Morley Robertson’s Movie Column 4: Imagining the great transformation of an era — The King’s Speech, Volume 3

With the spread of video streaming services, watching movies is no longer a special occasion, and it’s easy to share impressions and search for recommendations. However, this can make it feel like we’re mindlessly consuming films. In this series, influential figures with a love for film recommend movies that personally resonate with them.

This time, TV personality Morley Robertson writes his third installment in his “Imagining the great transformation of an era” series. Working mainly in media, Robertson is a commentator, DJ, musician, and international journalist with a wide range of knowledge in fields ranging from politics/economics to subculture. In this column series, he introduces films worth watching, particularly in the current coronavirus pandemic.

Those who try their best get rewarded — A story that touches the heart in times like this 

I first expressed how Joker implies the significant shift of the times; it speaks to us because we’re also letting go of our worries and fears, even though we don’t know what the future holds. Then, I talked about how Mad Max teaches us that those who get rid of fear, and everything else, to step into the future are strong during turbulent times like this. The film I’d like to highlight this time is The King’s Speech. Compared to Joker and Mad Max, this one is realistic. The story follows King George VI, who becomes the King of England after his brother, King Edward VIII, abdicates his role to marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee, and socialite. The King’s Speech is an excellent piece of cinema that maintains so much realism, as it shows King George VI’s stammering issue—something people usually would want to hide—in a frank manner.

One of the famous films which realistically depicts the royal family is The Queen (2006), starring Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II. With that said, illustrates how the beautiful, prim and proper queen has the same mindset as regular citizens. It’s taboo to portray the queen as a “normal” person, but I imagine the film was given the green light because Helen Mirren gave a fantastic performance, and it showed love and appreciation towards Queen Elizabeth II. In other words, love protected the film.

What’s interesting about The King’s Speech is how more British people respect the subject now. Until this film, the story of King George VI wasn’t spoken about much, compared to Queen Elizabeth II, as seen in The Queen. Depicting a royal, powerful king who has a stammer, a childish side, and needs his butler to do things, is something that wouldn’t be allowed under normal circumstances. But had the film presented a royal person unrealistically, it would simply show lie after lie; people would no longer have a reason to watch it. The true delight of watching films is witnessing something people can’t talk about every day. That’s why the creators of The King’s Speech depicted King George VI as his authentic self.

Another interesting point: if you watch this film because you want to feel cathartic in an unstable world such as ours, you’ll see that the things people would keep behind closed doors are, in fact, beautiful. It’s easy to empathize with the protagonist because you’ll realize how the only difference between him and yourself is the environment. He’s human, just like you and me. If you could tackle the things you thought were impossible head-on just like him, then perhaps you too could fulfill your goal. Ultimately, I feel like this film tells us that those who try their hardest get rewarded.


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 It’s possible for a “hero” to be born because of the era

Mad Max shows the brutal fact that no matter how hard one tries, there will always be scapegoats, but it does this in an oddly exhilarating fashion. The moral of The King’s Speech is the polar opposite. In England today, people are debating whether they need a class system such as the royal family. However, many people get the energy to keep going because of the royal family. I spoke about this in my earlier column, but people of the modern world can rely on their bloodline if they ever feel like being protected by someone strong. This intangible energy could turn into an emotional sanctuary. That’s why people can relate to King George VI and see themselves in him, which gives them the drive to live. He represents what a leader should look like during this pandemic.

There’s one person who became a leader because of the zeitgeist: Donald Trump. When I thought about his controversial actions and words, I realized when a person in power says or does things they shouldn’t, they’re aligning with a portion of citizens’ desires, which makes said citizens develop an ardent love for said person. Many people start to want an irreverent leader when they have a strong victim mentality or face anxieties and oppression for a long time. Such people react against what we would call good people like, “You’re talking all this talk, but nothing good is happening to us!” Doesn’t it seem like Trump, the Joker, Immortan Joe, and the king, who has power, all connect? Of course, you have to look at it from different angles to see the connection.

 Don’t play it safe! A bright future awaits those who challenge themselves.

Thinking about it now, I’m starting to understand how times change, and it makes me want to act toward the future. But there aren’t that many places or opportunities for us to have discussions, which is a very modern problem. This era we live in doesn’t let wise people speak. Because of this tumultuous world, I wish I could ask Yoda (from Star Wars) or a wizard who lives up in the mountains about their teachings (laughs). But when I look at “lifestyle conservatives,”* they’re all causing a scene in front of wise people. Even if a wise figure says something brilliant, they reject that person’s character itself. Seeing such a phenomenon makes me think, “Wow, these people don’t want to listen to the wise.” It also makes me feel sad, as they’re simply raising their voices because they’re afraid of losing what they have.

*Lifestyle conservative= A direct translation of “seikatsu hoshushugi,” which refers to the attitude of satisfaction with consumerist society and not wanting social change.

But think about it, wanting to be happy is synonymous with wanting pleasure. Pleasure is something you earn from going on an adventure facing death, failure, or fear. If you’re tied down by the so-called lifestyle conservative mindset and raise your voice for no reason, I think you’re going to fall into a deep trap. You might fall for the age-old fraud that goes like, “If you invest in this, you’ll make money” (laughs).

Through these three films, I want to say that you need to throw every preconceived notion away if you wish to survive this world. It’s a volatile time, and even I don’t know what lies ahead, but if you have a lifestyle conservative mindset or live life without critical thinking, the rest of the world will leave you behind. Break your shell if you want justice and happiness for yourself, no matter what the future is like (Joker, Mad Max). The King’s Speech tells a hopeful tale of a person trying their absolute best and getting rewarded for that. Likewise, don’t play it safe! You’ll have a better chance at succeeding if you live your life working towards something that excites you. I’m sure these tough times will continue for a while, but I hope we can all discard what we don’t need, use our heads, challenge ourselves, and build a better future.

Edit Kei Watabe
Photography Teppei Hoshida

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Morley Robertson

Educated in both Japan and the U.S., he was accepted to the University of Tokyo and Harvard University. Since graduating from Harvard, he has been active in the media as a TV personality, musician and international journalist. He currently appears regularly on Nippon Television's "Sukkiri". He is the author of the book "Warukuare! Chissoku Nippon, Jiyuniikiru shikoho" (Small Press) is now on sale. Photography Kazuyoshi Shimomura