In Contention


‘King’s Speech’ told to mind its language

Posted by Guy Lodge · 6:33 pm · October 19th, 2010

Admittedly, this isn’t much of a story, but following last week’s furore over the NC-17 certificate handed to the starkly adult marital drama “Blue Valentine,” it’s amusing to see a rather more milquetoast Oscar hopeful having its own trouble with the ratings board.

London’s Evening Standard paper reports that “The King’s Speech,” already rated R by the MPAA, has been given a 15 rating (permitting no viewers under that age) by the British censors — not a severe rating, but more restrictive than one might expect for a polite period biopic revolving around speech therapy.

The reason for the adult rating is the same on both sides of the Atlantic: a short comic scene where Colin Firth’s stuttering King George VI is required to say “fuck” 42 times in quick succession as part of a therapeutic exercise. To be frank, 14 year-olds were unlikely to be queueing around the block to see “The King’s Speech” in the first place, but that’s not really the point: R or 15 ratings could wrongfoot mild-mannered mature viewers who otherwise sit squarely in the film’s sights.

But hey, “Atonement” received the same treatment, having built an entire plot on a single four-letter word even more contentious than “fuck” (if you need reminding, it began with a “c”), yet still managed tidy bluehair business and a wad of Oscar nods. It’s only words, as the Bee Gees once told us. All the same, it’d be fun to watch Harvey Weinstein make a cause célèbre out of this one too. The mileage to be got out of Firth’s “I have a voice!” clip is surely limitless.

[Photo: The Weinstein Company]




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→ 28 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Daily

28 responses so far

  • 1 10-19-2010 at 8:07 pm

    Speaking English said...

    I don’t know, I can imagine a 14-year-old me being really excited to see this. Then again, I acknowledge that’s not the case for MOST kids that age. ;)

  • 2 10-19-2010 at 8:20 pm

    The Dude said...

    The scene in question sounds hilarious.

  • 3 10-19-2010 at 8:33 pm

    Matthew Starr said...

    I concur with The Dude.

  • 4 10-19-2010 at 8:57 pm

    red_wine said...

    Color me unaware but was the word “fuck” around in the 20′s and 30′s?

    I must say I find giving a film an adult rating based on “fuck” a bit absurd. Most teenagers use it more often than even adults these days.

  • 5 10-19-2010 at 9:32 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Yes, the word “fuck” has been around since the late 1400s.

  • 6 10-19-2010 at 9:41 pm

    Zack said...

    Makes me think of “Deadwood” for some reason. “Did they speak that way then?”

  • 7 10-19-2010 at 9:59 pm

    red_wine said...

    Oh don’t trust these TV shows at all. Its the current fashion to have period pieces use contemporary language and profanity. I guess the point is to simply show they swore back then, characters shouting “damn” now would hardly give the impression that they are swearing, hence they go with “fuck”.

  • 8 10-19-2010 at 10:32 pm

    matsunaga said...

    Well it has proven that these vulgar words does not define these quality and vulgar films… It just make them more realistic..

  • 9 10-20-2010 at 4:58 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    I doubt the words “fuck” and “c*nt” are all people have to take someone’s heart away.

  • 10 10-20-2010 at 5:54 am

    Joe said...

    Is the scene in question the only objectionable moment in the entire film? And how long is it, really? It sounds appealable; I’m kind of surprised they’re leaving it at R. (At least “Atonement” had the sex and the war stuff.)
    I’m kind of fascinated by movie ratings. Could you guys give them a mention on the next podcast? Specifically, any word on what ratings “True Grit” and “The Fighter” will get?

  • 11 10-20-2010 at 7:31 am

    Ella said...

    I think it’s interesting (and clever) of The Social Network producers that they made a film about 2004 youth that avoids use of the word fuck. Completely unrealistic, but very smart from a marketing standpoint. They knew they wanted the PG-13 and with it the widest possible audience.

  • 12 10-20-2010 at 8:12 am

    JuJu Boy said...

    Oh for fuck sakes MPAA! Get a life!

    That scene therapy scene where he says the word “fuck” 42 times is probably one of the funniest scenes in the entire film.

  • 13 10-20-2010 at 8:19 am

    Ben M. said...

    The Social Network was actually fairly clearly edited down to a PG-13 as there is some pretty poor dubbing of lines (“Gut the friggin nerd” is an obvious example) to allow only two “F” words remaining in the final cut. I’ve heard The Figther will be R, while I don’t know about True Grit.

    I can understand the more restrictive rating when the film has a ton of “F” words, but it does seem silly when films such as Frost/Nixon or Monsters get an R for at most five “F” words. Sadly if anything the MPAA seems to have gotten tougher on language over the years, look at All The President’s Men getting an PG with at least 10 “F” words (albeit on appeal and before there was an PG-13) or Eight Men Out having an “F” word and still getting a PG in the early years of the PG-13 rating.

