Hear Me Out Before You Shut Me Out

Film Like Me: The King’s Speech vs. The Blind Side

Welcome to a new segment that I like to call “Film Like Me” which I have taken from the title of the novel Black Like Me. This is where I take an acclaimed film that either I or somebody else claims to have similarities with another film prior to its release. That being said, I think it’s best to talk about 2010’s “Best Picture” The King’s Speech.

Before I start, let me be honest and say no, I’m not too upset that The Social Network lost. I knew that was going to happen. I’m more upset that the Academy picked Tom Hooper for Best Director instead of David Fincher. Anyway, set in the years leading up to World War II, The King’s Speech is about Albert, Duke of York who has a bad stutter and must make speeches. He meets an unorthodox speech therapist, and the two develop a friendship that strengthens as much as Albert’s speaking. Sounds motivating, but as I saw this film, I noticed a lot of similarities between this film and another film nominated for Best Picture the year before: The Blind Side, a film about Michael Oher and his development from boondocks basket case to gridiron hero which also happened to be a surprise hit. (Notice a trend?) For those of you who never saw The Blind Side, Michael Oher, who is now the offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens, is portrayed as a character from a rough neighborhood who is adopted by a white family the Tuohys (pronounced TOO-wee) and matures into a future college football player as opposed to living a life in the ghetto.

So now I’m going to bring up the top five comparisons made.

1. Both the films subject matters are hopeless cases with obviously great destinies – This one was probably the biggest one for me. Albert has a problem that he must make speeches and has a bad stutter, so that makes him afraid to talk. Except that which makes him so special is that he’s the son of the King, and it’s quite obvious he will one day take up the mantle of his father, so he has to make speeches and improve his speaking. Michael Oher has been passed around from high school to high school with poor test grades, testing in the bottom of his class, but he excels in protective instincts and is placed in a private high school. Those protective instincts make him destined to be an offensive lineman in football and apparently one of the greatest. Both these characters seem out of place in the situations, and even they feel the same way. Albert is afraid to speak because of his stammer; Michael is afraid to speak because he’s shy and doesn’t like people thinking he’s stupid.

2. Both undergo unique and different means that happen to make them excel – In the role that won Sandra Bullock the Oscar, Leigh Anne Tuohy sees Michael Oher walking to a place to stay and decides to let him stay over her house. She eventually adopts him as one of her own and helps use his protective instincts for good. What makes this so unorthodox (and even controversial to some critics) is that Mrs. Tuohy is a white Southern Christian woman adopting a black child. That alone raised a few eyebrows. Lionel Logue is a speech therapist who gives Albert therapy to help control his stutter. However, some of his methods are considered unorthodox such as making him shout obscenities, making him sing his thoughts, and breathing with his wife on his belly. These means may not be entirely similar, but they are considered unorthodox to the time’s standards. The previous methods used to better the two characters were shown to be failures. Michael Oher never really passed high school and was passed around from school to school until finally graduating. The traditional, old-school means of controlling Albert’s stutter led to him furiously giving up. Of course, both methods seem to work. Mrs. Tuohy helps Michael pull off a high enough GPA to get into college, and Albert realizes how much he’s progressing with Logue.

3. Both are hesitant about the idea at first and leave, and consider leaving again due to a misunderstanding – At first, Michael Oher spends the night at the Tuohy’s because he really didn’t have a place to go. He really didn’t consider staying with them after Mrs. Tuohy confronted him about the idea. After Logue tried to get Albert to read Hamlet’s “To Be or Not to Be” monologue while listening to music, Albert gets frustrated and storms out, but after listening to a recording Logue made of Albert while he was reading, and realizing how well he spoke, Albert returns to Logue for more coaching. They had different results, but both eventually led them continuing on. Albert leaves again out of frustration and doubt but eventually  returns after seeing what he’s about to become. As both characters seem to excel in their development, something happens that almost breaks them apart. Michael is given the impression that he was raised by the Tuohy’s so that he could play football at their alma mater Ole Miss and runs away, but afterwards he beats up his old friends and contemplates going back. Mrs. Tuohy tells him that if he wanted to play for Tennessee, she’ll be cheering for him regardless (but she won’t wear that dreaded orange. I can relate to that.) Albert doesn’t leave Logue when it is found out that Logue isn’t really a doctor and is advised to dump him for a certified speech therapist.  Logue is able to demonstrate to Albert his progress (in Westminster Abbey, of all places!) and Albert reconsiders his reaction to replace Logue. He even is there when he makes the speech at the end of the movie.

4. Both came from rocky backgrounds – While on the opposite ends of the poverty line, the idea is that these people didn’t have the greatest of childhoods. Michael came from the boondocks of Memphis and was taken away from his real mother, who was a meth addict, as a child. His friends are all thugs, and some of them even dropped out of school. Albert admits that his childhood wasn’t exactly fair to him either. He was left-handed but forced to be right-handed, people made fun of him because of his stutter by calling him “B-B-B-Bertie”, and he couldn’t do all of the things that he loved to do because his father forced him to be more like a Duke, such as building model planes. This is supposed to make us feel sympathetic to the characters and even relate to them to some extent. As cheap as it is, it apparently never gets old.

5. Both subject matters have strong, capable women supporting them the whole way – as broad of a statement that sounds, it is pretty true. Michael Oher technically had two, if you think about it: Mrs. Tuohy, and Miss Sue, a tutor that the Tuohys hired to help educate Michael. Miss Sue further helps Michael in his studies and even gets his GPA to a 2.52, which is high enough to get into college. Albert has his wife Elizabeth, who isn’t that strong but gets him to Logue on her own. She proves to be by his side through thick and thin, as does Miss Sue to Michael. They prove the cliche of “Behind every successful man is a woman”or “No one acheives greatness by themself”.

So those are my five comparisons. Summary: The King’s Speech is just an Oscar-worthy version of The Blind Side when you get down to it. The things that separate them stand out, but they are little in comparison and aren’t big enough to separate the films. If what I’m saying is true, then the Academy Awards should have given the Best Picture Awards not to The Hurt Locker but The Blind Side in 2009, or did someone learn a thing or two for the 2010 Academy Awards? Oh well, The King’s Speech may have won the Best Picture, but it will join the ranks of the 75% of Best Pictures that have been forgotten in ten years’ time, such as How Green Was My Valley (which beat Citizen Kane) and Shakespeare in Love (which beat out Saving Private Ryan) because another movie with the EXACT SAME MORAL will come out and take the Best Picture Oscar for that year.

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