Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why Does "The King's Speech" Have an R Rating?

Have you seen "The King's Speech" yet?  The small independent film is getting lots of awards and nominations--Colin Firth won a Golden Globe for best actor, the film earned 14 nominations by the BAFTA, the British equivilent of the Oscars.  Next week when the Oscar nominations are announced, I won't be surprised to see this wonderful film getting quite a few nominations.

"The King's Speech" is based on the true story of Prince Albert, who struggled with stuttering during his life, and is helped by speech therapist & actor Lionel Logue.  When his older brother Edward abdicates the throne so that he can marry divorcee Wallis Simpson, Albert becomes King George VI and is able to rise to the task of leading the nation during WWII in the age of radio and newsreels.

My husband and I saw the movie last weekend and we loved it; we found it beautifully made and acted.  Since I'm a confirmed Janeite, I was quick to spot a little interesting casting:  the wife of Lionel Logue is played by Jennifer Ehle, who was Lizzie Bennet opposite Colin Firth's Darcy in the BBC miniseries of "Pride & Prejudice" that made Firth a star back in the 1990s.

But we were completely perplexed as to why the film received an R rating from the Motion Picture Association of America.   There is one short scene in which the speech therapist encourages fluency by having the prince say swear words repeatedly.  Indeed, as the  Plugged In Online review reports, "The Weinstein Company sued the MPAA for assigning The King's Speech an R rating, ... 'While we respect the MPAA,' said owner Harvey Weinstein, 'I think we can all agree that we are living with an outdated ratings system that gives torture porn, horror and ultraviolent films the same rating as films with so-called inappropriate language.'"

I not only agree with that statement-- I would go farther.  More than a few PG-13 movies have all those elements and are much more inappropriate for younger viewers overall than any moment in this "R" film.  I'll be taking my 13-year-old daughter to see "The King's Speech" this weekend, and we wouldn't mind our younger children seeing it when it's on Netflix (though we might fast-forward through the one scene of swearing so as not to inspire any 7-year-old copycats, not that that's likely given the context).  I highly recommend it as enjoyably instructive about the WWII time period, with good things to say about friendship, family and doing the right thing, not just through those who do the right thing, but through those who don't, like King Edward VIII.  Peggy Noonan has an excellent column describing some of the good elements about the film and people acting like grown-ups.

I'm so perplexed and angered by this rating for "The King's Speech" that I want to open a discussion:  why do films get the ratings they do?  How do you screen movies for your family?   What do you think about the movie rating system, and would you propose anything different?

Our favorite site for this is Plugged In Online--they review all sorts of media, not just films.  The reviews are exhaustive in content, so we know what to expect, but also considered is artistic quality and age-appropriateness.  The reviews even warn about plot spoilers so you don't have to read ahead if you don't want to.

Finally, the website for "The King's Speech" has an excellent trailer that tells the story of the film, that I can't seem to embed here, and a link to the actual speech given by King George VI, that I can:

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