Tuesday, March 21, 2006 12:05 am Daniel J. Summers
V for Vendetta, the latest film from the brothers who brought The Matrix to the big screen, hit theatres this past Friday. The movie has generated hyper-hype from both the left and the right. I had the occasion to view this film on Friday, and I'll have to say that the film did not live up to the hype on either side. This is a good thing - because of this, I found it to be a very entertaining film.
The plot can be spun to sound like the most rabid anti-Bush conspiracy theory out there. The scene is 20 years after 9/11, where the U. S. has collapsed, and Britain has been overtaken by a Christian government whose iron fist looks similar to that of the former U. S. S. R. The state-run television station spins the news the way the government wants, and their city-wide surveillance and announcement system makes Britain's current CCTV setup look amateur. The government has imposed a militant Christian law, in the mold of some of today's current militant Islamic countries. Of course, though, the entire government is corrupt - their Christian beliefs are only used to keep the people in fear. (I'll stop there so as not to give up the plot for those of you who may wish to see it.)
Enter “V”. He is inspired by Guy Fawkes, a 16th-century man who was arrested while trying to blow up Parliament. Throughout the film, we come to understand V's motivation for planning to do what Guy Fawkes could not. The government consistently refers to V as a “terrorist,” which is a term he embraces as well. This does not deter him from his goal, however; it only emboldens him as he goes on not only the populist “vendetta” of blowing up Parliament, but a personal vendetta against those who are responsible for his motivation.
Given what I've laid out above, it's not a stretch to think that it's a commentary on the Bush administration. (As a matter of fact, the original book could not have been - it was written in the late 70's about Margaret Thatcher's administration in Britain.) But, as a Republican and a fan of the Bush administration, I wasn't offended by the plot line. Apart from the “conservative” label of the oppressive government, there was no resemblance to the Bush administration (or the Clinton, Bush, or Reagan administrations). Maybe, if you believe every one of the paranoid conspiracy theories, and if you assume that anyone with an (R) beside their name hates everyone except heterosexual white people - just maybe you might be able to see some of our country's leadership in the fictitious British government. Personally, I don't think that our country would ever get to this point - the people would rise up long before that and squash the totalitarian regime.
Again, if you haven't seen this film yet, be careful about following these links - some contain spoilers…
On the left, the commentary has been just atrocious. In particular, I saw an MTV News special called “Unmasked” (link is near the top of the first page), in which Gideon Yago and Natalie Portman interviewed some young people about the film. These kids had swallowed the liberal ideology hook, line, and sinker; and Hugo Weaving's (Agent Smith from The Matrix and Elrond in the Lord of the Rings trilogy) views were even worse. In Natalie Portman's defense, she said that she didn't think the film, even with it's updated screenplay, was necessarily a commentary on any particular administration; rather, it was an illustration that unscrupulous people on either side of the political aisle could create problems. On the right, we've got lots of hyperbole as well. I remember hearing about this movie over 3 months ago, as a “here they go again, glorifying terrorists” type of report. More recently, Townhall.com's Megan Basham (who, by the way, I normally agree with - and, I love the fact that she's a movie critic whose last name sounds like “bash 'em”) has a scathing review of the film, where she decries the glorification of a “terrorist”.
One review I've read that pretty much gets it right is the one from Focus on the Family's Plugged In online magazine. Their review of V for Vendetta gives a plot synopsis, and lists both positive elements (which he does pick up on) and content that parents may find objectionable (this being a somewhat intense R-rated movie, there is some of that for them to chroincle.) The reviewer also brings up some good points about both the implications in the film, and the questions that it raises. My kudos to Adam Holz for a great open-minded review of this film.
For me, what I took away from the film was… well, ... nothing new. The story was interesting, the movie was well-done, and the special effects were pretty cool. But, as I said, the government was such a caricature of any conservative government that I would support that I didn't identify myself (or my political beliefs) as being part of the villainous government. This government really looked like the U. S. S. R. to me; and who wouldn't support someone who was fighting for the overthrow of that type of oppressive government? Yes, V (the character) has some issues, especially with his personal vendetta against those people who had abused him. Their murders were little more than vengeance killings, and aren't right at all.
To say something along the lines of “One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter” is flat-out wrong. You're only a freedom fighter if you're on the side freedom. The terrorists that attacked our country on 9/11 were not fighting for their freedom - they were attempting to instill terror in us. The colonists in this country who threw the Boston Tea Party were considered terrorists by the British empire - were they wrong to stage this demonstration of their belief that taxation without representation is wrong? V certainly doesn't have all the answers - but the questions it raises are important ones, and ones that we all should ponder - especially in our current world. Do we have the fortitude to stand up against a government like that? Should we?