Based on a True Story
February 1, 2011 10:59 PM   Subscribe

The King's Speech is an extremely well-made film with a seductive human interest plot, very prettily calculated to appeal to the smarter filmgoer and the latent Anglophile. But it perpetrates a gross falsification of history. - Christopher Hitchens on the historical revisionism of The King's Speech. The LA times suggests that this, along with the History Channel digging up footage of King George VI not really stuttering all that badly at all, might be the beginning of a backlash against the film, which has been gaining Oscar momentum since it's SAG Award wins. With The Social Network, 127 Hours and The Fighter also having a basis in reality, is today's film making too hung up on the "true" story?
posted by Artw (127 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Guardian's Reel History columnist is far kinder than Hitchens, and they aren't shy about laying in to films that are too ridiculous.
posted by rodgerd at 11:05 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh burn! (Regarding Hitchens's piece.)
posted by orthogonality at 11:09 PM on February 1, 2011


King's Speech was great fun! Such great acting! I would like to see Firth win, he did a really great job. Whether George VI stuttered badly or not, there must have been SOME reason he had Lionel Logue with him for every war time speech. But it's pretty obvious to anyone with a brain that the movie is a mixture of history and Hollywood.. just sit back and enjoy-
posted by ReeMonster at 11:10 PM on February 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Watching The Kings Speech with a bunch of Americans, I enjoyed it, but I always feel a bit like John Oliver here when discussing the whole royal family deal and how I feel about it.
posted by Artw at 11:13 PM on February 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


I want to see Christopher Hitchens do a piece on puppies. Or kittens. Or rainbows, fluffy bunnies, and the way the fresh earth smells after a good rain.
posted by redsparkler at 11:13 PM on February 1, 2011 [15 favorites]


And how comes the working man from the colonies gets to be nominated as SUPPORTING actor to the inbred toff? eh? eh?
posted by Artw at 11:21 PM on February 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


Always good to see Churchill's artificially swollen posterity take a pricking, mind (not as dirty as it sounds at first blush).
posted by Abiezer at 11:22 PM on February 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


Great post! Good links, especially the last one, to the Guardian article. Three quarters into that article:

For one thing, if interest in a work of art is triggered by a desire to learn about real events, that represents a radical shift in our understanding of art's purpose.

I don't agree. Call me boring, but I watched the movie Frost/Nixon to learn about what actually happened, not to learn what the movie director thought should have happened. It's false marketing to claim a movie or book is about an actual event when you've made major changes to the story.
posted by Triplanetary at 11:23 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought that Black Swan was the best of the year. The King's Speech was good, but it was a bit too cheerful about everything, and spun an almost too good a tale to be true. It seemed to me that it glossed over too much history to insist that getting the King not to stutter was what defeated the jerry, old boy. I had to jump on wikipedia for an hour after I saw it. Seems I'm not the only one. Don't get me wrong, I liked the film, it was just a little too neat and clean.
posted by Catblack at 11:25 PM on February 1, 2011


Heh. After seeing pretty much any true story I usually hit Wikipedia and look for the "what's wrong with it" section, which is almost always there.
posted by Artw at 11:28 PM on February 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's false marketing to claim a movie or book is about an actual event when you've made major changes to the story.

As far as film unless it's a documentary I have to disagree with you. If you're doing your primary learning about historic events through the medium of film, I might suggest you find a new way to learn about events.
posted by IvoShandor at 11:31 PM on February 1, 2011 [16 favorites]


If you're disappointed in how movies distort real stories, then you'll hate to learn how much Shakespeare creatively distorted history, both in his history plays and in his tragedies based on real figures.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:34 PM on February 1, 2011 [13 favorites]


As far as film unless it's a documentary I have to disagree with you. If you're doing your primary learning about historic events through the medium of film, I might suggest you find a new way to learn about events.

One doesn't have to be doing a documentary to be precise and non-bullshitty. If the story is about an event, it had better be about that event. Otherwise I'm sure they have enough of a vocabulary to choose more accurate phrasing, such as "inspired by a true story".
posted by polymodus at 11:37 PM on February 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


This "backlash" against TKS historical accuracy will do nothing but increase attention on the film and make it that much more popular. The reason is, no one cares if some of the facts are wrong because we are willing to be lied too if it makes a good story and we learn some greater truth about people and ourselves. Which is what fiction is supposed to do, so this idea that reality-based film is inferior to fiction is missing the point also.
posted by stbalbach at 11:39 PM on February 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Another Geoffrey Rush film, Shine, caused a similar stir at the time. From a lazy Wiki copy'n'paste:

Critics allege that certain events and relationships in David's life are portrayed with wild inaccuracy, sometimes even fabricated, resulting in damage to the reputations of real people.

The father was particularly stitched up, according to those that knew him.

Critics also claim that Helfgott's pianistic ability is grossly exaggerated. In a journal article, the New Zealand philosopher Denis Dutton speaks for many critics who claim that Helfgott's piano playing during his comeback [in the latter part of the 1990s] has severe technical and aesthetic deficiencies which would be unacceptable in any musician whose reputation had not been inflated beyond recognition.

And the doctor who "discovered" him playing at The Captain Stirling bar was all "Me! Me! Me! What about me? Why don't I get more recognition? It's all about me."
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:40 PM on February 1, 2011


Unrelated, but though the link for The Fighter article there's a link to the 1995 HBO documentary that inspired the movie.
posted by hellojed at 11:43 PM on February 1, 2011


I don't really get the point of the newsreel. It really takes him an intractably long time to get the speech out, with several (likely unbearable-feeling, for the speaker) long pauses between words. You even see him rocking on his feet, something the film alleges Logue taught him to do to get past his stammering. And according to the timeline of the film, this would have happened after they began working together, wouldn't it?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:43 PM on February 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Social Network was also pretty false.
posted by delmoi at 11:57 PM on February 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


is today's film making too hung up on the "true" story?

Maybe. But everybody's definitely way too hung up on the Oscars.
posted by philip-random at 12:06 AM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


"History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it." - Winston Churchill
posted by Glibpaxman at 12:09 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


For those interested: the screenwriters of many of the nominated films (Kings Speech, Social Network, Black Swan, Winters Bone, 127 Hours, and others) are interviewed, individually for an hour or more each, by Creative Screenwriting Magazine's Jeff Goldsmith. Free podcasts in iTunes.
posted by dobbs at 12:09 AM on February 2, 2011 [10 favorites]


I've always wondered about movie previews that mention "based on a true story" v.s. "inspired by a true story" v.s. "inspired by true events".

