie that examines the phenomenon of Hustler magazine is in itself hardly tantamount to committing acts of equal degradation to women and should not be wrongly criticized for doing so. After all, the film was called “The People vs. Larry Flynt” and not “Larry Flynt, the Portrait of a Hustler.”

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Perhaps Swicord can imagine that since the case of Hustler magazine and Larry C. Flynt vs. Jerry Falwell managed to reach the highest ruling body in this country’s judicial system, it could very well make for compelling drama that brims with social and political resonance. After all, how many times have we actually seen the inside of the U.S. Supreme Court? None that I can think of.

More important, however, is precisely the fact that Flynt is considered by most to be so repugnant and morally reprehensible. What do you do with someone like him? The nine individuals of the august court, whose sole job is to mete out justice, unanimously decided that they had no choice but to protect Flynt’s rights and tolerate his actions.

It’s unfortunate that Swicord has not found a place within herself for such tolerance, although she is most definitely a direct beneficiary of this decision.

“The People vs. Larry Flynt” is interesting drama because it is about the best and worst of America. It is about complex characters with interesting dilemmas. Do I need tell that to a screenwriter? Does she have the word “antihero” in her vocabulary?

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In closing, I might add that as a producer of “The Joy Luck Club,” which is considered by many to be a pioneering work in both its sensitivity to women and in opening doors to other movies with casts of multiple women such as [Swicord’s] “Little Women,” I find it particularly ironic to be challenging Swicord on this issue.

Although I have never met her, she knows well other women who were closely involved in the making of this movie, many of whom are considered to be, and consider themselves to be, ardent supporters of women’s rights. Why has she not come to us in person so that we can discuss her opinions, woman to woman? We would be happy to engage in a serious debate with her rather than simply read a sophomoric parodying of the movie.

Given the chance, we would express disappointment that a “friend” and fellow artist was not more appreciative of how difficult it is to get a film made, any film, and especially a thought-provoking one. In any case, she would find that all of us stand behind “The People vs. Larry Flynt” with every inch of our bodies and souls, and that might prove unsettling to her.


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