In 1978, Larry Flynt, pornographer and publisher of Hustler Magazine, was shot during his legal battle in Georgia, facing obscenity charges.
He survived, but the attack left him paralyzed and decked out with a gold wheelchair. Flynt began a horrific descent into drugs, depression, paranoia, and most of all, anger. By 1983, he was doing significantly better, but he was vengeful at the moral majority mindset taking over the country with President Ronald Reagan at the helm. He felt these people were responsible for him being paralyzed, making the establishment his sworn enemy. His strategy to fight back was ahead of its time. He was provocative, outlandish, and did what he could to get a rise out of the far-right political establishment he saw as the enemy. He was trolling and this culminated to a run for President. This is all explored in the documentary “Larry Flynt for President.”
Directed by Nadia Szold, the film utilizes interviews and tons of archival footage to showcase Larry Flynt’s campaign, and it’s incredibly entertaining. It’s hilarious watching how far Larry Flynt goes to mock Republicans, but it’s also wild to see a time when trolling was used for good. The film paints a thorough picture of the mindset of the Reagan era and the evangelical moral majority that was taking over the country. Even with how divided America is today, I couldn’t help but think of how wild it must have been to see these evangelicals as genuinely popular, not just in a region, but the entire country. While today, trolling is associated with harassment and white nationalists, Larry Flynt’s trolling felt necessary; a genuine weapon against a larger power.
Larry Flynt’s campaign also felt like a primer for Americans to get accommodated to more performative candidates. His supporters and detractors got caught up in his attitude and spectacles, and one could make comparisons to Donald Trump’s grotesque presidential campaigns. Still, unlike Trump, Larry Flynt had a level of sincerity for issues he cared about beyond himself, namely free speech. His love and focus on the importance of free speech rings true throughout the doc and gives general audiences who aren’t as into pornography a point to invest in the story.
“Larry Flynt for President” was interesting and entertaining. It would make a great double feature with Oliver Stone’s The People vs. Larry Flynt, which features Flynt in a small cameo. People who have issues with pornography may find it challenging to invest in the film, but I think even they can empathize with Larry Flynt’s struggles. His flaws and passion are all on display, and I think even his professional detractors can understand the grander goals of Flynt’s campaign to challenge a dangerous cultural mindset. These people hurt Flynt, ruined his life, and he fought back. Behind the outlandish gimmicks, there is a sincerity to Flynt that makes his story worth watching.
Larry Flynt for President is available to rent through the Tribeca Film Festival via virtual cinema here until June 23rd