It's always a bit bizarre to see movie previews that use this as a way to sell the movie, but I guess it must work.

Like, I wonder how much less money a movie would gross just by omitting the "based on a true, real life story" addendum in the first/last 5 seconds of the preview clip.
posted by fantodstic at 12:10 AM on February 2, 2011


I don't mind a story bending the truth to serve entertainment but I do object to the film makers then claiming it's an accurate portrayal of events. The King's Speech is a great film but its depiction of the royal family is closer to propaganda than history.
posted by londonmark at 12:10 AM on February 2, 2011


I thought "The King's Speech" dragged, and that to me is a far greater sin than any historical inaccuracy. It's got a fight against Nazis and a guy who overcomes a handicap, though, so who am I to naysay?
posted by availablelight at 12:14 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, it's the vocabulary. Pfft. This discussion is ridiculous.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:17 AM on February 2, 2011


The Guardian's Reel History columnist is far kinder than Hitchens, and they aren't shy about laying in to films that are too ridiculous.
posted by rodgerd


Why The King's Speech is a gross falsification: The portrayal of Winston Churchill and the royals in The King's Speech is a blatant rewriting of history

from...The Guardian...so it looks like Hitchens criticisms are getting a lot of play.
posted by vacapinta at 12:25 AM on February 2, 2011


vacapinta, that is the same article as the one in the OP, in a different venue.
posted by furiousthought at 12:35 AM on February 2, 2011


Entertainment is for entertainment; they're all true stories.
posted by doublehappy at 12:36 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


PhoBWanKenobi:I don't really get the point of the newsreel. It really takes him an intractably long time to get the speech out, with several (likely unbearable-feeling, for the speaker) long pauses between words. You even see him rocking on his feet, something the film alleges Logue taught him to do to get past his stammering. And according to the timeline of the film, this would have happened after they began working together, wouldn't it?

I agree. You can clearly tell that he is speaking very carefully and deliberately through the whole speech. There were many times when he seemed to be struggling to get his words out. And if you consider that this is how he spoke after having embarked on his speech therapy, then it's entirely conceivable he had a much worse stammer before.

I liked The King's Speech very much (an abiding crush on Colin Firth didn't hurt), but I did agree with this review in The Economist about the shrewdly-conceived appeal of the way it chooses to portray the royal family:
What is going on? A clue can be found near the climax. The buttoned-up king calls Logue “my friend”. In return, Logue at last calls him “Your Majesty”. The message is thumpingly clear: only once the king has shown he is Logue’s equal in humanity has he earned the Australian’s reverence. Triumphantly swelling chords give the game away. This is a moment of conservative closure: a celebration of a very British doctrine of meritocratic snobbery—the notion that deference is quite proper, as long as it is deserved.
That scene was odd and off-putting to me, but then I am a mere colonial who thinks the British royal family's symbolic relationship to my country has outlived its usefulness. (However, my fellow citizens do not all feel that way, as the papers are currently full of breathless reports that Prince William and Kate Middleton might take a cross-Canada tour this summer. Whee!)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:39 AM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Also, Churchill's quite a minor character in the film, so I can see why they elided his plotting in the royal affairs. It's not what the movie is about, and if they make an issue of Churchill's character suddenly the film becomes about Churchill.

It seemed to me that it glossed over too much history to insist that getting the King not to stutter was what defeated the jerry, old boy. I had to jump on wikipedia for an hour after I saw it. Seems I'm not the only one. Don't get me wrong, I liked the film, it was just a little too neat and clean.

I had the same reaction. "The king can talk now, very good, we don't have a babbling incompetent for a monarch! Time for all of us to get bombed and shot." Though it is still a good movie.
posted by furiousthought at 12:44 AM on February 2, 2011


One doesn't have to be doing a documentary to be precise and non-bullshitty. If the story is about an event, it had better be about that event. Otherwise I'm sure they have enough of a vocabulary to choose more accurate phrasing, such as "inspired by a true story".
Was there a furor over Milos Foreman's "Amadeus?" Because I remember that being a fantastic film, and not all that was shown was true, and of course much was left out. In addition to being a great film, I treated it as an introduction to a subject about which I had known nothing. If you want to call it complete bullshit, that's fine. But it isn't on the film maker to present 120 minutes of a story and absolve the audience member of any further investigation. I don't treat Gladiator as the final word on Roman spectator sports, or Chariots of Fire as a full encapsulation of the Olympic Games in 1924, and Last of the Mohicans doesn't tell the story of the French and Indian War. But for whatever reason, be it acting, music, cinematography, costumes, or even just the story, people need to stop equating "historical" films with books and actual research. Is there something wrong with someone's interpretation of a story now? If yes, then let's start savaging Saving Private Ryan, All Quiet on the Western Front, Spartacus, Elizabeth, The Madness of King George, Das Boot, and Schindler's List.
posted by l2p at 12:56 AM on February 2, 2011 [15 favorites]


As with the Clive Owen King Arthur, it would have still been a perfectly good film and sidestepped a lot of irritating pedantic arguments if only it, and the characters within it, had simply been named something else.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 12:58 AM on February 2, 2011


How dare you Sir, how very dare you!

Hitchens is spot on as usual. My Royalist parents loved it and are probably stocking up on commemorative tea-towels right now.
posted by arcticseal at 1:01 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just wait until the Madonna directed Wallis Simpson biopic hits the cinema. I suspect we'll be looking at TKS with a lot more sympathy.
posted by seanyboy at 1:04 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


For our American cousins wishing for more WWII filmic accuracy, may I direct you to U251.
posted by seanyboy at 1:06 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


I mean, my God, you'll be telling me America didn't actually win WWII single-handed next.
posted by Segundus at 1:07 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bah! U571. I should fact check before posting.
posted by seanyboy at 1:11 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


This article read like a chance for the author to finally vent his personal venom at Churchill, whom, he feels got a pass in history, and now is the time to set things right. Especially convenient when the person he so casually dissects is not around to defend himself. I am positive that the relationships he describes are much more complicated than the 2 pages he boils it down to here. But, then again, there is something to be said about knowing your audience.
posted by Senator at 1:15 AM on February 2, 2011


It's always a bit bizarre to see movie previews that use this as a way to sell the movie, but I guess it must work.

