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Speech Class

Friday 19 November 2010, 15:15

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

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As Colin Firth and Helena Bonham-Carter pull on the regal drag for stiff upper lipstick Brit flick The King's Speech, a question is raised. Is the difference between royal and plebeian profanities measurable in years?

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    Comment number 1.

    There is a certain irony that this blog is called "Kermode Uncut" and your own use of the F word includes cuts. Perhaps if I watch it tonight after the watershed it won't? ...

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    Comment number 2.

    Not that this necessarily represents my point of view, but I can see the reasoning being how essential the words are to the plot/message/themes of the film. In The King's Speech, a film I'm yet to t'see, it sounds pretty crucial. In Made In Dagenham, I noticed how...'excessive' the swears could seem in the context of their respective scenes. They didn't necessarily add to the power of the drama (U-language confrontations between the lead married couple were far more dramatic). There's also an argument to be made that the film isn't the most naturalistic, realistic portrayal of 1960s England. In part it takes an affection, nostalgic look at the past. Therefore, Woolley's argument that 'this is how things were, therefore face up to it' falters slightly.

    Having said that, I see no reason why Made in Dagenham shouldn't be a 12A. As I say, the Fs didn't stand out particularly and I think that people could very easily miss a few of them. I also think, and call me disgustingly tolerant if you must, that young children don't constantly copy everything they see on a screen. And those who are ready to invest in the themes of Made in Dagenham are more than mature enough to handle a few f-words.

    For this same reason, This Is England should have been classed as a 15. (Although this is a film much more likely to be leapt upon and praised...wrongly...by the Nuts-reading Football Factory crowd).

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    Comment number 3.

    The BBFC recognise the importance of profanity in 'The King's Speech', as the story needs the involvement of such words, while they determined 'Made in Dagenham' wanted to include profanity.

    Personally I believe M.I.D's profanity is just as integral to the story, but I don't think the BBFC are 'classist', they're trying to rate a film on whether it needs or wants profanity; or violence and nudity for that matter.

    In today's films using 'rude' words should be a lesser priority for a films certificate . Either way, if people are offended by profanity I'd like to say "Grow up you C***"

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    Comment number 4.

    The Social Network also had two uses of the F-Word and that was a 12A certificate.The BBFC must feel any more usages of F bombs would upgrade it to a 15.I also think Armageddon had two F-Words in it and that was a 12.

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    Comment number 5.

    Yes Mark they are, and they are keeping alive a French/Norman arrogance to language which says Saxon words are evil compared to their French/Romanic equivalents. Liberate the Anglo Saxon in you; swear at someone with a smile!

    PS I wanted to write the words in full but ironically failed the BBC 'Profanity Filter'

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    Comment number 6.

    I listened to Stephen Woolley's impassioned responses to both the classification of Made in Dagenham and the subsequent reclassification of The King's Speech and I remain mystified by his indignancy. Presumably he knew full well that the frequency of the use of the F word in his film would result in a 15 certificate. If it was so important to him that the film be seen by young girls then he need only have toned down the swearing in the script to obtain the desired 12A. Dramas depicting working class issues from the 60's have appeared on the television regularly, many with important themes, but rarely with really strong language - especially if the audience is meant to include young teens. I can't help wondering if the producer is protesting just a little too much. Maybe it didn't occur to him until after the film was made that it might be important for younger people to see it. Maybe he just lost count of the 'f's'. Either way, I can't see that it's the BBFC's problem.

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    Comment number 7.

    Simple answer to your question Mark - no.

    Made in Dagenham has more uses of the f-word and its use is not integral to the plot as it is in The King's Speech. For this reason even if the films had the same amount of swearing I could still probably understand the BBFC's classification as the swearing in Made in Dagenham is more gratuitous.

    I share RevdAl's cynicism as to the motives behind Stephen Woolley's protests and think that in this day and age trying to portray the film as a victim of (cinematically) non-existent discrimination is pretty asinine.

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    Comment number 8.

    Well from what I have been told by you and Mr Woolley, as I have not seen either film, I agree with the BBFC.

    The use of it in the Colin Firth film is being used as not part of conversation or in an aggressive manner but a therapeutic manner. If anything the BBFC may see it as an educational pov, as I have noticed with some documentaries in the past allowing things that may not acceptable in a feature film, I always assumed it was because they were educating us, just like with Colin Firth’s problem in the film.

