Reflections On The King’s Speech
Posted January 1, 2011on:
I went alone to see the movie The Kings Speech, wanting to experience it by myself. I had read reviews about the movie, and knew the story, but felt I needed to feel my feelings without worrying about how someone sitting next to me might react if I got emotional.
I sat in the back, eager to see this movie everyone in the stuttering community has been talking about. I sipped hot tea and had extra napkins for when tears might fall.
I did not expect the strong emotional reaction I had. From the opening scene, my heart pounded and my eyes welled up. When Colin Firth (playing the prince who would be king) stepped up to the microphone to speak publicly, I recognized the look on his face. The actor captured it perfectly – the panic, fear, shame and embarrassment, all etched on his face before he even opened his mouth.
And when he did open his mouth, nothing came out at first. Then, a faltering, struggled syllable, which seemed to reverberate through the stadium, and then, silence. The silences were deafening and as the camera panned the faces in the crowd, I saw pained looks, averted eyes, and then the look of shame on the soon-to-be-king’s face intensified.
This movie brilliantly portrays what it “feels like” to stutter. It shows that stuttering is so much more than what does (or doesn’t) come out of our mouths. It is those feelings that we almost never talk about that the movie poignantly illustrates.
I was transfixed right away. I won’t mention specific lines and scenes, because if you are reading this and haven’t seen the movie yet, I don’t want to be a spoiler. But I will share what I felt, physically and emotionally, as I watched.
My heart was pounding and my eyes overflowed several times. I wiped tears away that streamed down my face, unabashedly. Why was I so moved? Because the portrayal of stuttering, and the reactions of those around this man who stuttered, stirred so many of my own memories and emotions. I was reminded of what I felt as a helpless child, a child who felt like I had disappointed my parents. I was reminded of how defective I felt and how I tried for so long to hide my stuttering.
I had a knot in my stomach, as I recognized how much people who stutter have in common, irregardless of whether we are royalty or common. The people close to the King reacted to his stuttering, making me appreciate that audience members were seeing that stuttering doesn’t just affect the person who stutters, but also includes siblings, parents and spouses.
I laughed at the parts that were funny. I cheered when he put his fears aside and spoke anyway. I empathized when he broke down privately with his wife and shared feelings of failure and inadequacy, which is hard to put into words. I have felt those feelings too.
Truthfully, I was deeply moved by the whole film. It was told with grace, dignity, and was funny at times, just like life. The stuttering was not demeaning or comic. It was done in such a way that you couldn’t help but “feel something” as you watched.
People in the audience applauded at the end. I so wanted to know WHY? What did they think? Why were they moved? They don’t stutter. What did it mean to them?
I hope to find out. My friend Steve (who is a SLP and stutters) and I are going to do a workshop next month at our community library. We are calling it “An Un-Royal Talk About Stuttering”. We will provide resources on self-help, support, and therapy. Hopefully, we will also dispel some myths and help people feel comfortable talking about stuttering.
It is up to us, people who stutter, to raise awareness and educate others. We can’t just stand by, assuming that someone else is speaking up. Because they might be too afraid or embarassed. This movie may remove some of the stigma and silence.
If you haven’t seen the movie yet, GO. You will be moved, I guarantee it.
This article I wrote was published in today’s print edition of the Albany, NY Times Union 1/1/2011 .