Friday, January 21, 2011

King's Speech cast and audience joke and laugh about stuttering

I just watched a Q&A session on the King's Speech. The main actors and director were talking about the movie in front of an audience of actors, I think. [18:00]

The moderator said that the British Stammering Association liked the realistic portrayal of block. Everyone in the audience laughed at the thought of there being an association about stammering. Then the actress playing the wife of the king, also made some really stupid jokes about stuttering. Like the movie would have taken too long, and so on. Only Colin Firth comes out relatively unscathed, except for a few jokes at the end.

Basically, for most in that audience and panel stuttering is just a funny thing a strange king does. Most have no idea what it feels like to stutter. Stuttering is a matter of laughter. They would have never made the same comments about wheelchairs or blacks. Watch it, and you will feel ridiculed. Transported back in the times when your friends made fun of you.

We are totally drunk about the movie. Finally a movie on stuttering. And we think the actors are so concerned about stutterers. They are not. They did the movie for a good story, and not for us. They do not care about us. We are the poodle of the King's Speech.


Anonymous said...

I don't have any idea why the audience started laughing after the "British Stammering Association" was mentioned.

Anonymous said...

To be honest I've been pretty dubious about the King's Speech since I first heard of it and surprised at how rare that attitude seems to be among other people who stutter. Part of it is that I've had some very negative therapy experiences and am frustrated that the movie focusses on speech therapy particularly, but... I just don't trust mainstream movie-makers when it comes to stuttering. Also, the director gave an interview that seriously frustrated me (talking about stuttering as psychological, using it as a metaphor a la "we all have a block between us and our best selves", yeah get your analogy out of my speech disorder okay). This really doesn't surprise me, although it saddens me. I think you're right that people are just seeing it as an unusual quirk.

Just one thing:

They would have never made the same comments about wheelchairs or blacks.

I really wouldn't be so quick to say that. I'm active in the broader disability rights blogosphere and some of the things that get said about "publicly-accepted" disabilities and the people with them (blind people, permanent wheelchair users) and done to them are horrible... and racism isn't over either. We don't have to put down other people's experiences of discrimination to draw attention to our own.

Jerome said...

@Tom: to witness such childish behavior is really sad and shows the long way still in front of us ...


I really wouldn't be so quick to say that.

Why not? It's true. One can make fun of stutterers. But not of blacks or people in wheelchairs. Not that one SHOULD make fun of them! On the contrary. But it shows how people are treated differently.

Anonymous said...

(a) not *everyone* in the audience laughed. There were a few nervous giggles and we all know that (a) stammering can cause awkwardness and embarrassment, and that (b) the group mind is different from the individual and how we react when we feel observed is likely to be different to our normal reaction.
(b) I was disappointed in HBC but in all the bits I've seen of her she's very flippant about all manner of things. Also, she wasn't as involved in the making of the film as perhaps Tom Hooper or Colin Firth, flitting in and out of the set on weekends. Perhaps psychologically that made a difference.

"we think the actors are so concerned about stutterers" Who is this "we" you speak of? Firth makes it very clear - he's an actor, he doesn't stammer, he played someone who stammers, that is what an actor does.

Anonymous said...

I don't think this changes anything considering the movie seems to have done a lot for stuttering awareness.

Pam said...

I just watched this. I did not feel ridiculed as I watched and listened. I did feel these were actors talking about what it was like acting. Helena B Carter seemed totally detached and like she couldn't care less, but I don't think that any indifference to stammering. She just seemed bored. They were one or two moments that seemed filled with uncomfortable laughter, and the joke about the movie "taking too long" if Firth stuttered as much as the director wanted him to, I don't think that was meant as ridicule. I think this came off as a typical hollywood press conference, 21st century style. It was live, questions came in from the web and it was long.
I did think the director did a great job explaining why close-ups were used to have a "visual" of what stammering looks like, and what teying to conceal it looks like. That is the real struggle. And Hoopers explanantion of the use of "space" to illustrate a stutterer's sense of lonliness - I thought that was dead on. I noticed the intentional use of space myself in the movie. And when Firth spoke of how getting caught in "the block" is like drowning for a stutterer, I thought that too was a great analogy, illustrating what it feels like for those that have no idea. I did not feel as Tom did. I thought it was an OK press conference.

Daniele Rossi said...

I agree with Pam.

Also, why should we expect the actors to care about stuttering? Should we expect them to be monarchists as well?

Working on "The King's Speech" is just another day at work for them. At the very least, Colin Firth worked hard at portraying stuttering without making it comical.

Tom Weidig said...

@Pam and Daniele:

Uncomfortable laughter? They laughed because they thought it was funny. They would have never made the same remarks about those in a wheelchair or blacks.

Yes, it's just work for them. So I guess I can say: Well done for the acting job! But no-one, except maybe Firth, cares for what they have portrayed.

So I am NOT grateful for what they have done for us, because it was not their intention to do something for us.

Except the writer, he should get all the credit for the benefits this movie can/will achieve for people who stutter.

Gustav said...


Stuttering is not a system of government, to be supported or not. Your analogy is fallacious.

Anonymous said...


They couldn't get away with saying those things about people with something like blacks or people in wheelchairs.

If this were a movie about cancer and a cancer society made a comment saying the movie was accurate depiction or what happens during cancer, I doubt that anyone would think it was funny. I guess stuttering is still seen by them as something creepy or weird people do rather than a legitimate disorder that affects the general population.

Pam said...

