Remember, Remember ‘V for Vendetta…’
And please note for the purposes of this article I will be discussing the film only. I”m well aware that Alan Moore’s graphic novel from the 1980s differs in many ways from the 2006 film. The graphic novel presented the polarizing opposites of fascism and anarchy. While these two philosophies play a role in the film, they are much more prevalent in the graphic novel, much to Moore’s chagrin. In fact apparently so much so that Alan Moore completely removed any association with the movie. Which isn’t surprising because, well, it’s Alan Moore. That’s an article for another time though.
As you grow older time seems to slip away faster than you might expect. Several days ago I re-watched V for Vendetta. Halfway through it occurred to me that ten years had passed since the film’s release. TEN YEARS. And yet the film’s overriding themes: the dangers of fascism, how fear can affect our actions, privacy versus the oft used term “national security,” freedom of speech, intolerance of members of the LGBT community, and the manipulation and dissemination of information, are still very relevant today. Maybe even moreso.
What separates good movies from great movies, often comes down to social relevance throughout the decades. Can it stand the test of time? Does it mean something similar in today’s society as it did when the film was first released? This is why films like Metropolis and Citizen Kane and In the Heat of the Night are still studied in film classes. Their themes are universal, something that can apply to most decades.
V for Vendetta fits that category to a T.
When the film released in the United States on Saint Patrick’s Day 2006, the world was not yet five years removed from the tragedy of 9/11. We were in the midst of fighting radical Islam and ensconced in wars both in Afghanistan and Iraq. The United States had a President who inspired little trust in the majority of his constituents. Distrust of the boogeymen known as Muslims was everywhere both here and abroad. Fear ruled the day on a global scale.
And yet what has changed in the ten years since?
The world still fights radical Islam, the media foment fear and distrust of “the Other” whether it be blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, or gays, Edward Snowden’s revelation that the NSA has been spying on Americans for years indicates that the privacy issue is still very prevalent (not to mention the doxxing, revenge porn, and various other atrocious acts committed by Internet shit goblins), there’s southern states trying to pass laws that sanction institutionalized discrimination, and oh yeah this guy is running for President:
Oh my bad I meant this guy:
Sorry I sometimes get my fascist demagogues confused.
If anything the themes of V for Vendetta are even more prominent and important today than they were a decade ago. Almost every horrific incident in V for Vendetta has a corresponding current real life circumstance. The similarities are so eerily coincidental that they border on prescient:
VALERIE PAGE IMPRISONED/KENTUCKY CLERK KIM DAVIS
One of the more disturbing things about V for Vendetta was how various groups deemed morally reprehensible were persecuted, put in camps, and outright killed. “Black bagged” as they referred to it in the film. The most prominent example was that of Valerie Page, a famous lesbian actor whose girlfriend and eventually herself are imprisoned simply for the “crime” of being gay. Her story, eventually read by Natalie Portman’s character Evey, serves as the impetus for Evey’s alliance with V.
There’s a parallel here with Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis who garnered national attention after refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. This came on the heels of the landmark Supreme Court decision Obergefell V Hodges allowing gays to marry. Her actions were based on her religious beliefs that homosexuality is a sin and Davis was doing it “under God’s authority.”
Davis’ actions represent the first step on the slippery slope leading to situations like Valerie Page. Davis chose this course of action because of religious beliefs that she then used to justify discrimination. Thankfully she was brought to heel by the government. It’s a reminder that society needs to guard against ignorance and hate. The price of our lack of vigilance results in the “Black Bagging” and internment of people like Valerie Page.
GORDON DIETRICH’S COLLECTION/EDWARD SNOWDEN’S WHISTLEBLOWING
As a Jimmy Fallon-esque talk show host in the UK (loved that they used the Benny Hill theme song in one scene), Gordon Dietrich had to walk a fine line between comedy and what the government would consider sedition. When he finally crossed the line by doing an inappropriate skit about Supreme Chancellor Sutler, Sutler used this as a reason to arrest him. They violated his privacy as well by searching his house and discovering a cache of banned items, including a copy of the Koran.
Privacy has become an increasingly hot button issue over the last few years. One of the reasons: Edward Snowden. The former CIA employee and whistleblower blew the roof off the NSA’s atrocious surveillance policies. Snowden’s been called a traitor and a hero. The truth, like most things, lies somewhere in the middle. What’s undeniable is his release of secret NSA documents including items such as Xkeyscore, an analytical tool which collects information on almost anything done on the Internet. Additionally, the government was collecting millions of instant messaging contact lists, email content, and tracking and mapping cell phones. For this and other underhanded and deplorable things my government has done in the name of “national security” (including tapping into Yahoo and Google data centers) feel free to search online. (Or…should you?)
Obviously Dietrich and Snowden’s situations are markedly different. One involves a physical invasion akin to illegal search and seizures. The other involves electronic surveillance. However, the Snowden incident parallels Dietrich’s in that they shed a spotlight on the privacy debate. How long do we sacrifice privacy at the altar of national security? It’s a dangerous day when a man can be arrested for simply having a collection of art and artifacts deemed “seditious.” That’s Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 territory. Let’s hope that day never comes.
