It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"This is it?" the Cincinnati printer asks dubiously, looking at the page proofs for the newsletter Larry Flynt wants him to print. "You've got to have text--like Playboy." Flynt is unyielding. He is interested in gynecological detail, not redeeming social merit. Soon his newsletter has blossomed into Hustler magazine, although not without difficulties (one editorial conference is devoted to a discussion of why the number of a magazine's pages must be divisible by two).
If you believe that Hustler is pornographic and in bad taste, you will not get an argument from Flynt. Flaunting the magazine's raunchiness, he became a millionaire while printing cartoons such as the one in which "Dorothy has a foursome with the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow--oh, and Toto." Emboldened by his success, Flynt grew more outrageous, until finally one of his parody ads inspired a $40 million lawsuit from the Rev. Jerry Falwell.
Was Falwell right to be offended? He certainly was; the parody of a Smirnoff ad was in outrageously bad taste. Did Flynt have a right to print the parody? The Supreme Court eventually decided that he did. No one in their right mind could believe that what the ad said was true (as Falwell himself admitted from the witness stand), and the right of free speech includes the right to offend.
The Supreme Court's ruling in the Hustler case came under attack at the time, but consider this: If Falwell had won his suit against Flynt, this newspaper would be fundamentally different. The editorial cartoons could not make fun of public officials. The op-ed columns could not risk offending. The lawyers might have questioned a recent review in which I said a film should be cut up into ukulele picks; after all, that might have hurt the director's feelings. And Falwell himself might not have been able to broadcast his sermons, because they might have offended atheists (or you, or me).