With its 12 Oscar nominations, its stellar cast, and its glowing reviews, The King’s Speech sounded like a movie that would leave me…well, speechless.
But when it comes to stuttering Englishmen I was, frankly, more moved by Roger Daltrey’s performance of the song “My Generation.” My main problem with The King’s Speech is that the character we’re supposed to identify with, the down-trodden-schmuck-who-can’t-catch-a-break-but-we-root-for-him-anyway-because-for-all-his-faults-he’s-got-a-heart-of-gold just happens to be…THE KING OF ENGLAND! That’s right: in order to enjoy this film I’m supposed to feel sympathy for a man who, almost by definition, is an unsympathetic character. Like a Frank Capra film about the riches-to-mega-riches life of Donald Trump, this movie simply doesn’t make any sense to me despite fine performances by Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter.
I had the same problem with The Queen, which, you’ll recall, was about the trials and tribulations of a woman– oh, let’s call her THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND!–whose big life crisis was being criticized for not grieving enough after the death of Princess Diana. Well, ain’t life a bitch? I’ll bet you after those nasty British tabloids had their say about her Queen Elizabeth cried all the way home to her…ENORMOUS CASTLE. This is royalty we’re talking about, folks. The royal family’s various homes are worth well over a billion dollars– yes, even in today’s housing market. The personal net worth of Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, et al are in the hundreds of millions of pounds, each–by the way, each pound coin being distinctive in that IT HAS A PICTURE OF QUEEN ELIZABETH ON IT. When you’re a royal the “family jewels” is not a crude reference to anyone’s anatomy– they’re actual jewels. Call me heartless, but I just can’t feel sorry for anyone who has their own moat.
My antipathy towards the royalty genre in movies goes beyond the absurdity of being asked to identify with bejeweled billionaires seated on solid gold chairs. I frankly find it appalling, in this progressive, politically correct, anti-Establishment age, that supposedly civilized people like us continue to tolerate, and even celebrate, royalty. Slavery, as we’re reminded by the mainstream media on almost a daily basis, was a terrible, evil institution. So was Nazism. So was, and is, communism. So, I would argue, was disco. But you know what was a really, really bad institution? Royalty, the notion that God considered some men more valuable than others, that one’s class is an unchangeable accident of birth, and that the lower class should be, in effect, the slaves and property of the nobility. Does anybody not grasp the evil of this? Who could not be enraged by the fact that by law one man should bow down before another simply because the two men’s ancestries were different– and that refusing to do so could cost the commoner his life?
Obviously the Royal Family no longer rules England, but aren’t they all living, breathing symbols of an evil empire that lasted not seventy-odd years, like the Soviet Union, but more than a millennium? How do we continue to venerate, and even admire, Queen Elizabeth, her useless boob of a son Prince Charles, his ridiculous offspring, the pathetic, money-grubbing Sarah Ferguson, and the rest of that corrupt, inbred gang of gin-swilling mutants?
Or, as some would suggest, are the Royals a quaint, charming link to the past? Fine, then let’s re-establish some working cotton plantations here in the U.S., complete with African slaves, as a tribute to America’s diverse history. Let’s forcibly place living Native Americans back onto bleak reservations as living testimony to America’s triumph over intolerance. The whole thing’s grotesque. Hell, let’s bring back public hangings–just think of the Pay-Per-View money.
There was a scene in The Queen where the newly elected prime minister had to kneel before Queen Elizabeth and kiss her ring before he could take office, a time-honored British tradition. In a parliamentary democracy? In the twentieth century? Who exactly is not horrified by that? Who does this Queen person think she is, Barbra Streisand? How is it that Queen Elizabeth’s personal holdings are in excess of a billion dollars, yet England is currently in the grip of a severe budgetary crisis? Not to mention that, judging from my own recent trip to the UK, the English people have been denied even the most rudimentary dental care for decades. In truth, so long as they continue to curtsy before a rich jackass seated on a special chair no Englishman (nor any citizen of any other country that still recognizes a monarchy) is in any position whatsoever to make moral or political pronouncements on anyone else, in particular the United States. Got that, George Galloway? Good. Now go brush your remaining teeth.
Ignorant, bitter demagogues like Bill Maher and Howard Zinn would have you believe that the United States was founded on the twin evils of racism and genocide. In truth, this country was founded on the principle that no man is more valuable in the eyes of God than any other man simply by birth. (The definition of “man,” of course, eventually expanded in the U.S., as it was expanding around the world at that time, to include men, and women, of all races). That simple, powerful principle is what separates us from England, India , Japan, and any other nation that, for all of its virtues, still tolerates a class system. Royalty, even in its remnants, is the embodiment of a class system that brutalized, murdered and enslaved entire peoples, not just members of certain races, for over a thousand years. Which means, it seems to me, that any celebration of royalty– even a tourist’s visit to Buckingham Palace, or the media’s fetishization of the late Princess Diana– should be morally repugnant to any American. Our Forefathers’ cry that “We have no king but Jesus!” did not advocate Christianity, it boldly defied the notion that any man on earth should have dominion over any other man.
Like teen vampires, bank robbers who think they can pull off that one last heist, and anything starring Jennifer Aniston the royalty film genre will eventually be played out and Hollywood will move on to their next fixation. Until then, please spare me any more movies in which the protagonist rules over a quarter of the world’s population, or can have me put to death for making eye contact with her. Call me a populist, but I’m not interested in movies about how hard life is for wealthy, out-of-touch figureheads who expect to be worshipped by us commoners for simply drawing breath.
And don’t even get me started on Queen Latifah.