  • 14 10-20-2010 at 8:25 am

    Everett said...

    I can’t fucking believe this fucking stupid fucking decision. It’s so fucking unnecessary to fucking give a fucking movie a fucking R rating for fucking saying the fucking word “fuck” a handful of fucking times. For fuck’s sake, who gives a fucking fuck if a bunch of fucking British fucks want to fuck around and fucking say fuck?

  • 15 10-20-2010 at 11:49 am

    red_wine said...

    It should be subjective. The way it is so objective baffles me. Like 2 fucks – PG 13, 3 or more fucks – R. What a difference one fuck can make to the breadth of your audience! But does it really affect a child all that much whether he hears 2 fucks or 5 fucks.

    About Frost/Nixon, I believe they went the Gosford Park way, that is, film-makers insert more than 2 fucks in an adult movie with otherwise no objectionable content to get an R rating in order to project it as an adult film and discourage parents from bringing children along.

  • 16 10-20-2010 at 1:15 pm

    Andrew M said...

    What has always baffled me is “There Will Be Blood” getting an R. I understand it is a very mature movie, and it would feel weird with a PG-13. I don’t remember that much swearing, the violence wasn’t that graphic (the most graphic was the last scene), and there wasn’t any sex. It was very intense, and maybe, like red_wine said, the studio wanted it R.

  • 17 10-20-2010 at 1:36 pm

    m1 said...

    14-First of all, nice. And second of all, take a chill pill.

  • 18 10-20-2010 at 2:12 pm

    Ripley said...

    Pretty amazing that a historical drama like this gets an R while such violence filled crap gets PG-13. If the scene is historic, then fine – otherwise maybe a poor choice by the screen-writers and producers for a wider audience, even if it is a funny scene.

  • 19 10-20-2010 at 6:59 pm

    m1 said...

    18-Oh yes, if a film is HISTORIC, it should get a free pass no matter what the content. What a wise way to give a film an MPAA rating…NOT!!!

    As we’ve learned from Juno, An Education, Easy A, and Vicky Cristina Barcelona, if you’re implying mature comedic themes with slight (or heavy) humor, you’re bound to get a PG-13.

  • 20 10-21-2010 at 7:32 am

    Ben M. said...

    Look at the BBFC website, King’s Speech was just appealed down to a 12A there, though knowing the MPAA I imagine the R rating will stick here. And Guy is right, my parents, who are in their late 60′s, certainly prefer PG-13 films (not to say they won’t see R films, particularly if the rating is just for language, but they are put off by films with a lot of violence or sex).

  • 21 10-21-2010 at 11:58 am

    Alex Owens said...

    I saw this at TIFF and thought it was awesome. Totally deserves a shot at the Oscars!

  • 22 12-30-2010 at 7:48 pm

    KG said...

    Hey, I agree with Speaking English. I’m 13 and I was taught how to cus at age 5. I grow up with alot of wanna be gangsters, I hear this all the time at school. It’s no big deal, for me.

  • 23 1-05-2011 at 7:04 pm

    John O said...

    Totally FUCKING absurd!

  • 24 1-10-2011 at 4:09 pm

    Hunter O said...

    Me and my friend did just go see this (we are 14 and 15). And I am blown away that this movie is rated R. Especially since its uses the words completely out of context. Do they really think a 14 year old can’t handle a few meaningless F-Bombs?

    It’s absurd to think how out of touch the MPAA is with youth. Do they not think we hear “fuck” at least five times a day?

  • 25 1-14-2011 at 5:03 am

    JoMamma said...

    I am 13, and I really want to see this movie, but the only theatere they’re showinh it at near me is after 7, so I can’t go. Does anyone know if I can still get in after 7 with someone 17 and up? Please help!

  • 26 1-18-2011 at 8:45 am

    Emelem said...

    I’m no prude, but I just don’t care for profanity, excessive violence and hard-core sex in films for the mere shock value of it. Unfortunately, there is enough of it in our daily lives. I think most people have become desensitized and a bit lazy, too. I would rather like to be challenged a bit and seek out the artistic value of the film as opposed to the shock value.

  • 27 1-22-2011 at 8:04 pm

    gahks said...

    The writer of this article is slightly incorrect: “The King’s Speech” has received a 12A rating here in the UK (similar to PG-13: under 12s can be admitted if accompanied by a responsible adult) as opposed to a 15 rating. Otherwise the point still stands, particularly with regards to “Blue Valentine” – the MPAA has a habit of making bizarre ratings decisions. It ought to be more transparent by publicising the standards by which it judges films, in the same way as the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) does on its website.