Shortly after receiving the highest of accolades — an Oscar — for its historical drama The King’s Speech, The Weinstein Co. received the harshest of words from fans and critics for opting to release a family-friendly PG-13 version in theaters. Many felt re-cutting the film about the stuttering King George VI not only was an insult to the artistry of the highly praised film, but also a lame attempt to cash in on the award winner. But just one week after the tamed-down version of the film — which only removed some f-bombs from a notable scene — hit theaters, The Weinstein Co.’s co-chairman Harvey Weinstein has written an article for The Daily Beast detailing the company’s decision. So why did The Weinstein Co. release a PG-13 version? Quite simply, because he was thinking of the children.
“We were asked by voices that deserve to be heard. We’ve had letters from kids, parents, and teachers, all asking the same thing — make the film accessible to a younger audience,” he writes. “Sometimes I make decisions as the head of a company, but in this case, I made the decision as a dad.” Noting that he himself had shown the R-rated version to his children because he believed “they can understand the context of the minor vulgarity,” Weinstein still claims that many families would be unwilling to allow those under 17 to see a film complete with a handful of expletives. So here’s a question for you, PopWatchers: Would the mere presence of the f-bomb keep you from taking your children to see a respectable, R-rated film?
It’s a tough question for me to answer, since I don’t have any children. And perhaps it’s because it’s tough to wander the streets of New York outside my apartment for five minutes without being privy to excessive swearing, but I can’t imagine children would be negatively altered by watching the powerful scene in which Colin Firth’s King George drops a chain of f—s to let off steam after years of coping with a discouraging stutter. (Especially when the scene in question still allows one f-bomb and plenty of “s—“s in the PG-13 version.) It seems any child who has ever expressed frustration or anger over their own struggles could relate to the scene, and walk away both inspired and unscathed.
At the same time, I understand Weinstein’s argument. There are still plenty of conservative families in our comparatively liberal nation that would prefer their children not to hear an expletive of any kind — which makes me wonder why they would be willing to settle for PG-13-friendly “s—“ts over the f-word. But the move to reach out to families with children suffering from the speech disorder is a respectable one. That is, if you believe that those were Weinstein’s intentions. For what it’s worth, Weinstein denies making the move to cash in (“Did we do it for the extra shekels? A nice thought, but this was never in the cards.”), claiming that they had actually spent additional money in order to produce and market the PG-13 version. (He still notes, however, that while box office numbers were down on the coasts, the film did rake in money in other markets: “The family-friendly version of the film may have been partially responsible for numbers dropping in New York and Los Angeles this weekend, but guess what? It’s almost certainly responsible for the upward curve in Raleigh, Salt Lake City, and Toledo, to name a few. These are cities where many families almost certainly would have embraced the film as a family experience without the offering of a PG-13 version.”) And he finishes off his Daily Beast piece with one argument that’s tough to counter: “If the PG-13 re-release enables one more child struggling with similar challenges to feel empowered and hopeful, then our efforts were worth it. And that’s why this decision was an easy one.”
What do you think, PopWatchers? Do you believe Weinstein? And would the f-bomb keep you from bringing your children to the R-rated King’s Speech in theaters?