BTN NEWS MANIPULATION/FOX NEWS AS CONSERVATIVE SHILLS
There’s a part in V for Vendetta where the head of the British Television Network states that they don’t create the news, that’s the government’s job. While that’s true they definitely facilitate and spin the news the way the government wants them to. A clear example early on is when V blows up the Old Bailey but the government tells BTN to say it was an emergency demolition. Clear manipulation of the narrative.
Fox News has been manipulating the narrative for years. Their tagline is “Fair and Balanced.” What a joke. A study done by The Project on Excellence in Journalism from 2006 found that 68% of Fox News reports contained personal opinions (because you know that should always be part of the news) and Media Matters for America found out in 2013 that 69% of guests cast doubt on climate science despite 97% of the scientific community believing that climate change is being caused by human beings. But according to Fox News, opinions trump facts every time. For God’s sake my own editor Gfunk uses Fox News as an example of propaganda and opinion shaping in his classes! Fox News is a far right-wing (notice I said FAR, nothing wrong with being conservative) propaganda machine and has been for quite some time.
The correlation between Fox News* and the BTN from V for Vendetta would be hilarious if it wasn’t so terrifying.
LEWIS PROTHERO/GLENN BECK
Prothero in V for Vendetta comes across EXACTLY like he’s billed in the poster: the voice of London. Unfortunately London and the UK as a whole has become a fascist regime. He’s pompous, self-righteous, bigoted, vain, and craves the spotlight. Prothero was also instrumental in bringing the UK regime in the film to power so it’s in his own self-interest to maintain his position. Lewis Prothero is the voice of London and people believe it, ergo they assume EVERYONE supports all the actions of the government even if they don’t. It’s self-perpetuating.
Prothero is akin to Fox News’ (oh hai again Fox News!) Glenn Beck who was at the height of his popularity in 2006. (At the time he was with CNN but later joined Fox News in 2008. He left Fox News in 2011.) Another pompous bloviating windbag who constantly had people on his show who reinforced his own bigoted and ultra-conservative viewpoints. He traffics in fear like Escobar trafficked in cocaine. The parallels between Beck and Prothero are quite intriguing.
FINGERMAN KILLS CHILD/12 YEAR OLD TAMIR RICE SHOT IN THE US
One of the more horrible but crucial moments in V for Vendetta occurs in the third act where a Fingerman kills a young girl wearing a Guy Fawkes mask. This galvanizes the country against the government and moves support towards V’s cause. It’s exactly as V predicted would happen. The government becomes more oppressive during V’s exploits, which leads to more tension, which leads to a breaking point in which something terrible happens.
Sadly, this has been an all too common occurrence in my own country. Over the last few years there’s been marked coverage of police shootings of young black men. You can argue the inflammatory nature of the coverage (there’s some truth there) and police have been vilified as a result (unfortunate because there’s a lot of good policemen out there including some in my own family), however the fact remains that these shootings happened.
One of the worst incidents happened on November 22, 2014 when 12 year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by police officers in Cleveland, Ohio. Police responded to a dispatch in the park where there was a report of a black man pointing a gun. The person on the phone stated that the gun was probably a fake/toy and the boy looked to be a juvenile. Both those things turned out to be true. Unfortunately, this information was never relayed to the police by the dispatcher. One of the police officers fired two shots at Tamir before the police cruiser even came to a stop. Tamir died the next day.
With the increased militarization of the police force in America and our peculiar obsession with guns (again not against gun ownership), tragic incidents such as Tamir’s are bound to happen. It’s a sad fact and V for Vendetta‘s corresponding scene highlights the danger of a fascist-like regime.
HIGH CHANCELLOR ADAM SUTLER/PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE DONALD TRUMP
This similarity is the easiest to delineate. It’s amazing how much the rhetoric between a fictional character and a real life Presidential candidate sound the same. Trump’s xenophobic statements (not to mention his racist and misogynist statements) are very similar to Sutler’s use of fear to unite and control the masses. Both use the dynamic of “the Other” (no not the White Walkers from Game of Thrones) to propagate a culture of terror.
One of the most important quotes in V for Vendetta was this one:
“Beneath this mask there is more than just flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof.”
It implores society to cling to idealism and freedom. As entertaining as V for Vendetta is, it’s also a cautionary tale. It is our duty as citizens of this planet to guard against the threats of fascism and totalitarianism. Personal freedoms aren’t something we can can afford to give up lightly. We need to fight like Ser Arthur Dayne to protect them. I leave you with V’s speech to the people of England, one that remains as relevant today as it did when the movie came out ten years ago. The lessons of Guy Fawkes, the Gunpowder Plot, November the fifth, and V for Vendetta must never ever be forgot:
*To be fair EVERY cable news channel in the United States puts their spin on the news whether it leans more liberal or conservative. I chose Fox News because it’s relatively obvious to anyone with sight.
You can follow me on Twitter at @DarthGandalf1
Pingback: Most Haunted Places in the United Kingdom | Funk's House of Geekery
Pingback: V for Vendetta (2005) | 100 Films in a Year