Many of you will have followed the controversy surrounding the film The King’s Speech, starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham-Carter. The Oscar-winning film is about a reluctant future king of England who speaks with a stutter, a major difficulty for someone whose main duty is speech-making. What is unusual about this ratings controversy is just how square the movie is.
In many Anglo countries where MPAA ratings are not the norm, the movie had a 12+ rating (appropriate for children age 12 and above). Canada gave a 13 rating. In the country where I reside, the movie was rated a mere PG, prompting me to go with my 15-year old son thinking the language had been censored before screening in our conservative country. However, that was not the case; the language was intact, but just deemed irrelevant to the ratings process here which mostly considers moral issues (not arbitrary things like smoking and profanity and not driving a Prius) in assigning restricted ratings. The offending language occurs in the movie when the otherwise uptight and repressed future king finally breaks through his own wall and utters a sequence of random profane words in a burst of frustration at the urging of his speech therapist. The irony is that I’ve heard much worse language standing in the average movie ticket line.
Hollywood can be very funny about their artistic integrity and not being willing to make changes to enable a wider audience to enjoy their work if they feel it will alter the vision of the director. Actor Colin Firth was opposed to the movie altering the scene which he considered to be the pivotal point in his character’s story arc: “I don’t support it. I think the film has integrity as it stands. I think that scene belongs where it is. I think it serves a purpose.” John Serba, a Michigan movie critic, said: “For the benefit of a teensy portion of the population, the artistic vision of director Tom Hooper is compromised …” Roger Ebert tweeted (ironically censoring himself), “Today is the last day you can see ‘The King’s Speech’ with the F word. F**k!”
Mormons too can be very funny about R-rated movies, sometimes letting the MPAA do our thinking for us. Now that I live in a country where there is no R-rating, there’s no readily available shortcut for assessing the appropriateness of a movie. TV shows like Glee and Gossip Girl carry a 16+ rating while the uncut King’s speech carries a PG. Some Mormons clearly do take the time to consider content, though. I’ve heard members mention two other R-rated films in either testimonies or talks during sacrament meeting: The Passion of the Christ and The Shawshank Redemption. Both these films are highly uplifting important films, the former achieving the R-rating for its accurately graphic portrayal of crucifixion, and the latter for language and prison violence. To put them in the same category with Saw V (a slasher film) and Party Animalzz (a gross out sex comedy about bestiality) seems pretty ridiculous.
OK, time for you the reader to weigh in on how you make decisions about which movies to see.
Discuss – and please, watch your language!