Sunday, January 16, 2011

The King's Speech

I may be seeming to be going off-format by sharing a movie review, but technology is a broad term, and one that certainly plays a part in The King's Speech.  There is not a lot in pop culture that is so explicitly about communication disorders, which may be just one reason why our profession is not well understood, and I think we should be very grateful for The King's Speech.  The film is attracting a very wide range of moviegoers because of its deserved acclaim, and it is sure to give that other movie about communication and technology, The Social Network (I still have to see this but am really excited to do so), a run for its money in several Oscar categories.

The movie itself transcends the dryness of many dramas about the British Monarchy, thanks to its humor and the excellent performances of its three leads, Colin Firth, Helena Bonham-Carter, and Geoffrey Rush (so well put-together in this film that my friend and I failed to recognize him). The story, also, is brisk and interesting, with a sense of urgency lent by the increasing communicative demands placed on the King and his need to find a way to improve the fluency of his speech.  With the growing power of Hitler and need for leadership from the crown, literally, the world was somewhat in the balance.

From a Speech-Language Pathologist's perspective (though I must admit that the incidence of stuttering in my various settings has been so low that I that I always tread carefully and with a LOT of guidance), there is much that seems on point in the depiction of the King's problem: its origin and complicating factors, failed experiences in "therapy," and its presentation.  Though Lionel Logue lacked credentials (were there any to be had in the 1930s?), his techniques- the focus on relaxation, diaphragmatic breathing, manipulating audio feedback, onsets, singing, and not least of all, counseling- were also similar to modern methods and fascinating to watch.  One of my favorite parts was when Lionel denied his client the freedom to work with a model plane on his desk and, upon getting the "production" he was going for, told His Royal Highness, "Now as a reward you may apply some glue to these struts." Does this motivational technique and use of reinforcement sound familiar to anyone?


Technology plays a huge role in the film, providing both a positive revelation to the King in terms of the fluency he could potentially achieve (with removal of auditory feedback) and a constant source of stress with the expectation that he learn how to speak on the radio. I'm interested now in checking out the book to see how King George and Lionel continued to work to tackle and/or utilize this technology as the war progressed.

I definitely recommend this film! Now I probably only have to see 7 other movies to be ready for the Oscars.

2 comments:

  1. Fabulous movie, every SLP should see it, and everyone else, too!!

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  2. Well, I finally had a chance to see the movie yesterday here in Mass. I loved it! My only thought is that I wish ASHA would capitalize on all the publicity right now and go out and recruit more therapists and also try to increase knowledge about our professions to the general media. The timing of this movie, plus the recent tragedy in Tucson in which we can assume Ms. Giffords will need an SLP, are perfect opportunities for ASHA to educate and advocate for our professions.

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