March 29, 2011
Almost Family Film Blogging: The King's Speech
Posted by Christine Hurt

So, this may take some explanation.  I took my two oldest children, seventh grade and third grade, to see The King's Speech.  What is somewhat odd about this is that we are fierce monitors of our children's media exposure -- TV, film, music, internet, etc.  But we've always felt that external ratings are barely prima facie evidence of what is suitable.  We have a strange but consistent set of criteria on what makes things off-limits.  Our TV "parental controls" wants to lock out Top Gear but let through Suite Life of Zach and Cody.  We disagree.  So, though The King's Speech was Rated "R," I canvassed many people and various websites to see if it might be suitable.  If you've seen the film, you know that its rating is earned primarily because of out-of-context curses spewed forth during speech therapy (and of course, words that are curse words in England, but oddly not here).  We had a brief conversation about how of course we don't use these words and that my taking them to see the movie was not any evidence that I approved of these words, etc., and off we went.

What a movie!  I am so glad that I was able to see it and that I could share it with them.  My third grader, the history buff, was literally on the edge of his seat the whole time.  Of course, they were also fascinated that both Dumbledore and Bellatrix LeStrange were in it!  (Carter:  "But she usually plays really bizarre characters!"  Me:  "Oh, no, dear.  She first made a career of playing sweet English girls.")

To sum up, Bertie (soon-to-be George VI) stammers, presumably because of a particularly harsh childhood and various family-of-origin issues.  As radio is becoming ubiquitous, it seems clear that any public figure will need to be a competent public speaker, particularly political figures.  Lionel Logue is hired to be his speech therapist, though his techniques are unorthodox and controversial.  The movie is historical, but it's really a buddy movie, with Bertie and Lionel establishing a friendship of equals. 

So, a few interesting conversation starters:  First, as a child I formed an opinion that King Edward's abdication of the throne from Wallis Simpson was quite romantic and selfless.  This seems to be a quite Americanized interpretation.  In the movie, Edward VIII (David) seems supremely selfish, abandoning his family and his country at the brink of wartime, all for a seemingly juvenile infatuation with a married woman, leaving his brother, who is at this point incapable of speaking in public, to pick up the pieces and assume the throne.  Bad form.  Second, I also wondered why no one suggested that someone else "be the voice" of Bertie.  There were many who suggested that King Edward secretly keep Simpson as a mistress, so it's not like subterfuge was below these power brokers.  I would think in that era that very few knew what the monarchs actually sounded like, and at the end Bertie broadcasts his speech from a private room.  Remember, President Roosevelt was keeping a pretty big secret from the public at the same time with little trouble.  And lastly, why didn't Bertie just wear headphones with music playing during his broadcast, if that seemed to cure the stammer?

In sum, it was a great movie.  And, on the way home, we had a fascinating conversation about the role of a monarchy in a modern democratic society and the history of the Windsors.  Much better than The Suite Life of Zach and Cody.


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