Released over here next week, The People vs Larry Flynt is directed by Czech film-maker Milos Forman, whose sympathetic approach whitewashes Flynt's sexual history (boyhood experiences buggering chickens, succeeded by an orgiastic adulthood) and the gritty details of the skin trade, for those twin staples of multiplex cinema: romance and courtroom drama. A traditional narrative is plotted along the twin strands of Flynt's devotion to his stripper wife, Althea, and his battles for free speech.
Rather than a true transgressive, the figure that emerges is an anti- hero of the First Amendment, a man whose retailing of explicit porn is regarded in the same indulgent light as the febrile tastelessness he exhibited in fashion and interior decor. Which is not to say that the film is not good or enjoyable, simply that its most striking achievement is as an exercise in cultural assimilation. Flynt, a dangerous and possibly insane pornographer, becomes that most homely of cinematic heroes - "the colourful character".
So who can blame America's notorious shock jock Howard Stern for taking the Hollywood revisionism one step further? Loathed by many for broadcasting racist and sexist gags, Stern still hit the top of the US box office last month with the release of his autobiographical Private Parts.
Not yet scheduled for release over here, the film charts the DJ's life from downtrodden Jewish son ("Shaddup, sit down, you're a mor-ron") to loser lover, to misunderstood celebrity. Following the eminently conservative rites of passage from humiliation to triumph, the movie bangs home a simple message: inside, Stern's a geek who just wants to be loved. As vanity projects go it seems rather endearing that a man who's made a multi-million dollar career from broadcasting the preoccupations of the average pubescent onanist should be so anxious for approval that he's prepared to star in an apologia for his own life. But then, that's what we're supposed to think isn't it? God Bless free speech and the mainstreaming of American perversity.