Watching for Something Good

Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here’s this week’s about the movie The King’s Speech.

Last Tuesday at 5:30 I lined up with my family for movie tickets. We thought it would be a safe time to venture out; sure it was a Tuesday, but who sees a movie over the dinner hour? A lot of people, it seems, when that particular movie is The King’s Speech. By the time we made it to the front of the line, it was sold out.

Sunday afternoon we decided to try again—and barely found five seats together. More people were going to see a movie about a king who stammered than all the people in the other theatres combined. And The King’s Speech brought out movie goers of all ages. My teens and my mother came with us. Do you know how rare it is to get my mother into a movie theatre?

She’ll go only for the extraordinary, and this movie fit the bill, and not just because of Colin Firth (how can you go wrong with Colin Firth?). All the characters were magical, believable, endearing, and deep.

But the characters they played were also all very good people.

When’s the last time you saw a movie that centred around finding inner strength to do one’s duty and love one’s family, even at great personal cost? Such things are hardly sexy, especially when no car chases are involved.

Most of today’s entertainment revolves around selfish people attempting to have as much fun as they can at everybody else’s expense. King George VI, though, was not selfish. He simply stuttered. Yet as history thrust the new king into the limelight, he needed to find a voice. In a time of great national peril, Britain needed someone to speak for them and rally them; King George VI, whether he liked it or not, needed to be that person.

And so we see a man doing his duty, even when every bone in his body wants to run. Throughout the film, people did the noble thing, the hard thing, the courageous thing. The movie leaves you feeling as if you have not just touched history, but have touched something profoundly good.

And the movie has raked in huge gobs of money.

Will Hollywood connect the dots and see that perhaps those two things are related?

Do you remember My Big, Fat Greek Wedding? It cost something like $5,000,000 to make, and it took in $250,000,000. The King’s Speech cost $15,000,000, and it made three times that in the U.S. alone in its first few weeks of release.

Why doesn’t Hollywood make more “good” movies?

After a recent trek through the new releases at Blockbuster Video, I left empty-handed, feeling like I needed a bath. Most movies today are disgusting. One school of thought says that eventually Hollywood will wise up, because money talks. I used to believe that. I’m no longer so sure. I figure most people in the movie studios are so profoundly messed up they wouldn’t recognize good if it bit them on their very expensive surgically-altered noses. I was flipping through a star magazine recently, and page after page was about who had just gotten divorced, who was having a baby through a surrogate, and which male senior citizen’s young wife was now pregnant. They think dysfunction, affairs, selfishness, and self-absorption are normal. A story that highlights duty, honour, and commitment thus won’t resonate when their own lives are so ugly.

The best line of the movie occurs when the speech therapist says to his startled wife, “I don’t believe you’ve met King George VI?”. To the rest of Hollywood, I’d echo the sentiment: “I don’t believe you’ve met this honourable man.” And perhaps it’s time you did.

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UPDATE: The King’s Speech does have swearing in it, though, so keep it for kids 13 and up. Read the comments to see my take on that!

Comments

  1. >The King's Speech does look interesting! Very, very interesting. But neither my family nor I will be watching it. It is rated 'R'…full of profanities. Focus on the Family records, "Close to 20 each of f- and s-words. Christ's name is abused twice, and God's is misused at least once. The British crudity "bloody" is used more than a dozen times. Another British profanity, "b-gger," is used about 10. There's a handful each of the words "d??n," "b??tard," "a??" and "h???." Crude slang is used for sexual anatomy ("t-ts," "pr–k," "balls" and "willie")."
    It's interesting that a few days ago, Sheila, you were horrified at the sex scene in the Agatha Christie movie you watched with your daughters, but today, you are singing the praises of The King's Profanities. I'm not sure that the 'great film' excuses the not so great language. While I would love to see the movie for it's historical significance, and for Colin Firth (of course!), I need to remember that sex scenes and R-rated-for-language videos do not fit in my "whatever is pure…think on these things" filter. (Phil 4).

