I was watching the second episode of Black Mirror on Netflix today. The climax is this incredibly impassioned speech on a sort of American Idol or Who’s Got Talent type of stage, the kind presided over by a panel of arrogant judges. The judges and the audience they represent watched with shock and awe as a man on the brink of madness delivered the most impassioned, eloquent Fuck You speech I’ve seen in a while. After building up all this anger against his overseers, and being wronged horribly by them, the protagonist rages against their arrogance, their materialism, the failures of society, all that while holding a shard of glass to his jugular.
I won’t give away the ending, but it was a great speech and a great piece of acting.
Then I got to thinking about other great speeches. Speeches by statesmen, speeches in films and other TV shows, speeches in novels (hint: NOT Atlas Shrugged, dear god not that one).
I thought about Shakespeare’s great speeches. About Hamlet and Macbeth and all the others.
And then I remembered The Greatest Speech Ever.
By one of the few men I will forgive for wearing a toothbrush mustache—Charlie Chaplin:
If you don’t know it, this clip is from the five-time Academy Award nominated film, The Great Dictator, starring, written, and directed by Charlie Chaplin. In the film, Chaplin plays both the fascist dictator and the persecuted Jewish barber. The irony doesn’t end there. Watch it.
I love these kinds of speeches—let’s call them Great Speeches—because they have the power to move a person, to bring out the noblest instincts of men. Also our most base instincts.
Powerful words have magic.
As a writer, I can’t plan this kind of speech. I almost never see them coming, and when I try to force it, the words don’t come. Great Speeches originate in the gut and come pouring out almost all at once.
I could write for hours about Great Speeches, but I’ve got some fiction words to make before I turn into a vegetable. I did 1003 on WENDIGO yesterday and 650 odd so far today. Another 400 will come if I commit to it.
While I’m gone, hop down to the comments and tell me about your favorite Great Speech. It can be from a film, a book, a movie, or historical figure.