By Angela Abbamonte
The Oscar’s this year hailed “The King’s Speech” as best motion picture, but the award-winning historical story is being edited for audiences in the United States by neutering one of the pivotal scenes in which King George VI has a breakthrough in his speech impediment.
When I first heard about the movie I asked a trusted friend who had seen it if there was anything questionable involved — you can never be too careful with movies in this day in age — and her response shocked me a bit. She told me there was “bad” language in one scene in particular but she did not see it as offensive; it was mainly important and somewhat humorous.
To spare readers who have not seen the movie I will not go into how these words are used, but I will say I agree with her statement. At first I did not know how my upstanding friend could stand such a string of words, but in the context of the movie we both saw it as a technique rather than distasteful rhetoric.
All in all I found the movie historically insightful and well-done. I left the theater that night thinking about Colin Firth’s acting and the immense responsibility of portraying a king who had to overcome barriers in the beginning of his reign, not the curse words uttered in one or two scenes.
You can imagine my shock when I heard the movie was being edited for U.S. audiences in order to remove some of the profanities used in the vital scene.
I understand why someone with young children would want to see this movie and not have to explain those words, but the mere fact that this is the movie Hollywood has decided to edit seems strange to me.
The rating system is important to families and individuals alike, but I do not understand when a movie that uses profanity only in a historical, purposeful manner is given an “R” rating and movies with gratuitous sexual references and profanity just for the sake of profanity earn ratings of “PG-13.”
In an interview about the edits, Firth said he is normally careful about using vulgarity. His relationship with his children has influenced his professional life to make him sensitive to such things, but the language in “The King’s Speech” had a different tone than simple crudeness.
“I don’t take that stuff lightly,” Firth told reporters backstage at the Oscars. “But the context of this film could not be more edifying, more appropriate. It’s not vicious. It’s not to insult or it’s not in any of the contexts which might offend people, really. It’s about a man trying to free himself through the use of forbidden words, and he’s so coy about it.”
It seems to me Hollywood ought to look at purpose rather than numbers. The language in “The King’s Speech” is not the same as Melissa Leo’s profanity in her acceptance speech for best supporting actress.