  2. >Katie,

    Thanks for your comment. I do appreciate it.

    This was, of course, a column, and as such, I only have 600 words. If I were to write it as a blog post, I would have commented on the profanity.

    My kids were 13 and 16, and they've heard the words before, so I'm not that upset about it in the way that it was used in this movie. It wasn't gratuitous; it was an integral part of the plot. Basically, the king doesn't stutter when he swears, because he normally doesn't swear. He doesn't stutter when he does things out of the ordinary. So on two occasions in the movie, the king says a string of swear words, which honestly aren't anything that today's teens haven't heard.

    He isn't swearing because he's actually upset about something; he isn't swearing to curse anyone; he's swearing to get over a stutter, and it isn't something that he does in normal everyday language. I didn't think it glorified swearing at all.

    Honestly, I wouldn't take a child to see it who is under 12 who couldn't understand the difference. But it is such a great story about duty, and honour, and dignity, and family, and I would hate to see a teen miss out on seeing a wonderful movie just because there are a few swear words that they have already heard (my kids hear worse than that at Christmas dinner with extended family).

    On the other hand, a graphic scene of two people having sex is in an entirely different category for me. My kids have not seen that, and should not see that.

    Should kids swear? No. But if we're honest, we all hear the words, and occasionally think them. I don't think the really bad ones, but I have to admit an occasional swear word enters my brain a bit. I think to rule out a movie entirely just because of two scenes where he swears–and says words that we've all heard–is too much.

    They included those words in the movie because they were an integral part of the plot; they weren't gratuitous. If it was an extra character saying them for fun, that would be different. But it was said in the context of him trying to practice a speech, and it was the only thing that could stop the stuttering.

    Does that mean I approve of swearing? No. But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater on this one. History is sometimes messy; this king's life was very messy. But it's also real life. And including it here isn't really bad.

    Including a graphic sex scene, on the other hand, would be. Do you not see the difference between kids witnessing a sex scene of an act they haven't seen, and could conceivably grow to be 18 without having witnessed in any form, and hearing swear words which they hear in youth group, in high school, and even by extended family members?

    I do see a huge difference. And this was a great movie. In Canada, it's not even R. It's PG, because our raters didn't even think it warranted the more mature AA rating, despite the swearing, because of the context of the swearing.

    So that's my two cents.

  3. >I'd also say, incidentally, that it's a great historical movie for those who homeschool teens. Just warn them that there's swearing in two scenes, talk about why it's not appropriate, and then watch it anyway.

    As an aside, I've read on the web that the "swearing helps with stuttering" only for people who DON'T normally swear. In other words, if you normally swore a blue streak, it wouldn't work. So the fact that it worked for the king means that he didn't normally swear. That's important to keep in mind!

  4. Herding Grasshoppers says:

    >Hearing both sides of this… I'd go see it in a heartbeat. Totally different than a very visual sex scene. And you're right about the context making a difference, vs. just inserting a lot of profanity to be "cool". ACK.

    We've let our kids (at a very young age) watch Apollo 13, which has a bit of profanity (as well as a fairly obvious indication that two characters had been having sex, but now shown) because we felt that the positive message it showed – the way everyone worked together to solve the problems and get the astronauts safely home – overcame its pitfalls.

    Thanks for the recommendation.

    Julie

    PS Though this may not be a good one to watch with captions ;D

  5. trish adams says:

    >This was my favorite post thus far!!
    Very good, very good!! I'm going to post on my FB wall!

  6. >Sheila — saw this movie with my husband a couple nights ago (not even a line-up! gotta love small towns) and LOVED it. I hadn't heard anything about it before-hand, but I thought it was beautiful — the morals, yes, and also the acting, the cinematography, everything. I wasn't bothered by the swearing as you said, because of the context (not sprinkled randomly throughout the film, but specifically in his speech lessons). Lovely! As you say, there aren't many worth watching these days, but this one definitely is!

