The PG-13 version of Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech opened this past weekend in North America, grossing only $1.13 million at 1,011 theaters while averaging a meager $1,121 per theater according to weekend box office actuals found at Box Office Mojo. The Weinstein Co. release stars Best Actor Oscar winner Colin Firth, who has voiced his strong disapproval of the censored version, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, and veteran Claire Bloom.
The PG-13-rated The King’s Speech, which goes silent when the King’s “fucks” are voiced, was approved by the guardians of morality at the Motion Picture Association of America. In other words, in the family friendly version of The King’s Speech you won’t be able to hear Firth’s George VI say the word “fuck,” but you’ll be able to see that he’s mouthing the word “fuck.” There must some kind of logic to that, however twisted.
As previously mentioned on this site, last weekend the original The King’s Speech took in $1.55 million at 1,062 theaters, averaging $1,467 per theater. In other words, the censored rerelease, in which King George VI’s several “fuck” exclamations become “fuck” mouthings, failed to attract “families” and younger teens.
The fact that something as ludicrous as the censoring of the word “fuck” in a motion picture is taking place in the United States in 2011 should give one pause for thought. Especially considering that The Weinstein Company’s greedy decision – their lame excuse is that they want to lure thirteen-year-old stutterers into theaters – is partly the result of arbitrary rulings created by a group of unelected strangers at the Motion Picture Association of America who hold the power to dictate what American teenagers can and cannot watch on screen.
In a previous article on the matter, I pointed out the inanity of this particular instance of censorship. Much like publications in which you find, say, a**hole or motherf*cker – as if the asterisks somehow make what you’re reading less “offensive” – in the censored, PG-13 version of The King’s Speech you won’t hear the word “fuck,” but you’ll see the British monarch mouthing it while you hear the word “shit.” (Apparently, the word “fuck” is allowed only once in PG-13 films.)
Now, what made me take the trouble to write this post on the King’s Speech censored rerelease was a coincidence. At no. 15 on the North American box office chart, The King’s Speech is only two slots below Cary Joji Fukunaga’s film adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s 19th-century novel Jane Eyre.
I’m currently rereading Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, whose 1850 edition – two years after Emily’s death – was introduced by Charlotte. In it, she writes the following:
“A large class of readers … will suffer greatly from the introduction into the pages of this work of words printed with all their letters, which it has become the custom to represent by the initial and final letter only—a blank line filling the interval. I may as well say at once that, for this circumstance, it is out of my power to apologise; deeming it, myself, a rational plan to write words at full length. The practice of hinting by single letters those expletive with which profane and violent persons are wont to garnish their discourse, strikes me as a proceeding which, however well meant, is weak and futile. I cannot tell what good it does—what feeling it spares—what horror it conceals.”
Remember, this was written more than 150 years ago. It’s disturbing – and quite revealing – that Brontë’s wise remarks remain just as relevant in the United States in the early 21st century.
Photo: The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Co.)