Thursday, April 13, 2006

V for Vendetta

I liked this movie because it expresses my political frustrations. All its fighting, exploding, and Shakespearean repartee build up to a grand, convulsive, left-wing orgasm. For those of us who have had it up to our frontal lobes with the Right, no sex scene would have substituted.

The masked freedom fighter, V, exists in a future where America has collapsed under its own arrogance. The center of power for the English speaking world has shifted to London, where the action takes place. The I-told-you-so catharsis in this premise alone makes this movie very attractive to the liberal viewer.

Rather than learn from America’s demise and avoid the dangers of propaganda-reinforced authoritarianism, the England of the future has forfeited her power to a tyrannical clique led by a man named Adam Sutler. John Hurt, the actor who plays Sutler, borrows his bark from Hitler, but he gets his bite from Cheney’s cold, threatening postures and Rumsfeld’s malicious intransigence. Sadly, George Bush has contributed little to Sutler’s character. Perhaps this is because Hurt trained in the British dramatic tradition where the words of the script appear to originate from the actor’s own brain. George Bush’s amiable cluelessness, vacant searching eyes, and teleprompter-induced phrasing are not in Hurt’s repertoire.

The hero, V, insightfully recognizes that the public cannot be moved to rebel against this despotic lot as long as their junta appears invincible. To expose the soft belly of the system, V vows to destroy a public building on a specific date. That date is not September 11, but merely associating an act of terrorism with a specific date is more than enough for the viewer to make the connection.

Tense action follows as the calendar flips towards the deadline. We expect V to outsmart his opponents. But he is only one man against the system. Everyone else is waiting to see if V can really blow up the British Houses of Parliament as he promised. A very clever and sympathetic Irish detective with basset hound eyes is close on V’s heels. Spies, thugs and troopers are everywhere. The child molesting Bishop and the Sean Hannity type TV personality that we wish V would assassinate are not easy targets. To add to this already crowded schedule of violence, V has fallen in love with a woman, Evey, and feels compelled to release the inner radical in this uncooperative beauty.

When I say “V has fallen in love with a woman,” I am not being redundant. It is becoming more and more negligent to assume that the object of a hero’s love is the opposite sex. The plot of V for Vendetta devotes a lot of time telling us that a society that persecutes gays and lesbians cannot be considered free. It is the sad story of a lesbian love that finally jolts some courage into Evey. There is also an eclectic gay TV producer, Dietrich, who comes to a bad end partly because he is gay and partly because he owns a copy of the Koran. To an American Muslim, this brief extension of an olive branch from a gay direction is pleasantly puzzling.

To me, Dietrich’s story is the most politically relevant part of this comic book plot. Dietrich is carried off to be tortured after he lampoons the junta’s leader in one of his TV shows. The Wachowski brothers, who wrote and produced V for Vendetta, have not been arrested for making their movie. This reminds us that thankfully we are not living in V’s universe. Stepping out of Dietrich’s story for a while, we see the good news and the bad news. The bad news is that V is a fictitious character. There never was and never will be a liberator. The good news is, there is still time for democratic action so that we won’t need to make heroes out of terrorists like V.


Anonymous said...

It is a fact that there has never existed a state in which the majority supports the ruling establishment. If there is not a permanent state of revolution around the world, it is because the cost of overthrowing the governing establishment outweighs the benefits, even in cases where such benefits can be summed up in the preservation of dear life.
Revolutions of course do occur when the state has lost all accounting of the cost / benefit of its existence to citizens and has so eroded its usefulness that citizens as a collective are willing to absorb casualties in forcing a new order. In such cases congeniality fills the void between the new governing body and citizens for a short time, but soon public apathy and discontent meet the usual tools of the state in managing its relations with the public. The cycle repeats itself, however long it may take. Political history can be looked at as comprising of long periods of mass suffering interrupted by very brief periods of anger release. The advent of democracy was supposed to address this dire reality, but all it has achieved is provide a placebo tranquilizer that merely delays the inevitable and minutely dulls the awful effects of the state on the individual. Destructive as they may be, “terrorists” prevent the collective sliding from apathy into deep sleep.

patrick said...

watched V for Vendetta recently, great effects, plus they packed a lot of a character into a man who wore a mask for the duration of the movie; then again, maybe he was more than a man in a mask...