I suppose people are used to seeing pretty much anything and everything happen on the screen -- battles on another planet with sexy blue cat ladies, battles in space with sexy blonde robot ladies, etc., -- so it's hard to impress them with outlandish shit. It's just CGI, cartoons, goofy shit.

And just about every concoctable romance and tragedy about normal human beings in normal circumstances must have been filmed seven thousand ways by now, so you aren't easily going to grab people in a two-minute preview with another slightly tweaked fiction about broken hearts and winning over adversity. Yep, our team of script writers decided that he left her. No, that he he left her and then he came back. No, he pretended to leave her but he was hiding in a cupboard. Her mother was in the cupboard with him. He was her mother. He never really existed, she never really existed, only the cat was real, he or she or the baby or the cat has a disease, etc. That's all our writers could come up with. Sorry.

But tell people that it's true -- "We're not just making this shit up! He was in this very cupboard!" -- and maybe you've got their attention. These people lived and died. You can risk empathising with them and not feel cheated. You aren't going to be manipulated (ha) because the writer is just telling you what happened, not using the same old bag of dirty fictional tricks to make you laugh and cry and buy Pepsi on cue.

Something like that. Maybe.
posted by pracowity at 1:51 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


I mean, my God, you'll be telling me America didn't actually win WWII single-handed next.

Nah, the British did a few things.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:59 AM on February 2, 2011


I liked the part at the end where he actually turned into a swan.
posted by Damienmce at 2:01 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Nah, the British did a few things.

Put the kettle on for a nice cup of tea, amongst other things.
posted by arcticseal at 2:03 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Barbarella meets Goronwy Rees.
posted by clavdivs at 2:11 AM on February 2, 2011


I've got to admit I after watching The Fighter then going to the internets and seeing just how much of it was bullshit made me like the film a lot less... if you are going to make an arted up Rocky, just make an arted up Rocky - don't cut and paste the best bits of a 'true story' on top.

The worst for that for me was Friday Night Lights which took a pretty incredable true story they tweaked it to make it totally Hollywood

Of course as a loyal subject of the Crown I watched The King's Speech standing at full attention throughout, giving it a rousing burst of applause at that the end with several 'hurrahs!' and will not have a word said against it.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:15 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


God save the movie!
posted by crunchland at 2:29 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's also the letter that supposed to have been sent out to the studio heads by someone who perhaps want the film to fail pointin out that 'when the king discovered that “Jewish refugees from different countries were surreptitiously getting into Palestine” he asked his foreign secretary “to encourage the German government 'to check the unauthorised emigration' of Jews”.'

Ironically the linked article points out the film's writer David Seidler is Jewish and his grandparents died in the Holocaust
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:40 AM on February 2, 2011


Winston Churchill had a speech impediment... and look what he did!
posted by Philby at 2:42 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Two quick things...

1) The newsreel footage going around is after he's already king. The speech portrayed at the start of the movie was when he was a prince and there is no existing footage of that speech. To whit, the newsreel footage is after he got better.

2) Reality and truth aren't necessarily the same thing. Hasn't anyone been paying attention to Colbert?
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:51 AM on February 2, 2011


As long as I could ignore the aristocracy and just focus on the story of a dude overcoming a handicap, it was pretty good, but I found the royalty and aristocracy and all of that just as offputting as ever. I find it continually baffling that people hear "king" and suddenly give a shit.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:22 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Based on" means the same as "Inspired by".
posted by LogicalDash at 3:22 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


MeFi exclusive: five ways in which the movie "Black Swan" differs from the TRUE story of the Black Swan!

1. Natalie Portman is NOT a sexually and emotionally repressed ballet dancer with mommy issues - she is ACTUALLY a highly paid and well-respected American actress!

2. In addition to the parts of the Swan Queen and the Black Swan, the ballet "Swan Lake" features another major character - Eddy the cyan goose, whose comedic antics and irreverant attitude juxtapose delightfully with the gravitas of the ballet's heroine. The part of Eddy was cut from the film.

3. In the TRUE story of the Black Swan, the heroine's mother is actually HER FATHER! And the heroine's father is actually - HER SECOND COUSIN, Randall! Shock!

4. The REAL events of "Black Swan" did not fill onlookers with a profound sense of wonder at their disturbing, dreamlike exploration of the madness of artistic perfectionism!

5. Male eyewitnesses of the ACTUAL Black Swan story paid extremely reasonable prices for their popcorn and soda-based beverages, and did NOT complain to their girlfriends at the time that "this is a total fucking rip-off," to which they did NOT receive the response, "God, you are such a fucking cheapskate. We only go to the movies once a month, and you always bitch about the fucking popcorn. Maybe if you spent a little less on beer, you'd be able to afford the popcorn. And you'd be in better shape".
posted by the quidnunc kid at 3:32 AM on February 2, 2011 [21 favorites]


The reason is, no one cares if some of the facts are wrong because we are willing to be lied too if it makes a good story....

Wow, great parallel to the run up to the Iraq Wa

...and we learn some greater truth about people and ourselves.

Oh. You weren't kidding?
posted by DU at 4:05 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't really have a problem with historical revisionism for the sake of art. All art is artifice to some extent, and I've never been a fan of slavish "based on a true story" works. True biopics are often terribly boring.

But I suppose my major caveat with historical works that take some liberties is that they become history. A great number of people accept what they see in a film, or read in a book (alternative or otherwise) as the new gospel. In these days of diminishing critical thinking, these works are becoming classrooms for a large population of people who will go off thinking that this is the way things happened.

I mean, this is history: people telling stories about what "really" happened, and historians could crush any number of kooky notions we all have about Caesar or Curie or Magellan. But it can get a little tiresome when you know the only source of some folks knowledge about the recent past is a made-up film.

This hits a little close to home; my mom has a lot of ideas of how things transpired over the centuries based on biopics and historical romances that are just plain wrong. But, what are you gonna do?
posted by clvrmnky at 4:32 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Based on a true story?
Based on actual events?
Inspired by a true story?
A true story?

