CINEMA: The King’s English


Rebecca_Goodacre_Avatar.jpgBY REBECCA GOODACRE This week The King’s Speech won the Oscar for best picture, and, as is tradition critics set about analyzing the whys and wherefores of its success.  Was it just another extension of America’s captivation with British royalty and all that palace and crown jewels malarkey?  And how do us Brit’s feel about something so homegrown winning big? Upon seeing The King’s Speech my first reaction was just of ‘Thank fucking god Colin Firth isn’t playing yet another doddering nice-guy in a British rom-com.’  But after that initial relief, some deep-seated British guilt set in; shouldn’t this really mean more to me?  It is part of my national history after all.

For the most part my relationship with the royal family has flitted between the twinkling picture of the Queen on the back of my pennies and pounds, and the frequency with which Us magazine has ‘outted’ Prince Charles.  Until now I had always intentionally avoided any royalty themed cinema offerings such as The Queen or The Other Boleyn Girl, largely out of refusal to conform to any British stereotypes.  But watching The King’s Speech opened up a part of my nation I’d previously been almost wholly ignorant of.  It hadn’t even occurred to me that this royal bunch were actually human

You see the Queen of England has been Queen for such a bloody long time.  For my entire lifetime and for the entire lifetime of my parents she’s reigned over us.  She’d never really felt like a real person, just that old lady with the nice crown that comes on TV at Christmas.  And the monarchs before her?  Well I knew there was that Henry VIII chap who mixed things up a bit with the church, and then Queen Victoria, who I wouldn’t want to cross during a bout of PMS.  But as far as I was concerned, they weren’t real people.

The story of King George VIII’s stutter in particular is not commonly known in the UK.  The scandal of his brother wishing to marry an American divorcee (what a complete and utter rogue) is all that is really remembered from that time in the royal household.  When it comes to the royals, as every gossip magazine continues to prove, it’s generally the scandal that takes precedent.  But perhaps, that’s the chief attraction to The King’s Speech and Colin Firth’s quite remarkable performance.  We finally got a glimpse into the secret day-to-day silver spoon world of the royal family, and it ain’t that sparkling after all.

As much as we like to groan and grumble about that lavish family living in their palace off our tax payers money, it seems that us Brits secretly still have more than a slight royal fetish.   As it turned out, it most certainly isn’t just America that are entranced by the prospect of getting a sneak peek into the dirty pantaloons of the royal family; the film took £3.5m in the first three days of opening in the UK and then went on to win best film at the BAFTA awards.  We like to indulge in their lives, and know their dirty secrets just as much as anyone else. The King’s Speech, with Firth’s delicately-managed portrayal of a very human monarch, might well have gone and done the unthinkable, and revitalized a long buried British enthusiasm for their own royal family.  However, enthusiasm may be a little too strong for our stiff upper lips.  We’ll go with acceptance and a slight favorability.  It’s the least we can muster, what with an estimated $15million wedding coming up.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rebecca Goodacre hails from Norwhich, England. She is currently spending a year studying abroad at Temple and interning at Phawker.

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