King Is a Four Letter Word: Rating The King's Speech

BlogHer Original Post

The King’s Speech is my total movie crush this Awards Season. I think everyone should see it (seriously, go right now), but an R rating narrowed its audience. Not sex, not violence, simply words -- four letter ones -- deemed this inappropriate for young audiences. It’s been suggested that the filmmakers release an edited version to get a PG-13 rating. Could it make the filmmakers more money? Absolutely. But should the film have been R-rated to begin with?

The King's Speech, courtesy the Weinstein Company

Twice this season, The Weinstein Company (TWC) has faced ratings issues with the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America). TWC fought for, and won, an R rating for Blue Valentine, originally given the NC-17 kiss of death (no TV ads, few in print, and limited release). The film’s sexual content isn’t for kids, and neither is the film’s plotline about the complexities of a faltering marriage. But how is that on par with a man shouting obscenities in a moment of utter fear and exasperation? One-size-fits-all ratings just don’t make any sense.

Your average 8-yearold has heard the f-word. But she hasn’t witnessed the atrocities of war. And yet, they’re both stamped with that great big R when the green screen comes up at the beginning of a movie trailer. There has to be a happy medium between this and the Hays Code.

Drama is often defined as ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances, and while King George VI (Colin Firth) was hardly ordinary, the path his life took was entirely unexpected and inspiring. A lifelong stammer made public speaking torture, and he spent much of his life trying to remain outside the spotlight, which wasn’t too hard given that he was the second son (second sons being the chopped liver of the aristocracy). When his brother chose love over the crown, George realized his would be the next voice of the British Empire, and an unorthodox speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush) changed his life forever.

In one particular scene, HRH does a fair amount of swearing, reminiscent of Steve Martin in Planes, Trains and Automobiles (though more refined with the accent). It’s poignant, not obscene. But it’s why a 16 year old can’t see The King’s Speech without a parent or guardian. Which is sad. Because this isn't a film we should be keeping our kids from seeing. In fact, the King’s story has the potential to change lives for the better. To offer hope that, even with a stutter, one’s voice can be powerful. Like it did for David Seidler. The film’s screenwriter.

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