Which of these is the most reliable when it comes to film/television?
posted by Fizz at 4:33 AM on February 2, 2011


David Fincher's winning Best Picture. Mark my words.
posted by phaedon at 4:45 AM on February 2, 2011


Inspired by a tale my cousin overhead some guy telling some other guy in a pub he doesn't remember the name of...
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:48 AM on February 2, 2011


In these days of diminishing critical thinking, these works are becoming classrooms for a large population of people who will go off thinking that this is the way things happened.

To be fair (to the present day, I mean), there was a minor nineteenth-century industry devoted to exactly the same complaint. Only those critics were complaining about the effects of Sir Walter Scott's fiction.
posted by thomas j wise at 4:56 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


My favorite way of explaining what Hollywood "based on a true story" means is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Based on a true story (Ed Gein) that didn't take place in Texas, didn't involve chainsaws and wasn't a massacre.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 4:58 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


MetaFilter: It's just CGI, cartoons, goofy shit.
posted by eriko at 5:44 AM on February 2, 2011


I find it continually baffling that people hear "king" and suddenly give a shit.

I hear King James & The Decision made quite the shit giving spectacle last summer...
posted by i_cola at 5:48 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I find I'm more tolerant of historical embroidery than I am when it's unnecessarily woven into contemporary dramatisations. So I forgive TKS inaccuracies but have a fair amount of resentment over Sorkin's hallucinatory approach to The Social Network. Maybe the Academy needs a new "Accuracy" category.
posted by peacay at 5:48 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Based on a true story?
Based on actual events?
Inspired by a true story?
A true story?


All but the last.

An earlier discussion linked to this great analysis which suggests that science and fiction are ultimately incompatible. I suspect the same is true of history.

Good history will construct multiple narratives in an attempt to reconcile messy and conflicting evidence about a historical period.

Good cinema will usually present a singular perspective on events using POV characters or narrators.

Good history is judged by the credibility (not necessarily truth) of it's explanations built on multiple sources of evidence.

Good cinema is judged by its dramatic effect.

It's worthwhile to note that Hitch isn't delivering good history here. He's delivering polemics based on a favorite book which may or may not take many of the same types of liberties as The King's Speech.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:54 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hitchens is pretty on the money here, and sadly - whether we smart, savvy, well-educated people like it or not - many people do take their history lessons from films like this. And U571. And Braveheart. I have spoken to far too many people who really do think that the Braveheart depiction of Wallace was how it really was.

I do believe a little more responsibility on the part of film makers is called for, even if only as far as a very prominent disclaimer at the start of the film.
posted by Decani at 5:58 AM on February 2, 2011


David Fincher's winning Best Picture. Mark my words.

No, he is not eligible. It's the producer that receives the Best Picture award.
posted by sammyo at 6:04 AM on February 2, 2011


After seeing pretty much any true story I usually hit Wikipedia and look for the "what's wrong with it" section, which is almost always there.

Amen. For extra fun, I also check History News Network. The King’s Speech -- Where's FDR? suggests American support also helped George get over his stutter:

As disappointing as the marginalization of Winston Churchill (Timothy Spall) is, it is the omission of Franklin D. Roosevelt which leaves this particular cinema-goer speechless. Fair enough, the foundation of the movie is the relationship between master and mentor. (Even then, though, it has been claimed that the film team overlooked the key one: Sir Louis Greig.) That The King’s Speech airbrushes out of history such an historical figure as FDR, however, is perplexing at best and unforgivable at worst.

Since you need only refer to Will Swift’s splendid book, The Roosevelts and the Royals: Franklin and Eleanor, the King and Queen of England, and the Friendship that Changed History, to understand the effect FDR’s private encouragement had upon someone overcoming a physical handicap. “The support that George VI received from the president”, writes the American royal-watcher, “was psychologically crucial as the King grew from an insecure, self-doubting monarch into a masterful world leader.” Robert Rhodes James, author of A Spirit Undaunted: The Political Role of George VI, says likewise: “It was not until the triumphant [visit] to the United States in the summer of 1939 that doubts about the King’s physical capacity to hold the job were finally allayed.” Their Majesties’ pioneering 1939 North American tour is not even mentioned in the movie, and yet, chronicles James, “After sailing back, [George VI] spoke in the Guildhall with a new authority and eloquence that surprised his distinguished audience.”


The thing that bothers me about most revisionist junk in "true" films is how absurdly unnecessary some of the worst changes are. What purpose was served by altering Churchill from someone whose career was almost derailed after he stood tall for the playboy king Edward into someone whispering Edward had to go? Making Churchill a more sympathetic character? Why? We already had at least 3-4 sympathetic characters. It's pure mythmaking, playing to audiences' biases with no historical basis at all, in a film whose creators have been going on and on about how historically accurate they were. I'm sorry, but the folks in this thread saying "no one cares if some of the facts are wrong" are missing the point.
posted by mediareport at 6:08 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Artw: And how comes the working man from the colonies gets to be nominated as SUPPORTING actor to the inbred toff? eh? eh?


At the SAG awards, Geoffrey Rush quipped that the original title for the movie was actually "The King's Speech Therapist"!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 6:11 AM on February 2, 2011


It's pretty obvious the King's Speech was made to rehabilitate the image of the royal family in advance of Either Charles or his son ascending to the throne.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:13 AM on February 2, 2011


Just wait until the Madonna directed Wallis Simpson biopic hits the cinema. I suspect we'll be looking at TKS with a lot more sympathy.

This is a joke, right? Please, God, tell me this is a joke.
posted by The Bellman at 6:15 AM on February 2, 2011


It says right on the film's website - "Based on a true story", not "a documentary". What's the problem?
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 6:20 AM on February 2, 2011


What is going on? A clue can be found near the climax. The buttoned-up king calls Logue “my friend”. In return, Logue at last calls him “Your Majesty”. The message is thumpingly clear: only once the king has shown he is Logue’s equal in humanity has he earned the Australian’s reverence. Triumphantly swelling chords give the game away. This is a moment of conservative closure: a celebration of a very British doctrine of meritocratic snobbery—the notion that deference is quite proper, as long as it is deserved.

This strikes me as largely accurate, and as a bleeding-heart liberal of the worst kind it should be galling to me. But it's not. The same criticism can be leveled at the Lord of the Rings (the films and, to an even greater extent, the books) which are paeans to the importance of bloodlines. Look not only at Aragorn's entire story, but also at the relationship between Frodo and Sam, which is, by the end, unparalleled in contemporary cinema for its depiction of the nearly erotic love between a "worthy" master and his devoted servant. Does Tolkien's conservative devotion to concepts of blood monarchy make the books (and the movies) any less pleasing as works of art? I think, not -- in fact I think it's central to what makes them great.
posted by The Bellman at 6:29 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Good history will construct multiple narratives in an attempt to reconcile messy and conflicting evidence about a historical period.

