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After Oscar Win “The King’s Speech” Is About To Be Altered

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The King’s Speech was the toast of the evening at the 83rd Academy Awards this past Sunday, taking home the Oscar for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Original Screen Play. It’s also notable as being the very first R-rated movie to receive an A-grade from Parent Previews—albeit an A-minus grade due to the variety of expletives Colin Firth utters while depicting King George IV in a frustrating moment of speech therapy. In fact, it is those words used during these two short segments in the movie—specifically the sexual expletive politely known as the “f-word”—that has resulted in the R-rating being applied in the US.

“The real question is whether The King's Speech would have won Best Picture had it not been rated R?”

Yet now Harvey Weinstein, the movie’s executive producer, has created a version of the film that will shed its R-rating. He first discussed this idea in late January while taking note of how the movie was doing better at the British box office where—after an appeal—it was granted a 12A rating, meaning kids 12 and over can see the film and parents can bring children under 12 in with them. (I love the movie, but doubt many children will sit through a talky drama about a man overcoming a speech impairment.)

At this juncture, I can’t help but wonder why the profane language was included in the first place? Surely no one has a verified historical document detailing the exact words spoken by the king during private speech training sessions. Could it be that the creators and marketers of this film were eyeing the Academy’s recent penchant for awarding Oscars to R-rated movies?

There does appear to be a recent attitude in Oscarville that “serious” cinema must have an R-rating. One has to go back seven years to recall The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King as the last non R-rated movie to receive the Best Picture award. And if you want a PG rating, Driving Miss Daisy in 1989 was the most recent.

I truly enjoyed The King’s Speech and didn’t find the language to be as offensive within the context of this film when compared to hearing sexual expletives in many other movies. However, like most of you, I am weary of living in a world saturated with profanities and am especially tired of that so overused sexual expletive. Do artistic creators believe they are socializing on a grade school playground and that by using that word in generous quantities they will demonstrate their sophistication, maturity and provide shock value for those around them? Frankly any shock value from hearing that word faded decades ago. I am still hoping it will diminish from the landscape, like those navel bearing fashions a few years back.

But the real question is whether The King’s Speech would have won an Oscar had it not been rated R? Which means what we are really pondering is if an F-word can make the difference between “authentic art” or just another movie? And if that’s the case, it certainly represents that sad and sorry state of America’s most prestigious film awards.

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About the Reviewer: Rod Gustafson

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