The King’s Speech Under Fire?

Has anyone else noticed a smear campaign against The King’s Speech in full swing? Maybe it’s a secret posse sent out from The Social Network team, who everyone had for a shoe-in at the Oscars until the SAG Award upset. And by “upset” I mean The King’s Speech whipped The Social Network’s butt, and pundits say this is likely to mirror the upcoming Oscars action.

Since the final voting ballots were sent out Wednesday to the members of the elite Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, films are speeding into the final stretch before all ballots are due back for counting on February 22. That means some of the biggest contenders are changing up their looks, ad campaigns, movie posters…anything to catch the attention and the votes of the AMPAS members. That’s why this “timely” smear campaign against The King’s Speech is so transparent.

First, a whisper campaign surfaced a few weeks ago that a film based on King George VI isn’t deserving of the Academy Awards’ attention or honor because (and I don’t confirm or deny the historical accuracy of this) the King was soft on Nazis, and tough on exiled Jews. The rumors bouncing around the blogasphere have it that he supported appeasement instead of war with Germany. I’ve heard too that Winston Churchill was misrepresented, and that he actually supported the king’s elder brother, who abdicated the throne.

Every year around Oscars time there are always films, usually the forerunners, that fall under attack for one reason or another. Many of these films are period pieces or historical dramas. It’s easy to look at a biopic and point out inaccuracies. But most of these films have a resonance because they deal with very human storylines. The King’s Speech isn’t necessarily about an imperfect king, but about a man overcoming his own human weakness and personal handicap. It’s about friendship. It’s about courage and duty and a myriad of other beautiful notions. Other films that have suffered assaults of these types of whisper campaigns include Academy Award winner A Beautiful Mind. A biopic on mathematician John Nash, some said the film omitted important facts about Nash’s troubled personal life, and anti-Semitism. Another film that came under fire was Oscars darling Saving Private Ryan for not accurately portraying the events it was based on. And there’s more. When a film comes into the spotlight (and potentially winning an Oscar is a very bright spotlight), it’s an easy target.

Most recent evidence of an effort to smear The King’s Speech is the American Humane Association accusing the film of abusing cute, helpless animals. This accusation is based solely on the fact that they weren’t allowed on set, and didn’t get a copy of the script. They demanded the Weinstein Co. remove the “No animals were harmed” disclaimer that runs in the end credits (since the AHA wasn‘t there and can‘t know if any animals were harmed) or face legal action. The phrase “No animals were harmed” is actually trademarked by the AHA. This leverage has been used by the AHA over the years to gain access to films using “animal actors” to make sure they’re not harmed, and to gain script and dailies access. According to The Hollywood Reporter, this issue has been resolved with producer Emile Sherman of See-Saw Films issuing the following statement:

“During the production of The King’s Speech we did in fact have the best animal handlers on set to ensure the safety of the animals employed. As an independent UK production we were unaware that the phrase ‘no animals were harmed’ had a certification mark and any implication that the American Humane Association was involved in our UK production was unintentional. As a director of Voiceless, an animal protection organization, animal welfare is extremely important to me. We have now spoken with the AHA and resolved the issue. The treatment of animals in this film was never an issue. The only issue was inadvertent use by the producers of the AHA’s certification mark, which has now been resolved.”

My only question is, what next? Stay tuned readers, because we probably haven’t seen the end of this very decided campaign to pull The King’s Speech off its pedestal. And if an anonymous reputation hit squad is necessary to keep this film from garnering even more awards, it just proves how darn good it is.