Good history is judged by the credibility (not necessarily truth) of it's explanations built on multiple sources of evidence.


These are good points. We're kidding ourselves if we pretend there's such a thing as the true, honest-to-god account of what actually happened. A lot of what we call history, from Herodotus and Thucydides onward, is just some guy's version of what happened.
posted by ekroh at 6:30 AM on February 2, 2011


It's pretty obvious the King's Speech was made to rehabilitate the image of the royal family in advance of Either Charles or his son ascending to the throne.

Long live the Queen.
posted by pompomtom at 6:31 AM on February 2, 2011


Did any of those who commented here actually here read Hitchens' piece???

Hitchens wasn't concerned about whether or not the film got the stammering right.

Hitchens was concerned about how the movie glossed over ALL the Hitler/Nazi-sympathizers within Britain and within the Royal Family.

That to me IS a significant oversight that rewrites history in a much less menacing light. How much more uncomfortable it would have made us to see all the Royals wishing Hitler well or to have witnessed Churchill holding out to see Hitler succeed.
posted by DavidandConquer at 6:40 AM on February 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Hitchens was concerned about how the movie glossed over ALL the Hitler/Nazi-sympathizers within Britain and within the Royal Family.


But isn't that true of most movies set in that era? Certainly most of us here in the US have never seen Henry Ford or Charles Lindbergh (among others) portrayed as Nazi sympathizers.
posted by TedW at 6:50 AM on February 2, 2011


What purpose was served by altering Churchill from someone whose career was almost derailed after he stood tall for the playboy king Edward into someone whispering Edward had to go?

It seems such an absurd argument to make about such a minor character. Churchill gets about the same level of screen time as the young Elizabeth, and primarily serves as a token display of the real power of government. Churchill's politics wrt Edward v. George are a footnote.

It's pure mythmaking, playing to audiences' biases with no historical basis at all, in a film whose creators have been going on and on about how historically accurate they were. I'm sorry, but the folks in this thread saying "no one cares if some of the facts are wrong" are missing the point.

Of course it is. The problem is that traditional drama probably cannot deliver anything other than that. The only film off the top of my head that even comes close is the Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There which runs with the premise that we've probably never seen Robert Zimmerman and have no way to recognize him if we did. But that's also mythmaking and not history. And so would a hagiographic treatment of Chruchill.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:51 AM on February 2, 2011


How 'bout this: It's a movie.
posted by MarshallPoe at 6:56 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem with historical fiction is that a 100% (or even 70%) accurate depiction of past times, events or characters would be so unpalatable for modern audiences that it would make a rather unpleasant fiction. Even the most admirable historical figures were products of their time and held certain opinions or did certain things that were deemed normal and morally sound then, but would cause uproar today. Of course there's a fine line between forgetting inconvenient truths for the sake of a good yarn and whitewashing for propaganda purpose but it's certainly very difficult to get right without derailing the story.

In any case, I'm a little suspicious that there's an actual trend here. Perhaps filmmakers are more eager today to use the "inspired by a true story" line, but I'd like to see actual comparisons.
For instance (using Box Office Mojo):
1980: The Coal Miner's Daughter, Brubaker, Elephant Man, Raging bull, The Hunter
2010: The social network, Eat Pray Love, The fighter, The King's speech, Secretariat
posted by elgilito at 7:01 AM on February 2, 2011


Realism in movies is paramount. I keep explaining to my young niece and nephew that Finding Nemo is absolute crap, because fish don't talk.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:02 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


But isn't that true of most movies set in that era? Certainly most of us here in the US have never seen Henry Ford or Charles Lindbergh (among others) portrayed as Nazi sympathizers.

Movies, nothing. It's true of most pre-college history textbooks.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:03 AM on February 2, 2011


But isn't that true of most movies set in that era? Certainly most of us here in the US have never seen Henry Ford or Charles Lindbergh (among others) portrayed as Nazi sympathizers.

and THAT is the criticism that Hitchens' article is getting at.

poeple don't like to be reminded that "good" people could ever have been swayed by the charisma/deception of something so demonstrably evil as the Third Reich
posted by DavidandConquer at 7:05 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yep - its a movie (film)
and a piece of journalism by a "whiskey-sodden popinjay" who is big in the US.

Royals and Nazis go together like flies and horseshit - even here in Sweden.
posted by jan murray at 7:07 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is a whole generation of young people who quote Oliver Stone's JFK as pure truth.
posted by Senator at 7:13 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


poeple don't like to be reminded that "good" people could ever have been swayed by the charisma/deception of something so demonstrably evil as the Third Reich

People especially don't like to be reminded that many of the people their culture encourages them to admire were fascists and fascist supporters.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:13 AM on February 2, 2011


l2p: Was there a furor over Milos Foreman's "Amadeus?" Because I remember that being a fantastic film, and not all that was shown was true, and of course much was left out. In addition to being a great film, I treated it as an introduction to a subject about which I had known nothing. If you want to call it complete bullshit, that's fine.

It's a great drama. As history it's all bullshit based on a nationalistic slander that surfaced after Salieri's death. Antonio's worst sins against German music were being born in Venice and pissing off Leopold Mozart. But crazy and jealous Salieri makes for a better morality play than the shrewd altruist who conducted Mozart's work and retired early from composing to train Beethoven and Schubert.

But it's a perfectly good play if you assume it has almost nothing to do with the historical figures it represents.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:13 AM on February 2, 2011


To be fair (to the present day, I mean), there was a minor nineteenth-century industry devoted to exactly the same complaint. Only those critics were complaining about the effects of Sir Walter Scott's fiction.

Gah! Look at all the trouble he's caused over the years...
posted by Artw at 7:22 AM on February 2, 2011


As with the Clive Owen King Arthur, it would have still been a perfectly good film and sidestepped a lot of irritating pedantic arguments if only it, and the characters within it, had simply been named something else.

