Today is November 5th. Well, not today. I schedule these posts well in advance. But as of this going live it is November 5th. And every year, for many years I’m watching a movie. This movie is V for Vendetta, adapted from the wildly popular Alan Moore comic. This movie centers around a vigilante, V, and his mission to overthrow the Parliament and Chancellor of a near-future dystopian England. V meets with Evey, a woman he ‘rescues’ this woman and uses her assistance to help in his plan that is to blow up a few powerful and important buildings on Guy Fawkes Day (November 5th). Guy Fawkes was, for those who do not know, an actual historical figure and central to the Gunpowder Plot: a plot to kill King James of Scotland using a crap ton of gunpowder because James was Protestant (and probably was gay) and was Fawkes and his other conspirators were Catholic. Fawkes was executed on November 5th via a very brutal hanging because King James was no wimp and had to make an example out of the Catholic almost-murderer. The day in the U.K. is known as Bonfire Night: a way to celebrate the occasion of ending your enemy and the Catholics, apparently.
Here is a good place to also mention that I’m less talking about the graphic novel and more about the movie which does make some changes that are almost necessary when it comes to adaptation. The movie came out in the 2000s when I was young, in high school and full of ennui. And I very distinctly remember the movie for its stylized violence, excellent casting and great cinematography. I also remember it hitting a little too close to home.
This movie came out in exactly 2005, which means that George W. Bush was president, 9/11 had already happened and liberties were squashed in the name of “freedom” and other lofty abstract concepts. I grew up in the shadow of a Post-9/11 World and paranoia, racism, terror and hyper-nationalism were already things I was tired of as of the release of this film. So when there was talk of curfews and surveillance and armed men that kept the streets safe and silenced dissidents, none of that felt like a far dystopian future. It felt like my current reality.
But then Obama was elected president and all was magic and there was much gaiety and many freedoms.
It was a simpler time.
Since it was a simpler time, let’s go over some of the places where this movie is…problematic because there aren’t enough hot takes on the internet about that. V is creepy. V is a monster. V stalks Evey and tortures her and brutalizes her and then claims that all of it is done to make her strong. Only after she is broken and beaten and unsure of what is real and false and I still struggle to choke down those scenes of abuse and mistreatment and gaslighting. But hey, it’s easy to skip over if it means I get to relish in all of the pay-off that is achieved during the film’s climax.
Now, the good times were not to last forever and Obama’s rule was not entirely perfect, the movie was easy to see as entertainment again. Nothing bad happened during the late 2000s to the 2010s. I continued the yearly tradition because it’s just a damn good movie.
And then 2016 happened.
I don’t like talking about politics online. Not because I do not have opinions, but because it’s hard to explain feelings and opinions well using only typed words and no hand gestures but I’ll say this: 2016 was a nightmare and it has only gotten worse since then.
I do not like the reality we are in and I will continue to express that displeasure until this nightmare ends.
And as I continued the ritual I did every year, on the heels of an election that was filled with racism, xenophobia, hatred and venom and suddenly…none of it seemed so dystopian.
Those feelings only got worse once Trump was actually elected.
I remember watching in 2017 after watching another dystopian film Watchmen and I was practically paralyzed. I no longer felt like I was watching a movie. Short of the weird masked alliterative ninja man all of those themes were back with a vengeance and my anxiety and mental health were having none of it.
There was still in our world police violence and racism and nationalism and the emergence of fascism and more just as there was in this horrid fake London.
It didn’t feel like I distant future, it felt like a probable reality.
For the sake of my mental health, I think I’ll skip my normally yearly ritual but I will not forget the message behind it. I won’t forget the spirit of tangible revolution: one of the best things about the film is action even if in no way I can say that the way V goes about things is right or valid. I can in no way affirm or say it’s good to be outwardly violent to those you disagree with but I can dissent and fight for my rights and the rights of others. I can vote, I can protest peacefully, I can use my voice and platform to express what I believe. And while it is seductive to want wanton destruction and the end of those who you do not agree with, it seldom does anything good. I think the film is stronger for admitting that yes, V did get to blow up the building but nothing will be changed aside from there being one less building. Sure, he took out a fascist, but there will always be other fascists. It is our job to simply make it more difficult to let those people rise to power.
Happy Guy Fawkes Day, readership. Splendid Bonfire Night. Happy Election Night Eve.
May you all never grow too weary to fight for what is right.