United Kingdom: The King’s Speech – a national fairy tale
21 January 2011
Hotly tipped for the Oscars, the newly released film confirms that World War 2 is now creation myth number one for Britons – and the Queen their only living connection to it.
In this season of film awards, it's worth reminding the acting folk of the checklist. As my colleague Hadley Freeman has cheerfully noted, if you haven't played someone struggling with a disability or mental illness, a history of abuse and/or a foreign accent or, at the very least, homosexuality, put aside those Oscar dreams: it's not going to happen.
There is however a sub-category of advice for the British thespian: the path to Oscar runs through Sandringham, Windsor and SW1. A Brit who yearns for a statuette needs to go royal or, at the very least, aristo. Whether it's Helen Mirren pretending to be the Queen or Julian Fellowes serving up posh upstairs-downstairs fare in Gosford Park, faking blue blood is the secret of award success.
The latest beneficiary of the phenomenon is, of course, The King's Speech, which didn't just dominate today's Bafta nominations but is tipped for greatness come Oscar night. Why do the Americans keep lapping up this stuff? Amateur psychology suggests it's a collective case of projection. Americans take an aspect of themselves they don't much like – in this instance, hierarchy and class difference – and dump it on someone else, in this instance us. Rigid, class-bound hierarchy can't possibly happen in America, because look, there it is in Britain. In this conception, Britain is the home of inequality and social immobility, with the US tacitly flattered by the contrast. No wonder they applaud The King's Speech or Downton Abbey: such tales compliment them by showing how backward is the nation they left behind.
But why do such stories work so well on us? Of course it helps that Tom Hooper's film is written, directed and acted with such confidence, a delight to watch throughout. Yet there is also an element of Mad Men syndrome at work here. That excellent TV show flatters its audience, too: by exposing the gross sexism and racism of its 1960s characters, it implicitly praises the more advanced attitudes held by today's viewers. Read full article in the Guardian...