Russell and Duenes

The Reality Intern: Academy Awards, Jesus and Lionel Logue

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Most of us probably don’t go to the movies looking for Jesus. Indiana Jones perhaps, or even Optimus Prime, but probably not Jesus.  But every once in a while, a character will come along and generate comparisons with Christ. William Walllace from “Braveheart’.   Neo from “The Matrix”.  Carl Spackler.  And while there may be merit to these associations, it’s usually broad themes, such as charismatic leadership, or being some sort of savior, or being willing to lay down your life for others, even if they’re gophers, that spawns them.  But exactly how similar are they to the Biblical Jesus, and do they really capture who he was?

In spite of the fact he’s the most famous person in the history of the planet, it’s not much of a stretch to suggest that the majority of us, even Christians, spend very little time imagining what Jesus was like. It’s one thing to study his words, or even try to gain a better understanding of his character, but how often do we think about him as a person?

Which brings us to Lionel Logue, the speech therapist employed by the soon-to-be-King of England to help deal with his oratorical difficulties in “The King’s Speech”.  Although he fights no battles, wields no weapon (other than a piercing dry wit), and doesn’t die for the sake of others, I’d like to suggest that the character of Logue presents as clear a picture of the character of Jesus as we’re likely to see on screen.  But perhaps not in the way we’re accustomed, nor in a way that we usually associate with Jesus.

In order to get a clear picture of Lionel Logue, it will help to start by taking a brief look at his client, the Duke of Windsor, who eventually ascends to the throne.  Afflicted with a “stammer” since childhood, “Bertie” as he’s known by his family, can barely navigate personal conversation, much less the public orations that nearly give him a coronary.  Having spent years in therapy and trying every imaginable cure, the Duke declares “no one can fix it”.  He is, in effect, lost and unable to help himself.

Enter Lionel Logue, the Australian speech therapist enlisted by the Duke’s wife to help her husband.  From the get-go, Logue is completely clear about how the relationship will work.  His demeanor towards his royal client is one of simple, humble, confidence.  He tells the Duke he will treat him “only if you’re interested in being treated”.   He also demands respect, letting the heir to the British throne know that when the Duke visits him in his office, it’s “my castle, my rules”.   It wasn’t a matter of pride for Logue, but a reflection of his deep understanding of what needed to happen in order to maximize the benefit for his patient.  He was explaining reality, much in the same way Jesus explained that “no one comes to the Father but through me”.  Our culture finds statements like these to be rigid and repressive, if not prejudiced or, shudder the thought, intolerant.  But Logue understood that in order for him to do the Duke the most good, it would have to be “my game, my turf, my rules”. Jesus is no different.

Logue also displays a penetrating understanding of his patient.  The Duke sees his stammer as ingrained in him, yet Logue makes a startling claim, telling him “your impediment isn’t a permanent part of you.”  How similar is this to the way Jesus deals with the woman at the well? Or the rich young ruler? Or the woman caught in adultery? In each case Jesus shows that he has a deeper insight into the plight of the individual than even they do of themselves, a realization they eventually come to as well.

The most interesting parallel is how Logue approaches and deals with the Duke’s affliction.  He initially attempts to search the soon-to-be-King’s past for clues as to the origin of the stammer; he wants to understand the root cause.  And when the Duke resists, Logue is flexible enough to adjust his approach, but he’s very clear with the Duke, explaining “what you’re asking will only deal with the surface of the problem”. The Pharisees heard nearly the same message from Jesus.  In allowing the Duke to dictate the regimen for a time, Logue provides room for “Bertie” to realize that this won’t cure him, that they will eventually need to address the heart. And when they do, it’s the Duke’s fear of his father (who preferred his children fear him) that surfaces as a culprit. When Logue says “You needn’t be governed by fear”, one can almost hear Jesus telling the disciples, as they neared hysteria on the Sea of Galliee, “do not be afraid”, or later, “do not let you hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid”. Like Jesus, Logue has an uncommon perspective on the landscape and the Duke’s place in it, which is why he’s able to see through the pomp and circumstance, the “rubbish that goes with being King”, and focus on his friend’s heart, for he knows that this is where salvation resides.

The old hymn tells us “What a Friend we have in Jesus”, but how often do we think of him this way?  In the climactic scene of the movie, with the morale of the British Empire sitting squarely on his shoulders, the now-King is faced with making a speech that he still feels monumentally unprepared to deliver. In the quiet moments just before he’s to go live to a radio audience of millions, Logue gives him one final instruction, telling him, in a still small voice, “forget everything else, and just say it to me.  Say it to me…as a friend”. And in the final analysis, is Jesus really asking us to do anything else?

The Reality Intern

Written by Michael Duenes

February 26, 2011 at 10:20 pm

One Response

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  1. Excellent thoughts. I had similar but less well developed ideas trickling through my brain as I enjoyed the movie.

    Andy M

    February 27, 2011 at 12:46 pm

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