Before I start, may I say thank you for reading my very first post on WordPress! I hope this is something that grows with me, and that you’ll tag along for the ride. My next posts should be coming sooner and sooner in succession, with my next subject being Ayn Rand(just read the monolith Atlas Shrugged). But to the topic at hand:
V for Vendetta(2005) is based on Alan Moore’s 1982 graphic novel with the same name, and takes place in England sometime in the near future. It is the dystopian story about a country under a fascist government, controlled by the Norsefire Party, which supposedly saved the nation from an international crisis involving a super disease and war. This government embodies a 21st century version of Nazi Germany, with a complete police state, state control of media and (presumably most) industry, and prosecution of minorities and homosexuals. Civil liberties, by all definitions, are dead. Then comes along V, the co-central protagonist, who saves Evey, our other co-protagonist, from a few Norsefire secret police. That same night, he demolishes Old Bailey in a fireworks display to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture to celebrate the Fifth of November, also known as Guy Fawkes Day, the man who V’s mask is based on. This triggers a chain of events from V taking over the State controlled news network for a brilliant speech reflecting on the loss of liberty and reign of tyranny, and asking the people to join him on next year’s 5th of November in front of Parliament to retake the government. To not spoil much, the movie then proceeds to expand on themes of personal liberty and government oppression/fascism, and results in Parliament being destroyed, all because of V(mostly). Yay, happy ending!
As anyone who is reading this and is familiar with the movie probably knows, come November 5th, people who have watched/read the movie/book V for Vendetta* split into two factions: Those who love it, and those who despise it.
*For the sake of this post, the generalizations, references, and attitudes I allude to in regards to V for Vendetta are about those aimed at the movie
There are of course the hardcore fans, who buy the mask, get the shirts, and come the 5th, can’t stop posting quotes and vids on their Facebook and other sites of preference, as well as mention it throughout the entirety of the day. Then there are those who strain to remain silent and to not post/say inflammatory comments in response to said fandom. Then there are those who are in between, moderate fans/haters, and partial admirers/critics, etc.
(Bias Warning: I side somewhere between Moderate and hardcore fan, but I’ll get to that soon enough. FYI: I only own the movie)
However, the messages of V for Vendetta and Guy Fawkes/V mask has gone much farther than just some movie. The infamous internet vigilantes/hacker group known as “Anonymous” has adopted the mask of Guy Fawkes as a symbol and as a nod to the mob scene at the end, which aligns with Anonymous’ slogan “We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.” In any protest now, you’ll always catch few, if not several, dissenting individuals with the now infamous mask as well, ‘anonymous’ or not.
Furthermore, within the anarchist/anti-state/libertarian community, V for Vendetta has become a symbol and or introduction for many, due to the movie’s ‘realistic’ presentation of a future world ruled by oppressive politicians, special interest, and socio/economic elite. This has in turn has also brought in many confused, and downright misinformed individuals to call themselves libertarian/anarchist/etc, to the disdain of each respective community. Many feel these fans misrepresent and give each respective ideology a bad rep and image, and hate V for Vendetta and its never forgettable 5th of November as a result.
In Defense of V for Vendetta
I ask the question: Should we(libertarians/anti-state/anarchists/etc) really hate V for Vendetta?
I understand the anger that can be caused by having people you’d rather not associate with identify as X ideology, but there is where I really stop, because I see this movie and the movements associated with it more as boons than curses.
To me, there isn’t much wrong with a movie that manages to get peoples’ attention and introduce them to ideas such as anti-statism and ~liberty~. In all reality, let’s be honest, most people are ignorant to such concepts, and more than often enough, laugh at them once they hear them from others. C’mon, we all can relate to that(insert meme here about America).
