An R Movie For the Whole Family - The King's Speech
In 1980 I asked my father to take me to see the movie “Alien” for reasons that now escape me. Apparently I hadn’t been sufficiently scarred from viewing The Exorcist (on TV no less, but no less horrifying). Asking my father was a cunning ploy, for he’d moved out the year prior and I thought he might be up for overruling my mother’s wishes. Seeing “Alien” could be a little secret among us men; mom would never have to know. Turns out I was wrong. After initially giving a “sure, we do that,” I reintroduced the topic a few weeks later only to be told that because it was rated R, “Alien” was off the table. A year later, my mother took me to see my first R-rated film, “Ordinary People,” which was no ordinary movie, but was certainly appropriate for a 12 year old despite the rating.
I recently followed my mother’s example by taking my entire family to see “The King’s Speech,” including my almost-nine-year old son and two thirteen year-old daughters. I’d already read the opinions of several movie critics who blasted the Motion Picture Association of America for rating “The King’s Speech” the same as “Hostel” and “Saw 3D” due to a string of profanities used not in a spiteful or sexual way, but as a tool to help overcome a stutter that had plagued England’s King George VI since childhood.
The criticisms aimed at the MPAA are entirely justified, and the organization should be dismantled not so much for its most recent blunder, but for its decades-long condoning of violence and torture while demonizing the unclothed human body and the occasional F-bomb. Talk about having one’s priorities completely backward.
Luckily, I have the final say in choosing what’s appropriate for my children and what isn’t, and the Internet is an especially helpful tool in this regard. After reading a parent review on-line, I knew that “The King’s Speech” was going to be fine. All my children have heard the F-word, but never in a more innocuous manner than that of Colin Firth’s King George VI. They’ve been exposed to much worse on their daily bus rides to school.
The movie definitely tested my children’s patience, particular my son’s. “The King’s Speech” is a slow-moving, methodical portrayal of the royal family’s precarious pre-war years, and there’s as much silence in the movie as dialogue. Regardless, I’m all for testing children’s patience, especially for such a well-done fictionalized version of real events. The day after viewing the film, my children and I went on youtube to listen to the real speech made by King George VI on September 3, 1939. Anytime a film inspires inquiries of history, it’s hard to deem it anything other than an unqualified success.
I suspect that just as I recall seeing my first R movie, my children will remember theirs. And just as “Ordinary People” upset the critical favorite “Raging Bull” for best picture of 1980, “The King’s Speech” could do the same to my favorite film of 2010, “The Social Network.” It wouldn’t be undeserving.