Friday, February 11, 2011

Over John Dewey's dead body

Heads up, Harvey! Incoming fire at 10 o’clock! Don’t let the Academy get anywhere near this hot potato: A writer at Big Hollywood has finally said what needed to be said about the vexed stutterer whose dramatic, heart-wrenching travails have touched the hearts of awards voters everywhere: Who the hell feels sorry for the King of England?

Take it away, Ned Rice:

My main problem with The King’s Speech is that the character we’re supposed to identify with, the down-trodden-schmuck-who-can’t-catch-a-break-but-we-root-for-him-anyway-because-for-all-his-faults-he’s-got-a-heart-of-gold just happens to be…THE KING OF ENGLAND! That’s right: in order to enjoy this film I’m supposed to feel sympathy for a man who, almost by definition, is an unsympathetic character. Like a Frank Capra film about the riches-to-mega-riches life of Donald Trump, this movie simply doesn’t make any sense to me despite fine performances by Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter.

I had the same problem with The Queen, which, you’ll recall, was about the trials and tribulations of a woman- oh, let’s call her THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND!—whose big life crisis was being criticized for not grieving enough after the death of Princess Diana. Well, ain’t life a bitch? I’ll bet you after those nasty British tabloids had their say about her Queen Elizabeth cried all the way home to her…ENORMOUS CASTLE. […] Call me heartless, but I just can’t feel sorry for anyone who has their own moat.

My antipathy towards the royalty genre in movies goes beyond the absurdity of being asked to identify with bejeweled billionaires seated on solid gold chairs. I frankly find it appalling, in this progressive, politically correct, anti-Establishment age, that supposedly civilized people like us continue to tolerate, and even celebrate, royalty. Slavery, as we’re reminded by the mainstream media on almost a daily basis, was a terrible, evil institution. So was Nazism. So was, and is, communism. So, I would argue, was disco. But you know what was a really, really bad institution? Royalty, the notion that God considered some men more valuable than others, that one’s class is an unchangeable accident of birth, and that the lower class should be, in effect, the slaves and property of the nobility. Does anybody not grasp the evil of this? Who could not be enraged by the fact that by law one man should bow down before another simply because the two men’s ancestries were different- and that refusing to do so could cost the commoner his life?

Scott Rudin and Team TSN couldn’t have said it better themselves! (S. T. Vanairsdale, “Will This Awesome King’s Speech Takedown Rock Oscar Race?,” Movieline, 10 Feb. 2011)

You don't get much in the way of bejeweled billionaires seated on solid gold chairs in this film, though. THOSE kind of royalty -- the ones that are for the most part indulgence -- are hated on in this film: witness the portrayal of King Edward VIII, and his life of you: indifference, me: self-concern. Or perhaps more accurately, what you get mostly is, "what would it be like to sit on a solid gold throne for hours on end?"--"F*cking painful!" "How the hell did you do it?"

The film argues that the reason the good king deserves all this attention, to have every resource tried to assist him, is because there is something royal kindling in him that is absent in most of you. God may or may not see something more valuable in him, but we certainly do. When we need uplift, some erection of solid nobility nobody else can put forth -- for spending most of our lives in rendering, distracting domestic sociability -- he still has the resources to deliver -- given, perhaps, just the right sort of guidance.

This is still an awful, very undemocratic message. Very disparaging to the constant, casual sociability ultimately responsible for the king's sure speech delivery. Very disparaging to the Deweyite message the therapist for much of the film (but maybe not, ultimately) embodies. But I don't think it's mostly fought off by responses like this one, that out of its ravaged spirit, its skittering, wayward progress, conveys mostly a longing to be saved, as if the complaining masses have already leveled everything down for so long that the energy that excites their purpose now is covertly mostly a managed hand out for a rescue.

This reviewer had better not be an Obama fan. If he is, he is beyond laughable.

Dear Ned Rice,

I think you missed the point. I'm sorry you are blinded by illusions that money can buy happiness and freedom from difficulty. I’m sorry that you cannot step outside of your little bubble (or off of your high horse) and put yourself in the shoes of another human being that is struggling to overcome an extremely debilitating problem. It seems to me that you would have been able to relate to the ‘average’ man who had this same issue, but you cannot relate to someone you perceive as NOT WORTHY of YOUR concern due to his place in society. I’m sorry you’re a complete hypocrite. (cerealface, response to post)

But the film is maybe not so much FOR the average man who has this problem, concerned as it is for giving "them" the one and only dose of support, before launching them off to unrelenting even-worse deprival. Yes, once they're all either half-downed in combat or shell-shocked from bombing or winnowed spiritless from endless endurance, the film would have it that they receive receptive tending-to for their ailments -- if the world were just. Without that, if you already have the look and carriage of a pathetic Tiny Tim, it's for you as well, just as automatically as it is for the king. But if you ultimately romance and legitimate the suffering part, the overcoming should seem suspect. I know it's not clear-cut with this film, but it's certainly not uncontestedly against the ridiculous tortures people have endured for no actual purpose: no film that is actually for war, for ennoblement through collective, shared sacrifice, is against all that. Every aesthete in the world should tell this film to go scr*w itself. To right its wrongs -- for one thing -- for what it did to Edward VIII.

Link: Will This Awesome King’s Speech Takedown Rock Oscar Race? (Movieline)

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