You’d be hard pressed to make someone read a 60-90ish page essay on the law by an 19th century French political philosopher like Bastiat, but make a cheap movie with a kick ass individualist protagonist who fights a fascist government, and you’ve got something someone will pay some attention to. Add in some cool speeches and catchphrases, and now you have something even potent. Visualize to people the end result of what their current government’s philosophy leads to, and then maybe you can turn some heads. I understand and agree that the best, and preferable, way to transfer someone to the pro liberty crowd would be with cold logic, persuasive debate, and lots of recommended readings…but that simply doesn’t happen, and I mean that, it’s a shame.
This is not to say I believe that works such as The Law are irrelevant but V for Vendetta isn’t. It could almost be said the opposite in my view, V for Vendetta irrelevant, but The Law isn’t. But one gets an average person interested in the other.
Guess which one.
And so what if after seeing it, they decide to spend the $5-10 bucks that it costs to buy the movie or mask? Even if it goes to a manipulative company? If they’re fond enough to the point that they’ll give that insignificant amount of money, even if collectively it makes Time Warner millions, that typically indicates that we have either a) a fan of a semi-cheesy movie or b) someone who is now sympathetic to pro liberty, pro-anti-state philosophies/ideas. The former is only slightly annoying, the latter is a substantial gain.
What is to really dislike anyway? Besides a plot with some possible holes, the overall themes in V for Vendetta are individuality in face of conformity, the threat of omnipotent government, and the courage to do what is right, even if it could cost your life.
V for Vendetta is one of those few, precious pieces of pro-liberty propaganda out there, and I honestly think it has had some influence on the liberty crowd, regardless if they’ll admit it. At least for my generation of libertarians/etc.
Take me for example: I was 11 years old(it came out in 05) when I first saw that movie, and back then I was a hardcore conservative because of how I was raised. We’re talking pro bush, pro any war “for” America, anti-choice(Marriage, sexuality, abortion, drugs, and suicide), and an overall die-hard nationalist patriot. But seeing that movie then on on every Nov 5th, along with seeing Paul campaign in ‘08 seriously planted some seeds for my future political views. Fast forward to me now at 18, and it is extremely obvious how a cool action film I saw when I was 11 helped influence and guide my political philosophy. I was easily impressionable at the time, just like any kid/soon to be teen, but it made a difference. In combination with my affinity to learn/question, that movie and Paul had a definite impact.
Now, look at what I’ve done because of that. I’ve started a (soon to be officially recognized) YAL chapter at my high school. We’re talking 2(soon to be 4 or 5) due paying members, official school recognition, and our little charter is finished. I have introduced and converted at least 10 or so friends and close family members to libertarianism or anarchism, and my YAL chapter’s influence in the school is hilariously pervasive(one entire junior ap lang class sided with Thoreau’s argument that “the best government is that which governs least…” during their transcendentalist unit, after a close friend and Yal member started an argument.)
All of that was because of a simple movie and good ‘ol Ronnie.
So this may seem to be a childish defense of a movie, and I might just have a notably different experience, but it’s because I honestly think this movie has had a substantially more positive influence than negative, including Time Warner making some money, fedora tipping liber-bro-tarians, and a poor understanding of an obscure early 17th century mercenary.
Personally, V for Vendetta gets a disproportional amount of criticism than it remotely deserves. It definitely is out numbered by popular pro-government/authoritarian movies/shows, just think about it: “The Purge”, “Zero Dark Thirty”, “Homeland”, “Argo”, etc. These type of movies either glorify the role of the state or romanticized certain past actions/events that were a lot more murky than portrayed. Let’s give a break to the one of the major movies that does the opposite.
In a world where civil liberties and natural rights are constantly under fire from wars against unidentifiable villains and economic downturn, the need for people to understand the value of liberty has never been more pressing. We have the massive surveillance network, the wars, and the all-powerful government indicative of the world V for Vendetta takes place. If a masked man in a cape and cap , who has a knack for speeches with extreme amounts of alliteration, is what it takes to get people to realize that, so be it. I’ll even recommend the movie to those who haven’t seen it.
Happy late 5th of November!