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Counterpunch

Let 'Lolita's' Adult Viewers See, Judge for Themselves

August 10, 1998|JERRY OFFSAY | Jerry Offsay is president of programming for Showtime Networks Inc

While I respect his point of view, Paul Maurer's call for the suppression of the remake of "Lolita" does a disservice to the cherished right of artistic expression in this country as embodied in the 1st Amendment ("New 'Lolita' Does Terrible Disservice to Nabokov--and to Our Children," Counterpunch, Aug. 3).

As programmers of a premium television network, we at Showtime have championed the expression of a variety of different points of view on important issues and thus we chose to telecast "Lolita."

We disagree with Maurer's conclusion that the film "strays wildly" from the novel. In fact, Vladimir Nabokov's son, Dimitri, has praised the film and stated in the London Daily Telegraph how "remarkably close in spirit to the book" it is. Dimitri also notes, "It's so much more satisfying than Kubrick's film, which disappointed my father. [Director Adrian] Lyne and [screenwriter] Stephen Schiff have gone back to the book and got things right."

While the film (like the novel) contains controversial subject matter, it in no way glorifies or condones sexual obsession with children. On the contrary, rather than "inspire" potential predators of young girls, the film clearly shows the path to destruction that results from such behavior.

As with our telecasts of Anjelica Huston's "Bastard Out of Carolina" and the recently Emmy-nominated "Armistead Maupin's More Tales of the City," we feel that it is one of our primary missions to air subject matter that is difficult and at times controversial, because it is only by airing and discussing these issues that a fuller examination and understanding of the ways to solve societal problems such as physical and sexual child abuse can occur.

In addition, we at Showtime have long taken great pains to schedule such subject matter responsibly. As with our initial telecast of "Lolita," future telecasts will not air before 9 p.m. and will be accompanied by proper advisories warning viewers who have invited us into their homes of its mature content and subject matter. Also, viewers will continue to be notified that the film received an R rating from the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

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Finally, we could not be more firm in our disagreement with Maurer that Lyne has irresponsibly portrayed Humbert as passive victim and Lolita as an aggressive participant. We regret that Maurer interprets the film this way, but it is not what we or the vast majority of critics around the country feel about the portrayal of this tragic story, movingly told.

For example, the Los Angeles Times' own Kenneth Turan noted, " 'Lolita' seems hardly likely to have caused so much trouble." Matt Roush's TV Guide review asked, "What were [U.S. movie distributors] afraid of?" and Time magazine's Richard Schickel said, "It should be said, flat out, that Lyne's 'Lolita' is not a movie we need to be protected from."

We take our responsibility to our viewers very seriously and know that providing them with a chance to see "Lolita" has generated serious and constructive discussions about the issues the film raises. In this regard, we certainly welcome Maurer's contribution to this robust dialogue and we respect his right to voice his opinion, as we equally respect the right of adults to view and make their own determination about this film.

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