I'm kind of tickled by the idea of throwing up a film about King Arthur as a story that's not being told with historical accuracy. I mean, how else could you tell a story about King Arthur? It's a legend.
posted by padraigin at 7:51 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


* flops out of chair, dead from fatally high amount of condescension *
posted by everichon at 7:52 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


My last comment was an exaggeration, perpetrated to entertain myself.

I did not actually die from the effects of condescension.
posted by everichon at 7:53 AM on February 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's pretty obvious the King's Speech was made to rehabilitate the image of the royal family in advance of Either Charles or his son ascending to the throne.

Really? It's pretty obvious to me that the movie is a blatant bit of Oscar bait. I mean, it's about a handicap, it's a costume drama, and it features people with English accents. You wonder why other films even got nominated.

The director, Tom Hooper, had previously directed a miniseries about Elizabeth (I) with Helen Mirren (swoon) and the HBO series John Adams (as well as a few other things), so this seems right up his alley.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 7:54 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Realism in storytelling is still a relatively new idea. Expecting "based on a true story" stories to be anything more than fiction creates more confusion than simply assuming that all reconstructions are going to be false, whether it's a relatively innocuous compression of a story's timeline or something totally hagiographic.

When a movie is actually quite true to life, as with, oh, I don't know, say, Heavenly Creatures, then that's a point of trivia. It's not the general trend.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:55 AM on February 2, 2011


I'm kind of tickled by the idea of throwing up a film about King Arthur as a story that's not being told with historical accuracy. I mean, how else could you tell a story about King Arthur? It's a legend.

padraigin,
And as a footnote to your lovely comment, I'm pretty sure I read that the poet John Milton (1608-74) was considering King Arthur & his exploits as a fitting subject for serious, epic-length verse. But he finally rejected the notion, concluding there was no evidence for its historical basis.
So he (ironic drum roll) wrote Paradise Lost instead!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:10 AM on February 2, 2011


I have always liked the approach of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which begins with a title card reading, "Most of what follows is true." It seems to me that somewhere in one of William Goldman's books on screenwriting that he says that the screenplay he submitted had an even more nuanced version: "Not that it matters, but most of what follows is true."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:12 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


I enjoy the approach of Fargo. It opens with a titlecard saying that what follows is a true story, and that only the names of the real people have been changed. This is, of course, a lie - the story just barely compiles several true crime stories into something completely new - but it does give the story some gravitas right off the bat. Don't believe everything you read in fiction!

Then we read in the newspaper some years later that a Japanese woman had gone searching for the money from Fargo, only to freeze to death. This wasn't true either - the poor woman actually did die, tragically, but she did not freeze to death, and she was not looking for the money from Fargo. Don't believe everything you read in the paper, either!
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:24 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's got a fight against Nazis and a guy who overcomes a handicap, though, so who am I to naysay?

The producers of Valkyrie wish you were an Oscar voter.
posted by Jahaza at 8:25 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


The problem with historical fiction is that a 100% (or even 70%) accurate depiction of past times, events or characters would be so unpalatable for modern audiences that it would make a rather unpleasant fiction. Even the most admirable historical figures were products of their time and held certain opinions or did certain things that were deemed normal and morally sound then, but would cause uproar today. Of course there's a fine line between forgetting inconvenient truths for the sake of a good yarn and whitewashing for propaganda purpose but it's certainly very difficult to get right without derailing the story.

In any case, I'm a little suspicious that there's an actual trend here. Perhaps filmmakers are more eager today to use the "inspired by a true story" line, but I'd like to see actual comparisons.
For instance (using Box Office Mojo):
1980: The Coal Miner's Daughter, Brubaker, Elephant Man, Raging bull, The Hunter
2010: The social network, Eat Pray Love, The fighter, The King's speech, Secretariat
posted by elgilito at 7:01 AM on February 2 [+] [!]


I can't offer up anything to say about the other films, but the review I was most eager to read was Steve Haskin's review of Secretariat. I say this because I wanted to get some sense of how many liberties were taken with the facts, especially as I was a tad too young to remember Big Red (although I was old enough and had figured out TV programming enough to have watched the triple crown victory of Slew and the monumental battle between Affirmed and Alydar).

Haskin is a thoroughbred racing writer. He "knew" Secretariat (see the incredible photos). As such it was his pespective I wanted to read, and he didn't disappoint.

For the racing fans, he offered a critique of what he felt were some of the major issues in the film: the champion two-year-old being an underdog, the complete bastardization of Lucien Laurin's character, the way the results of the Wood Memorial were handled, the birth of Secretariat, etc.

But he also offered this comment, which I think goes to the heart of the discussion about historical accuracy in movies:

"But as stated before, most of these flaws will be overlooked by audiences. Having lived through the Secretariat years and having been close to the horse, I'm probably not the best person to dissect the movie because of the sharpness of my scalpel. So let me say again, I think the mainstream reviews will be excellent and that audiences will be thrilled and moved by it, and that’s all that matters.

"If they walk out of the theater feeling good and being awed by the greatness of Secretariat and the almost mythical persona he still possesses, then the movie will have succeeded. And after having time to digest it and put it all in perspective, I am convinced they will."

Later he added this:

"So, one month after seeing the film, the heck with the flaws and the liberties taken. I have come to grips with what this movie was intended to be. It has brought back into public consciousness a legendary athlete that transcended his sport and sports in general, weaving himself into the fabric of American culture. And it tells the story of one woman’s dogged determination in a world she had long since left behind."

Now admittedly Haskin is a booster for the sport of kings, and he wants to see it grow in popularity, so he does have an agenda of wanting the film to do well and spawn more racing fans, but I think he got the essence of "based-on-a-true-story" movies right. They're about the big themes and over-arching stories. They're not historical texts depicting every accuracy and detail, as much as I wish they were truer to the source material.

I also think that whether people can enjoy the movies depends a lot upon how close they are to the subject and how well they know the material. The more background a person brings to a film, the more likely she or he is to be annoyed by what the movie gets wrong. Additionally the really egregiously inaccurate films (like that American submarine movie mentioned above) really deserve a strong public shunning.

Of course having said all that, I still haven't seen this particular equestrian bio-pic, so maybe I shouldn't talk.
posted by sardonyx at 8:29 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


In Shakespeare's Richard III, Richard murders his nephews to gain the throne. Historians are not sure quite what happened to the boys. My knowledge of this came from reading Josephine Tey's Daughter of Time. The news has a viewpoint, history has a viewpoint, and they claim to present facts. Drama and art claim to present some version of the facts, in a way that tells a particular story, makes us see and feel something.
posted by theora55 at 8:40 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem with historical fiction is that a 100% (or even 70%) accurate depiction of past times, events or characters would be so unpalatable for modern audiences that it would make a rather unpleasant fiction.

