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.