Film Scouts Diaries

1997 Berlin Film Festival Diaries
Report #1 (February 14)

by Marcia Pally

Berlin, February 14, 1997

One thing I like about being in Germany is that authorities here know what to censor. In the U.S., as one will see in tomorrow's "The People vs. Larry Flynt," government restricts pictures of sex because folks won't do it if they don't see it - a fact surely proved by the 1/3 of out-of-wedlock births in colonial America. The second idea is that violence won't be done to women if folks don't see violence against women, a fact surely proved by the global absence of rape prior to tv. By contrast, the German government restricts nasty political ideas, as one saw in the charges against PDS member Angela Marquardt for sneaking the banned "Radikal" onto the Internet. The magazine included information on sabotaging trains, and I agree with the government here. Folks do not get rebellious ideas on their own, as the biographies of Jesus, Luther, Danton and Darwin attest. I wonder only why "Radikal" chose to target trains and not the apparatus government uses to survey the Internet. Sabotaging trains in 1997 is like trying to be a pornographer by showing ladies' ankles.

The charges against Larry Flynt also pertained to political speech, and I agree with the censors here, as well. Flynt published a scatalogical satirical cartoon of fundamentalist leader Jerry Falwell, and I know that no one in America had nasty thoughts about him without reading them in "Hustler" first. I certainly never did. Other complaints against Flynt re-emerged with release of the film. Some protested that the movie "valorized" a sleazebag thug by highlighting his one noble moment defending free speech. The protesters are right: all people who do good things should be intelligent, have good taste and be cute, too. America never valorizes bad guys. The men who made millions sending immigrants in chain gangs to build the railroads or who worked children in mines and sweatshops, these men who might have--perhaps- -harmed more people than Flynt's photos, the Carnegies, Fricks and Rockefellers are not valorized in America. In the U.S., only the good get rich and famous, and "Larry Flynt" is evil for saying otherwise.

Still others protested that the mine-and- sweatshop owners did not harm more people than Flynt whose photos, they say, cause men to rape women. In a piece in The New York Times, feminist leader Gloria Steinem wrote about the pool hall rape that occurred shortly after Flynt ran a picture of a pool hall rape, and she likened Flynt to Hitler. I am with her, too. The Nazis took pictures of the crimes they caused, and it is these pictures we should focus on, not the strains in German society that produced the Third Reich. For if we examine the underlying causes of crimes against Jews that might suggest we examine the underlying causes of crimes against women. And that would be a lot of work, and we'd have to change a lot of things. Better to focus on the pictures. Though as a Jew, I must say one thing: I'm glad Steinem didn't make a career of Holocaust studies.

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