  7. >Thanks for the feedback. :) Point taken about the fact that you are writing a column, not a blog. It's also worthwhile for me to note that the swearing IS in two scenes, not sprinkled throughout. And yes, it IS different than teens seeing a sex scene…something they haven't seen before.

    But I will say, that because they've 'heard it all' anyway is still not okay with me. I've seen a lot of sex scenes (albeit in my own bedroom!:)), but we still do not watch movies that show sex scenes. (Even if they ARE married – the actors sure aren't!) My husband and I are of the mind that we can find entertainment elsewhere; missing The King's Speech, Apollo 13 and scores of other movies is not going to deprive us or our children.

    (As an aside…the 'f' word? Really? I'm sure it wasn't even invented in George's time. )

    It's a slippery slope. The next time a movie comes out it'll be, "But Mom, you let us watch THAT movie, and it had swearing in it!" Instead of being on the defensive, we'd rather put our efforts into reading a good book, playing a board game, having friends over, or finding movies that won't have us putting a disclaimer out there first.

    As for ratings, I always go with the US ones because they are more conservative. And if the Hollywood film-makers and raters, who are not at all concerned with things of the Lord, will rate something 'R', I determine that I have no place anywhere near it.

    Of course, as parents we are all responsible to the Lord for our own family entertainment choices. You for yours, me for mine. I'm not wanting to sound judgmental, because I'm not, but just wanting to put forth my own thinking. Thank the Lord for freedoms to not live 'under the law.' Such is grace, isn't it?

  8. >Katie,

    Thanks for chiming back in! We don't watch sex scenes either for the same reason: I don't like the thought that non-married people have to act them.

    I've decided to answer this one in a longer post next week, but I will say that the F word has been around for quite a long time! D.H. Lawrence popularized it far before King George VI was taking speech lessons :).

    One more thing: my girls have never, ever said, "well, since we watched that movie, can't we watch this one?". Never. They know that if it's a good movie, we'll suggest it to them. And they're so scared of seeing something inappropriate, they don't ask to see stuff. Their default is, if Mom says it's fine, that's great, but they don't ask to see anything, because we have great communication, and we do let them watch a lot that we think are okay. They haven't seen most movies their friends have because I think a lot of sex scenes are wrong, but if I think a movie has a really good moral, and tells a really good story, but has one or two scenes that are just too mature for them, then I'll watch the movie and fast forward or skip that scene.

    But they've never asked to see something based on what a friend said, or because "well, you let us watch this one, so how about that one?" They just trust us.

  9. >This is why I love my TV Guardian! I'll wait for this to come out on video, and all the swear words will be taken out:) I was also a huge fan of edited videos before they became illegal…what's wrong with purchasing a video and having someone edit the trash out of it? Anyway, I LOVE plugged in online, I always use this before I seen any videos.

  10. >Michelle,

    That is a great service! That would stop so many problems, because sometimes there's a movie I really want the girls to see, but there's that one scene! That would have solved the problem with that Agatha Christie movie, too.

  11. The Happy Domestic says:

    >The ClearPlay DVD player is a great option for just that kind of editing, if you're interested. Check out http://www.clearplay.com – and no, I am not affiliated with them in any way. ;)

    By the way, as an English major, let me point out that Sheila is entirely correct: The "F word" has been around since antiquity – appearing several times in Chaucer's infamous Canterbury Tales (which is appallingly presented as a classic of English Literature) WAY back in the 1300s. And, it's not a profanity, it's merely an obscenity.

  12. I was looking for the ability to watch movies without having to worry about language or a questionable scene coming up, but just want to sit back and enjoy a movie stress free with my kids in the room. But I need some information about ClearPlay DVD-

    How many prices need to buy this product? and How does it work? Suppose,If I want to skip a scene from 1:10:21 to 1:12:26 in a movie, how I can do it. Thank you for the sharing, I think from now we can enjoy a movie with family members at home without tension regarding upcoming any uncomfortable scene.

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  1. […] much swearing do you put up with before you switch the movie off?” And in the comments to my column last week about The King’s Speech, that was one of the major topics for debate! So I thought I’d try to explain my […]

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