    Made in Dagenham it is being used when in conversation (again I assume this) when it could be avoided or even in the use of like amusing "banter" some may still find that alone offensive.

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    Comment number 9.

    light amusing "banter" some may still find that alone offensive.



    Sorry missed that.

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    Comment number 10.

    The 12A-rated Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines has two (aggressive) uses of the "F-word"; uttered by Jesus Christ - sorry, John Connor.

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    Comment number 11.

    I grew up in a middle-class enclave of a working class city (Liverpool) and even as a kid I noticed the disparity in speech patterns between the classes. The F-word was used (as Woolley himself said) as a punctuation mark by many people, and I genuinely think they weren't aware of it. In many cases, their "swear words" were ones with religious connotations rather than sexual ones but because we now live in a culture in which those aspects of our lives have largely exchanged their taboo status we react in very different ways to them - exclaiming "Oh God!" is considered to be extremely mild today for instance.

    So for me, in a sense both sides are right - which is, of course, a recipe for disaster in an argument!

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    Comment number 12.

    Of course - the snobbishness of the upper-class fodder (that will be seen by no one but will win a token award) will always have more power in this department.

    But then if I'm being honest would either of these films really pull in a significant audience within the age group range mentioned?

    I doubt you would get a larger BO if you gave both films a Universal Cert because, well when do you see 12 years olds queueing for films like this?

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    Comment number 13.

    The point is if parents don't want 12 year olds (or youneger) exposed to swearing then there has to be some way of them knowing a film's content. The publicity about Made in Dagenham would have left no one in any doubt about the amount of swearing and so parents had all the information they needed to make an informed choice. The swearing in MID was fitting for the film and it would have lacked authenticity without it. It is the BBFC rating and lack of awareness of what leis behind it that is the issue (although my knowldge has certainly gone up - maybe this whole controversy was a deliberate pl0y to aviod the quango bonfire!). A sdolution could be to introduce a new 12F--- rating so parents would know where they stood.

    PS ironically I tried to use asterisks after the 12F but this failed the blogs profanity filter!!

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    Comment number 14.

    I'm sorely disappointed that both Made in Dagenham and Heartless both opened this weekend here and yet all our theater got was that crummy-looking Russell Crowe movie.

    Also the MPAA gave The King's Speech an R-rating, because you can break limbs and decapitate people in a PG-13 film, but lord help us if our children's virginal ears are exposed to the f-bomb. Double-standards, yay!

    What exactly is "therapeutic" swearing, anyway? I consider all of my swearing to be therapeutic.

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    Comment number 15.

    I can't really see that this issue is elitist - the idea of working class people (or any average civilian these days) using the f-word is hardly revolutionary, whereas a monarch swearing seems a much more controversial subject.

    Perhaps because it's such a strange image - can you imagine the Queen blaspheming after a particularly gruelling day doing... whatever she does? - that it doesn't matter as much as the everyday use of the f-word in MID. It's a spectacle, sanitised by the fact that it's such a weird sight, with no connotations of the word's actual meaning; the sense of insult is perhaps more evident in the offhand swearing in MID.

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    Comment number 16.

    I listened to the pod cast about the classifications of both films - find it hard to see why it is so easy to apply classification rules to one film but yet apply them differently to another ....

    Dr K comes to his own censored, and allegedly UNCUT, blog to gain opinions from those who could be banned for truely voicing their fncking points of view (see what I did there...)

    Hmmm ...

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    Comment number 17.

    FFS - my entry was even censored and needed me to edit it before it could be uploaded. End of discussion :(

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    Comment number 18.

    classisy,yes

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    Comment number 19.

    classist yes

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    Comment number 20.

    I've read that films aged at attracting teens need to have a 12 cert.
    They do this by having at least 'one strong swear word', usually the F word, in it. This is then put on the parental advisories. (Otherwise teens see the films as being beneath them.)

    If there is to be a policy it should be consistent. Once you hear the F word it's in your mind; it doesn't matter how many times it's then said. I also understand words and expression of emotion can have different meanings, according to context.
    If you want to hear swearing, stand by a bus stop outside a school. Overuse; but they'll learn in time.

    Is the 12 classification for King's Speech fair? Compared to Made in Dagenham? No.

    Is their a class bias in this? I'd say yes.

    To exaggerate: Proles swear because they don't know any better and have a limited vocabulary.
    The upper class only swear for effect, under extremis, or are taught it as therapy. (Having known many of both, nether stereotype is true.)

 

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