Stuttering in Mainstream Media – Blog 6: James Earl Jones

Did you know that Darth Vader’s actor had a stutter? The man behind one of Hollywoods most recognisable voices was mute for nearly eight years! These two facts alone help paint a brief insight into the pain that a stutter can cause a person. A stutter affects more than just your ability to speak, it affects you as a person.

Hello and Welcome to Sweeney’s Blogs!

Today’s blog is going to be the sixth blog in the Stuttering in Mainstream Media series! In today’s blog, we are going to be taking a look at how James Earl Jones, one of Hollywoods greats, story. We are going to take a look into how his stutter has affected him growing up and how he manages his stutter when filming for films and when he is on Broadway. The man is a stutterspiration in all essence of the word, what he has done whilst having a stutter is truly amazing!

Most people often forget that James Earl Jones, the man behind the voices of Darth Vader and Mufasa, had a terrible stutter in his childhood. An article that I found in the Health section of The Daily Mail, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1255955/James-Earl-Jones-My-stutter-bad-I-barely-spoke-years.html, takes a closer look into his story. As we look into James’s story it is crucial to remember that despite having a stutter, he is still very successful in life.

The article and indeed the video above show us that growing up James felt that it was easier to remain quiet and some could say hidden to avoid being judged due to his stutter. The article points out a very interesting point. James Earl Jones, a man with one of the most recognisable voices in Hollywood was “almost mute as a child for eight years” due to his stutter. That just goes to show the inherent fear that a stutter can cause on an individual.

When talking about growing up with a stutter James talks about how he used to feel like he was “cursed”. The fear of not being able to talk tat a stutter creates truly is phenomenal. It is something that you cannot fully understand unless you actually go through it but it is something that you can begin to appreciate. Having the courage to push forward even when you cannot get the word out at times is shows a real mark of character. It is often the confidence we have in ourselves that dictates the effect that a stutter will have on our lives.

Further on in the article James talks about how “stuttering is painful”. He recalls when he had to read in Sunday school as a child and how the other children were ” falling on the floor with laughter” simply because he struggled to get the words out. This hits home quite hard for me as I was often in the same position growing up with a stutter, I remember going through Secondary school Engish classes, every time the teacher would pick someone to read I would pray to be invisible. The fear that a stutter can muster in a child is truly worrying. However, if we focus on the negatives then no change will be made. We need to look at the positives in life and in this case James’s story to see how we can help manage a stutter and live a “normal life” (whatever that means!).

Now as James mentioned above he got over a stutter using Poetry. Now poetry and other creative writing processes are very good techniques to use to help manage a stutter. I often use poetry when I am stuttering a lot as a way for me to centre myself. It gives me time to relax, think about what I want to say and then the time to actually say it.

Dictating your own work can be very very useful. If you haven’t tried the technique before I highly recommend it. If you don’t have anything to read then starting off is simple. Simply write 5-10 lines about yourself and then practise saying them out loud. Start off saying them by yourself and then as you practise more and more get other people in to listen to you. Eventually, you will be able to speak the lines without reading the paper. From this point, you start to practise reading the lines whilst also looking at people. It is a gradual process but patience is key for the endgame.

Another method that James said he uses to help manage his stutter is shouting at the empty seats before a play. Now there are quite a lot of people that use aggression as a form of managing their stutter. Personally, I haven’t used this method much in the past, I have tried it, but not for a long while. I will do a blog on it further down the line as I know Samuel L. Jackson uses it to help manage his stutter.

The last thing that I want to talk about in regards to James’s story is some final words he said at the end of the Daily Mail article. He says “When you are mute, you become a good listener – it’s all one-way.” Now even though I have not been mute I do really empathise with this statement. Now as a stutterer myself I have learned how to be a good listener. I’m not going to go into it in too much detail in this blog as I do want to do a whole blog on it in a few weeks but there is a link between someone who stutters and their listening ability. I find it quite an interesting link to learn about which is why I want to leave it for a future blog.

That’s all I want to talk about in today’s blog! What do you all think? Did you know James Earl Jones had a stutter? What do you think about the poetry method of managing a stutter? Let me know what you think!

One of the most important points that I want to leave this blog on is that a stutter shouldn’t hold you back. James Earl Jones is the prime example of this point. Granted his stutter nearly made him mute for eight years but he got past it. He didn’t let it control his life. He became the voices of Darth Vader and Mufasa with a stutter, so the question stands, what’s stopping you? Remember failure isn’t a bad thing, it’s a learning curve!

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the next one!

Sweeney’s Blogs

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