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225 “I Did It on Purpose” “The old psychology” of feeling the stutterclutter is of the earth is the breaking down into the intestinal alimentary or reclamation of meaning back into the original “chaos of noises” since decomposed. —Jordan Scott, Silt The r ece n t Osca r -winnin g fil m The King’s Speech, because it focuses on public speaking, on pedagogy, and on the body, is a movie about rhetoric . More specifically, the film is about disability rhetoric. Therefore, it is an excellent space in which to try out many of the questions and ideas of this book—and to thus argue that the questions have real, contemporary significance. My method in this final chapter will be to employ mētis as I explore not just how the film was actually made, or how it was popularly received, but also how it has been argued over. In the crucial scene of the movie, just when we expect the titular king to overcome his speech impediment and deliver a perfectly eloquent speech, he stutters “on purpose .” Likewise, in this final chapter I will be intentionally rolling and falling between eras and approaches, moving laterally through many of my previous arguments, and resisting the compulsion to conclude this book neatly or normatively. The first huge jump here is from ancient Greece, to mestiza borderlands and decolonial legacies, to the empire itself, in wartime England. Yet, in an early scene in the movie, as the future King George VI of England, Prince Albert (Bertie) is undergoing speech therapy for his stutter, we are transported back to antiquity. His doctor asks him to place five sterilized marbles in his mouth, then to read from a book. His wife, Elizabeth, asks the doctor what the purpose of the treatment is. “The classic approach 226 • Disa bil it y Rh et or ic that cured Demosthenes,” the doctor replies. “That was in Ancient Greece. Has it worked since?” Elizabeth asks. As Bertie struggles to read aloud, and to even keep the marbles in his mouth, the doctor demands that he “enunciate!” Bertie nearly chokes on the marbles (Seidler 2008, 5). Like that failed therapy, this book now also has to ask: “Has it worked since?” I need to question whether any of this historical work matters, whether we really have access to disability rhetorics, or if the negative and limiting disability tropes and myths continue to be our only means of “treating” disability. I will argue that, as just one example, this film does offer the impetus for new rhetorical possibilities, in part because it does not work. As the movie progresses, Bertie tries a variety of other methods to “cure” his stutter, and with the help of an innovative teacher, Lionel Logue, he has some success working through and around the stammer, which is important because as the king, he must speak publicly in a period of serious international crisis. The narrative arc is certainly conventional—one commentator called this “the Rocky of speech-therapy movies” (Oat 2010, n.p.). The focus here, however, is on the labor and the battle of overcoming a disability. Bertie’s story might be understood simply as a myth that makes us feel good about the king’s ability to eliminate his stutter and thus reassures us that with hard work, disability is something we can triumph over. The film then also might function as a reminder to people with disabilities that they had better work hard and seek a wide range of treatments, from the experimental to the masochistic. If they remain disabled , they probably just have not worked hard enough. But fortunately, there are other ways to view the movie—as more than just a story of overcoming or compensation. In a later scene in which Bertie and his wife recall the episode with the marbles, Bertie angrily suggests that the doctor can “insert his own bloody marbles!” The movie script includes a note here that “when he speaks with his wife there’s hardly any hesitation” (Seidler 2008, 6). Moments like these accentuate a divergence from the classical narrative, but also present alternative possibilities for interpretation and meaning. For instance, this scene shows that the movie, and the myth of King George VI from which it comes, might reveal a tension between medical and social models of disability: the stutter is “I Did It on Purpose” 227 defined and treated as a medical problem, yet the experience and expression of the “disability” changes...


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