How 'The King's Speech' spoke eloquently for those who stutter
From the community that treats and lives with stuttering, an outpouring of fervent praise for Best Picture winner 'The King's Speech.'
In Pictures Oscar winners 2011
In Pictures Oscar's red carpet runway
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The film details King George VI’s struggles to overcome a lifelong stutter in order to take his place as the British monarch who would lead his country through World War II. The introduction of radio as a prime communication tool exacerbated his personal travail.
With the exception of some researchers, who say the film could have touched more on the physiological causes for the disorder, those who labor in the trenches of research and education say the film is a welcome influx of positive imagery and role models for the nearly 68 million people worldwide who grapple daily with the indignities of speech dysfluency, as it is known.
“We all look for role models,” says College of Charleston communications professor Chris Lamb. “As stutterers, we want someone sympathetic,” he says, noting that when he was young, “it was Porky Pig.” He says he grew up thinking that the only viable career option for him was to do voice-overs for Looney Tunes.
The next widely disseminated role model was the character played by Michael Palin in “A Fish Called Wanda.” But, while that figure wasn’t as bad as Porky Pig, he was considered mentally abnormal – again, not a great image.
A serious representation matters, notes Mr. Lamb, because of the self-imposed limitations taken on by many who stutter. “It’s a matter of opportunities not used, new challenges not faced, because,” he says, “who wants to face the excruciating embarrassment of being seen as just another Porky Pig?”
The Stuttering Foundation has issued numerous statements in support of the film, the latest after Sunday night’s win. “It is an eloquently golden night for people who stutter,” says President Jane Fraser in a release.