Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Keep "The King's Speech" R-rated, please.....

Good evening everyone, I begin this blog entry with something I find very interesting, and for some readers, controversial As a person who stutters, there are many different ways to explore this topic, but yet I want to present a debate for both sides that is fair and just. The Weinstein Company, which is the studio behind the Academy Award-winning "The King's Speech," has made a decision to re-release the movie on April 1. This is not an uncommon move for many movies that have been the lucky recipient of a date with Oscar, especially for ones that may have struggled at the box office to attract an audience or want to showcase the film for as long as possible. But what was more shocking was the fact that the new version is "sanitized," and is being rated PG-13. The studio in its press release, lauds the fact that "This action enables those to whom it speaks most directly-young people who are troubled by stuttering, bullying, and other trials-to see it." Now although the studio has not said what specific cuts were made, it is a safe assumption to say that there is one scene which is probably being referenced to. Out of sheer frustration, Colin Firth, who was nothing short of brilliant, swears continuously with the F-bomb to try and express himself. Now we have all heard this word and pretty much like it or not, it is a part of the modern-day vernacular. After all, try and find one person in this lifetime who has not swore using an obscene expression. This one scene is very critical to his performance, and a central theme for the emotional experiences he is going through. In fact, Firth has gone on record in saying "The film should stand as it is." It is always an option for a movie to be re-submitted to the MPAA for an appeal of its rating. I remember when "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" was given the R rating (Under 17 requires an accompanying adult or guardian), and Universal Pictures felt that would prevent teens from seeing it because Adam Sandler is a big draw. So after a few edits, the PG-13 rating was applied. And the MPAA has been a firm proponent that these ratings are guidelines only, they are not meant to be taken as gospel. I want to say emphatically that as a person who stutters, I applaud the fact that more people will be able to see the movie. But what makes me sad is that the studio needs to edit the movie to do so. Watching him struggle forming his words hit home for me because when I am in a funk, I do the same thing. I've struggled with my speech the past month and many times wanted to yell out "Fuck! I can't say the word," but I haven't done so. Probably because I'd be looked at in public. But if you think about it, imagine what the reaction would be if other movies were edited the same way. Look at "Schindler's List." How would a history teacher feel if all the executions were taken away-that is a very upsetting part of our history, but yet it needs to be told. What about "Saving Private Ryan?" How would it look if all the graphic violence was edited out because a student found it upsetting that a soldier stepped on a land mine and his whole body was blown up as a result. Citing another example, take 1988's "The Accused," with Jodie Foster. The movie was hailed for her performance which also won her the Oscar as a rape victim, and the film was mentioned for its accurate portrayal of a victim (and there is a graphic gang rape scene as well). If that was removed, what might the reaction be? When I watched the movie, I felt that was I viewing it from two different perspectives: One as a regular person, but another one as an advocate for the National Stuttering Association and a person who stutters. In many cases, the two can overlap. I think ultimately, the decision on where we stand regarding the editing version is up to each one of us. But there can be no denying the impact this movie has had, and will continue to have for future generations of people who stutter. I think we also need to realize that we are responsible for our own judgments about the movie and it the rating. There may be some who think the R rating automatically means the kiss of death for a movie but there are much worse things to see. I vividly remember watching "Basic Instinct" in theaters and feeling disgusted at first because the film shows human sexuality in a perverse manner. A healthy relationship isn't about S&M or fetishes. It's about caring for someone and loving them deeply in spite of their flaws. But looking back on it, I realize it was one director's interpretation of what love is. My interpretation of the movie: Keep "The King's Speech" proud. Keep it the way it is. My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

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