Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Storytelling Wins

Three cheers for storytelling. The triumph of The King’s Speech at The Oscars underlined the virtues of story, characters, and performance. Not many films have greatness in all these ingredients. I’d seen Tom Hooper's recent film The Damned United about as the legendary English football manager Brian Clough, so I knew what he was capable of in these departments.

Notwithstanding Colin Firth’s Oscar-worthy acting, I didn’t give too much of a toss about George VI’s triumph over his stammer – the Royals having so much going for them in the first place – but I did cherish the “downunder does good” element of the common man triumphing over improbable odds. Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush, brooks no airs when dealing with Palace protocols. He’s a man who knows what he’s about; stands his ground with humor and grace; and has an unconventional practicality about getting to an outcome. These are the qualities that Antipodeans bring to their work. In New Zealand we have a saying “winning the world from the edge” and that is just what Lionel Logue did.

As a frequent public speaker I can say I have never been filled with the dread that possessed George VI, but I imagine that it must be terrifying especially when you are required by office to be a leader, and in this King’s case, to be an inspirational leader. Learning to speak in public is one of the greatest gifts an education can give you, so hats off to every school teacher who inspires young people to give it their all from the soapbox. A great speech can change people’s lives; it can change the world.

I also reflected on the Oscars that The Social Network was also about communicating with the masses. Different time, different method, and I have to say that Facebook and other modes of social networking have done absolutely nothing to encourage eloquence and inspiration expression. Abbreviated social chit chat does not equate to building better societies. In today’s world the words “I have a dream” might garner a lot of Likes but social networking lacks social impact. You can hear the original King’s Speech by George VI here on YouTube.