In the weeks leading up to the annual Academy Awards, there was a slight uproar online as to the fact that Harvey Weinstein, Hollywood movie mogul, wanted the now-Academy Award-winning Best Picture “The King’s Speech” to be edited down to lower the rating from an R to a PG-13.
His reasoning was financially driven, primarily because a lighter rating would allow younger audiences to see the film. The main reason for the R rating is heavy language in a few scenes, which is what Mr. Weinstein wants to cut, or censor as it is. This action is, in the eyes of film lovers such as myself, to put it simply, wrong.
First off, the main scene with the coarse language involves Prince Albert, the Duke of York and soon-to-be King George VI, played by the now-Academy Award-winning British actor Colin Firth, and his speech therapist, Lionel Logue. In the scene, Logue, played wonderfully by Geoffrey Rush, angers Albert so much that Albert lets a number of colorful words fly forth in a torrent.
This not only showed the pent-up anger of Albert, but the humor and shock of hearing royalty curse, as well as Firth’s fantastic emotional acting chops. To mute or simply cut out that powerful moment would be unappreciative of the art and effort that went into making this film.
Secondly, censorship can be a rather mucky matter to deal with. The protection of the freedom of speech is one of the bedrocks of any democracy. However, the matter at hand here is whose speech is protected? In cases of political protests, whether or not they are religiously motivated, the stifling of voices is seriously discouraged. Just take a look at the recent Supreme Court case that ruled in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church!
Yes, yes, the Supreme Court, the upholder of law in the land, ruled 8-to-1 in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church’s right to picket at military and related funerals, like for those who died at the hands of Jared Lee Loughner in Arizona. This includes picketing with signs that slander members of the LGBT community with statements that God hates them and that they are why we’re at war.
While the members of the Westboro group believe they’re doing the right thing, people attending the funerals would rather have the protesters miles and miles away, or simply muted. But Westboro’s speech is absolutely protected.
Now when it comes to censorship in films, it happens on a regular basis and without too much ire. Violent or foul language is trimmed or altered when films are aired on network TV and basic cable. Violence and language is trimmed down before films are released if the directors are having trouble getting the rating they want for the film.
But censoring an award-winning film that’s been doing rather well in theaters for roughly the past two months, and re-releasing it to make more money just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
So go ahead, Mr. Weinstein. It’s your choice. We’ll see which does better: the original with the cursing or the censored alternative. Either way, the audience will be in for a shock.