@ Tom
I think the Director cared; it seemed he took great efforts to get scenes right, and his explanations of what he was trying to illustrate with space, ie. the isolation and lonliness of stuttering. If he didn't care, he wouldn't have worked so hard getting the portrayals and scenes right.
In fact, I think Hooper looked really uncomfortable with how Carter and Pearce were reacting, indifferent and silly. But again, I think that was due to "the elitism of actors" more than thinking stuttering is funny.
And more than a few times, in this viedo that you glad, and I thank you, it seemed to me Hooper was stuttering.
Everyone has so many different perspectives on stuttering, we will never all agree. That this was made, and risks the royal family looking vulnerable, is a tribute to the writer and director.
Tom, will you come to NSA or FRIENDS in US this year. Seidler is being keynote at both.

Konstantin said...

I totally agree with Pam and Daniele. My 20 cents:

1. This is a movie about the personal story of King George VI, not about stuttering in general. We are lucky that many people will understand better our problem after seeing the movie, but we should not have any high expectations about the responsibility of the actors regarding stuttering. I much more prefer talented actors and director who do not care much about stuttering but make an award winning movie that helps PWS to better understood to really concerned but mediocre team. As I don't really care whether Drayna is concerned about the difficulties we face, but I very much care what he discovers.

2. However, Tom Hooper and Colin Firth have been very responsible when talking about stuttering in all the interviews I have read and listened to. Recently, Colin Firth even told about his interview with Norbert Lieckfeldt and he explained to a journalist about the new research insights showing neurological roots of the problem. He also appealed that mocking stuttering should not any more happen in movies.

3. If one thinks that *everyone* in the audience laughed about the Stuttering Association, then apparently s/he has a hearing problem. (This might be a good thing since it is known that stuttering decreases when hearing problems occur. I hope that this stupid joke is allowed to a PWS.) There are a few laughters indeed, but come on, "stammering association" sounds indeed a bit funny, i.e. the "association that stammers". "British deaf association" would also sound strange.

4. A few years ago at the Oscars when "Beautiful mind" won quite many awards there was also a joke when two CIA agents were staying besides Whoopi Goldberg. I think this also might be offending for people with schizophrenia. I don't want to defend HBC for her silly remark but people still don't quite understand how offending for us might be some jokes they find just innocent. In this case one could blame HBC for not being careful, and maybe for not being very intelligent, but not for mocking PWS.

All in all I am very happy that such a great film is becoming more and more popular. However, I don't think I am "drunk".

Anonymous said...

who cares, Lincoln freed the blacks and he was a racist....

The end justifies the means....

If the movie helps PWS, who cares if the actors and directors are racists against PWS....or racists againsts stuttering...

Michael Palin's dad stuttered, and he was in a film that "screwed" PWS and stuttering in that movie a fish called wanda.....

The King's Speech "helps" stuttering and PWS

Anonymous said...

Why so pessimistically? Nevertheless, Colin Firth's answer shows that there are anyway people who are able and willing to understand the issue of stuttering and the and the special one of the king. The fact that Helena Bonham Carter was obviously overcharged with the subject of the film, nevertheless, stands on another sheet.
Do you know this link to the press conference in Toronoto - without HBC ;-)
Best regards, Karen

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we are being too sensitive? I am willing to give these people the benefit of the doubt. Having seen the movie, I can’t believe that the actors did not come away with a sense of what being a stutterer is like. The joke about the movie going on too long? My thesis defense took 5 hours and I joke about that all the time. At the end of the day this is the only movie I ever remember watching that had a positive portrayal of someone who stutters. And aside from that it was a great movie.

Anonymous said...

The only thing PWS have in common is the stuttering itself, and every single PWS have unique experiences in their past, and both influence how the individual PWS think about the movie "The King's Speech" (premiered in Norway on Friday, 11 February), and I've read a lot about what others think about the movie in front of premiere.
Because of my own experiences in past, I've decided to watch the movie on DVD with my family and few selected friends who are of closest struggles of my stuttering during life.
I've been thinking a lot of what's may gonna happen in the cinema, and I'm responsible to protect myself against things which can be of bad emotional influence to me, and about experiences in my stuttering past, Ive decided: "Things pass, and the best we can do is to let them really go away." - Paulo Coelho

Paul Dest said...

Hey Tom,

German is my stronger suit than English. So please see my comment on

Best TM-regards,
Paul Dest

Convenio R.A. said...

Today is sad to think that stuttering is important not for itself but for a movie.
I send my particular king's speech
I have the script for a film about stuttering, explain how it is and how to overcome it.

From a stutterer to the world.


Alberto Amaro (Spain)

Anonymous said...


Some technical feedback.

One of your videos on your home page is starting to stream even before I click on it.

This results in a 272 MB of processing "kicking off" every time I browse your home page. Which, given that I'm using mobile broadband with a usage allowance of 2G per month, is a pretty big chunk.

I've tried it with both Safari and Firefox browsers. Can't see anything I'm doing to make it happen.

The culprit seems to be

which I think is the video of the "King's Speech cast and audience joke and laugh about stuttering".



Anonymous said...

Why even post a comment trying to justify why people laugh at stutteres? It serves little purpose. Personally I am so sick of these cruel teaseres that I wish only the worst for them. May they die of cancer or some some horrid death. So be it for their spouces and children. If they are sick now then I laugh as they slowly rot away. How does that feel? Ha Ha. That really is funny Just keep on dying slowly so I can relax and giggle at the thought of the pain you are experiencing. Just hope you experience all the hell you deserve. If you don't agree..screw you and every member of your family.