Speaking of the so-called Middle Ages, I remember a slightly scandalous moment from high school (back in the 70s) when one of the history teachers dropped the observation that Monty Python And The Holy Grail was probably the most accurate depiction of that time ever put on screen. Needless to say, many were baffled. "The killer rabbit was real?"

"No," he countered, "But the filth and the lunacy was."
posted by philip-random at 9:11 AM on February 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Hitchens is spot on as usual.

There's not much love for Hitch in these parts, but when he's good, he's definitely good.

And when he's bad, he's horrid.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:17 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Secretariat was completely made up. Dag Hammarskjöld wasn't a horse.
posted by lukemeister at 9:25 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


127 Hours wasn't actually 127 hours long. I'm fucking outraged.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:30 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


With regard to the stammer, the film's drama depends on stretching out the therapy process until the very end and implying that he didn't finally ditch the impediment until his 1939 war speech. The linked newsreeel shows he was fine speaking in public in 1938, and in reality he had been fine for a decade or more at that point.

But an accurate portrayal of that wouldn't have made a very good movie. Makers of historical fiction films have no obligation to be politically correct, much less to be historically correct in every detail. As noted above, it's a movie. It's not a PhD thesis.
posted by beagle at 9:34 AM on February 2, 2011


I treated it as an introduction to a subject about which I had known nothing.

Count yourself as the exception and good on you for it. I'm guessing most people treated it as the final word.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:45 AM on February 2, 2011


It really takes him an intractably long time to get the speech out, with several (likely unbearable-feeling, for the speaker) long pauses between words.

Yeah, I don't see why that clip would be evidence that he didn't have a problem. It's kind of painful to watch.

The nazi-sympathizer stuff is fascinating.
posted by torticat at 10:20 AM on February 2, 2011


Which of these is the most reliable when it comes to film/television?

Documentary. And even that's a bit iffy at times.
posted by grubi at 10:35 AM on February 2, 2011


If you have a huge bone to pick with movies claiming that they are historically inaccurate when they're not, or fiction masquerading as fact, well, news flash: movies have always claimed to represent reality when in plain fact, as D.W. Griffith himself said, "A good picture tends to make people think a little, without letting them suspect that they are being inspired to think."
posted by blucevalo at 10:35 AM on February 2, 2011


It's a movie.

Made by folks who have been going out of their way to emphasize how historically accurate it is. It's hardly beyond the pale to take a second look at that claim. But I don't have any problem with the kind of manipulation beagle mentions just above - stretching the therapy right up to the Big Speech to make the drama more exciting.

me: It's pure mythmaking

KirkJobSluder: Of course it is.

The question, though, is "Why that particular myth?" If, as seems to be the case, the filmmakers decided that they needed to not just ignore Churchill's attempts to keep Nazi-loving Edward on the throne but actively posit a completely opposite position for him in their film, it's certainly fair to ask them why. Dismissing the question with "it's just a movie and all movies are just drama" shuts down discussion for no good reason, really.
posted by mediareport at 10:35 AM on February 2, 2011


sorry, "historically accurate"
posted by blucevalo at 10:37 AM on February 2, 2011


127 Hours wasn't actually 127 hours long. I'm fucking outraged.

Turns out 2012 wasn't a sequel to 2001. Or 1776. Or even Se7en.
posted by grubi at 10:38 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I loved Ronald Reagan in Cryptonomicon, as well as Turing. If people mistake fiction that uses historical figures and incidents inaccurately they have a problem with the very concept of story and art. If people believe films and books like these to be historical documents it is not the responsibility of the artists to account for that, but for society to at least attempt to give people in our society a basic education. Sadly, basic education is shit upon as having an agenda.
posted by juiceCake at 10:47 AM on February 2, 2011


There was some indication of Edward's Nazi sympathizing in the film, though right? Because I came out of the movie thinking mostly about how hard it is to understand the plausibility of narratives of another time - how for me the idea that everyone bought the story that Edward was resigning for love because they couldn't have a divorcee queen seems nonsensical and it makes much more sense if the real story is that there was a general agreement of the need to get Edward the hell off the throne because of the Nazi thing. And yet that's just me picking a different story to believe as a function of how much both the concepts of Divorce and Nazis have changed since the 1930s - the former having shed so much stigma and the latter having accreted a meaning of 'ultimate evil' that it did not quite have yet when these events were playing out.
posted by yarrow at 10:54 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


If, as seems to be the case, the filmmakers decided that they needed to not just ignore Churchill's attempts to keep Nazi-loving Edward on the throne but actively posit a completely opposite position for him in their film, it's certainly fair to ask them why.

It's because they don't want the film to be about Churchill. Look, by far, he's the most important and recognizable person to show up in the film, and as KirkJobSluder says "serves as a token display of the real power of government" and nothing really more. If you use that bit part to turn around and challenge what the audience stereotypically thinks of Churchill, suddenly who gives a shit about the king's stutter? Churchill's not behaving in the manner in which we expect! And then the film becomes either entirely different or the audience leaves wondering why they didn't get to see more about Churchill.
posted by furiousthought at 11:05 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Turns out 2012 wasn't a sequel to 2001. Or 1776. Or even Se7en.

Psh. I went in to 28 Days Later expecting a sequel to 28 Days. It was... not.

(Ok, I didn't really, but I imagine some people did. And then I laugh.)

Similarly, as Nelson Muntz once said, there are at least two things wrong with the title Naked Lunch.
posted by kmz at 11:08 AM on February 2, 2011


While I can sympathize with Hitchins about making sure we don't forget that Edward VII was an apparent nazi sympathizer, and that Churchill supported him until his reign was unsupportable (... though I wonder how a loyal subject is supposed to behave in such a situation without treading, as the movie suggested, into treasonous territory), I do wonder how he would have reacted to Longfellow's poem about Paul Revere's midnight ride, and the way we view the way the Boston Tea Party went down. And that doesn't even cover the whole incident with Washington and the cherry tree.

I guess there needs to be both historical accuracy, and the acceptance of the creation of myths for the purposes of teaching a lesson or telling a greater story. Few are still alive who were old enough to care about the details of Edward VII's abdication. As it was, the movie was less than generous in his portrayal. He came across as a selfish and petulant fool who was more interested in himself than his country.

While the details matter to pedants and historians, if Hollywood weaves an entertaining myth about the lives of people we wouldn't otherwise care about, and still gets across the general details, I'm ok with that.
posted by crunchland at 11:15 AM on February 2, 2011


The news has a viewpoint, history has a viewpoint, and they claim to present facts.

Lest it get overlooked, I wanted to reinforce this. Every recreation or summary of real events omits things that some viewers will consider crucial. Dramatists at least are upfront about it.

The obligation of a dramatist is not to give you a briefing on the subject he is depicting but to entertain you for as long as he has asked for your attention. The King's Speech is a dramatization of the George VI overcoming a speech impedimentand was pretty enjoyable, in my view. Of course, I think The Lion in Winter is a great play and movie and is not diminished by Henry II not actually having held a Christmas court at Chinon in 1183. I suppose The Lion in Winter is less problematic because a larger portion of the audience is familiar with the English royal family's doings of eighty years ago than eight hundred.

Geeks delight in using their own knowledge to spoil their own fun.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:17 AM on February 2, 2011


BTW, the the most egregious example I can think of of fiction turning myth into "history" is the common belief that Columbus discovered the Earth was round and nobody supported him because they thought the Earth was flat. Washington Irving has a lot to answer for.
posted by kmz at 11:21 AM on February 2, 2011


I don't know if the film is historically accurate or has an agenda, I haven't seen it yet. Hitchens, however, is ridiculously biased and inaccurate in his piece. Appeasement wasn't a conspiracy between Chamberlain and pro-Nazi royals against the good people of Britain (or Czechoslovakia): it was a highly popular stance in a country which had lost a significant part of it's youth just twenty years before between Ypres and the Somme. But by bringing together two of Hitchens' hobbyhorses, appeasement and the monarchy, this film was certain to attract his thunder. If only the Pope had also been kindly portrayed, Hitchens' head would have exploded.
posted by Skeptic at 11:32 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Similarly, as Nelson Muntz once said, there are at least two things wrong with the title Naked Lunch.

Or as Otto said after leaving the Stoner's Pot Palace, blatant false advertising.
posted by grubi at 11:56 AM on February 2, 2011


mediareport: Made by folks who have been going out of their way to emphasize how historically accurate it is. It's hardly beyond the pale to take a second look at that claim.

Sure, I'm skeptical that you can actually achieve anything like historical accuracy (or more appropriately, credibility) within the constraints of cinema drama. Cinema drama is inherently biased in ways that are incompatible with historical credibility. While we can criticize the bias of The King's Speech I don't think we can do so against a utopian ideal of an unbiased biopic.

The question, though, is "Why that particular myth?" If, as seems to be the case, the filmmakers decided that they needed to not just ignore Churchill's attempts to keep Nazi-loving Edward on the throne but actively posit a completely opposite position for him in their film, it's certainly fair to ask them why. Dismissing the question with "it's just a movie and all movies are just drama" shuts down discussion for no good reason, really.

Because the question largely answers its self with an obvious answer. The screenwriter wanted a feel-good buddy movie, so some of the uglier aspects of its historical figures are minimized. What I'm dismissing is the assumption that a version of The King's Speech that explores Churchill's support of Edward and George's support of Chamberlain would be either a better drama or a better history. The former is possible but unlikely since the primary conflict of TKS is man against self, or Albert vs. George in this case. The latter is impossible because good history and good narrative are largely incompatible.

I am dismissing the notion that the political bias of the film is most apparent in a handful of lines from one of the most minor characters, rather than the ridiculous caricatures of George V, David, and Simpson, the hagiography of Elizabeth, Albert's reoccurring angst about being a potentially disposable figurehead, the utterly pedantic speech in the cathedral, and the rise of Fascism given all of about a half-dozen lines before the climactic speech.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:07 PM on February 2, 2011


Mr. Simpson, this is the most blatant case of false advertising since my case against "The Never-Ending Story"!
posted by kirkaracha at 1:24 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't believe you people are fussing about history. This movie was quite obviously about wallpaper.

(And I mean that in the best way. GORGEOUS wallpaper.)
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:09 PM on February 2, 2011


It's always a bit bizarre to see movie previews that use this as a way to sell the movie, but I guess it must work.

I've known several people who've refused to read fiction, because it's not 'true'.

Realism in movies is paramount. I keep explaining to my young niece and nephew that Finding Nemo is absolute crap, because fish don't talk.

Realism is paramount in many things, this is why it's hard to buy any new computer games where the compelling new features aren't more realistic 3D effects rather than innovative gameplay.
posted by robertc at 5:06 PM on February 2, 2011


I keep explaining to my young niece and nephew that Finding Nemo is absolute crap, because fish don't talk.

It's worse than that. FISH ARE NOT ANIMATED CARTOONS. They're sentient beings with complex lives and behavioral systems. And prepared correctly, they taste delicious.
posted by philip-random at 5:21 PM on February 2, 2011


To my recollection, the movie does not start with "based on a true story..", even though perhaps the posters and web page do? I can't remember for sure..

Now if a movie is about the -soon-to-be-King and his friendship with his Speech therapist, and the only thing Hitchens can find to complain about, is Churchill, and Edward, who were both minor roles for the scope. Isn't that a success? Doesn't that mean the movie was close to accurate, when considering what the focus on the story was?

If Hitchens had pages to say about how wrong Geroge VI, or Lionels historical portrayal was, then fine, so be it. But the side characters? You could argue the whole movie could have been made without Churchill and Edward. But then everyone would complain that they were missing, AND, the nazi stuff.
posted by lundman at 5:36 PM on February 2, 2011


I keep explaining to my young niece and nephew that Finding Nemo is absolute crap, because fish don't talk.

Das Limpet!
posted by pracowity at 12:50 AM on February 3, 2011


On tonight's 60 Minutes Andy Rooney did an interesting bit relating a nifty anecdote about personally meeting George VI.
posted by XMLicious at 5:40 PM on February 13, 2011


The King's Speech Revisited: The movie's screenwriter goes too far in defending his version of history.
posted by homunculus at 2:56 PM on February 27, 2011


The President's Speech
posted by homunculus at 12:54 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


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