When Your Light-hearted Movie Tradition Winds Up Setting Off Something… Unexpected
Remember, remember, the Fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason and plot. I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.
I do, like many of you, appreciate the comforts of everyday routine, the security of the familiar, the tranquility of repetition.
Ever since 2006 and I first heard Hugo Weaving’s deep voice growl that “people should not be afraid of their governments; governments should be afraid of their people,” I’ve sat down to watch V for Vendetta on every November the 5th, much like every other SJW millennial out there. There was something about that movie that captivated me. I don’t know whether it was the devastating intellect that V used to cut into his enemies as deeply as his knives; or the fact that, despite his mission, he never forgot to appreciate beauty- he kept paintings by Titian in his home next to his bomb supplies; or that, no matter how committed he was to his martial arts technique, he still managed to get tongue-tied by a pretty girl.
And every year since I first saw this film, there’s something new that I’ve appreciated about it. My love for it has grown as I have, and this tradition is one that I’ve continued to treasure over the last half of my life. However, on this latest November the 5th, there was a new and different taste in my mouth as I watched Natalie Portman say the lines I could say with her by now. It took me aback for a moment, until I realized what that bitter taste was; the fact that this film, which had always been an enjoyable lark, was starting to resemble my country’s current political climate a lot more.
There are, of course, those who do not want us to speak. I suspect even now, orders are being shouted into telephones, and men with guns will soon be on their way. Why?
For the last three years, this entire country has seen a sentient Cheeto puff spout hatred into microphones as he has tried to sow discontent through the citizens of this nation. We have witnessed him take a razor blade to the ideals of the constitution, which several of history’s greatest intellectuals risked everything to ratify into existence. We have watched as a beautifully made up ghoul in couture dresses made up phrases like “alternative facts.” And we have seen an active campaign by the current seat of power to sow distrust in the free press by dubbing them “fake news.”
A free and unforced press is one of the hallmarks of a truly democratic society. Freedom of information is critical to the forward movement of any community, no matter how small or large. It’s no coincidence that in almost all dystopian fantasies, the primary focus of the government is on the spreading of misinformation. After all, George Orwell’s 1984 featured a government so consumed with this very act that, from one moment to the next, they informed the citizens of Oceania that they were at war with different super continents, and knew that their citizens would accept it. (Coincidentally, John Hurt, who played Winston in 1984, would later play V for Vendetta’s Big Brother, Chancellor Sutler. How’s that for a hundred eighty degrees?)
Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there?
Since November of 2016, we have watched a steady attack being levied against our free press, the value held so dear by our founding fathers that they ensconced it into the very first Amendment of the Bill of Rights, a document that, courtesy of James Madison, dictates the liberties of all citizens of this nation. While the news is far from perfect, it is the duty of the principled press to continue informing us of what goes on throughout the nation.
Cheeto-in-Chief (hereto-fore called CIC) is well-aware of how powerful the media is. After all, his following from the Apprentice was what got him seen, his Twitter profile was what got him noticed, and Fox News’ outreach was what eventually got him elected. He is the perfect example of how such influence, used irresponsibly, might lead to the fragmentation of a society.
I am terrified of what might come from four more years of this. Not because of CIC himself, but because of the destructive power he represents; the understanding that where once there was a semblance of order to our world, it has now been turned upside down.
Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission.
For the last three years, some things have gotten indisputably worse: as of September 1st, there were 283 mass shootings in the US. The Opioid epidemic is continuing to grow. Incidents of racial and religious violence have risen all over the world.
And yet… while there are things that have gotten more and more terrible, I have seen reason for hope. The resilience of the students in Parkland, the Blue Wave in Congress, a massive rise in young political activism and visceral care for the world we are to inherit. After all, we are not the owners of this world, but merely its custodians. Eventually, a different day will dawn, with a different world that different people will shape, and the choices to shape it belongs to them, as V says. And, if you’re like me, the people you see in this world give you hope.
Unfortunately, we won’t have the chance to see that world dawn or the people who will get to shape it unless we get a grip on the world we’ve driven into the ground ourselves.
More than four hundred years ago, a great citizen wished to embed the fifth of November forever in our memory. His hope was to remind the world that fairness, justice, and freedom are more than words; they are perspectives.
In the States, most of the people who think of 11/5 (if they think of it at all) think of it as V for Vendetta Day, and they’re not entirely wrong. After all, that’s why I’m sitting up at midnight watching a movie I’ve seen approximately 20 times. But in the UK, they have bonfires every November the 5th for Guy Fawkes day. I wouldn’t exactly call Fawkes a hero; after all, he was part of a massive international plot to blow up the House of Lords and assassinate the king in favor of his Catholic daughter.
I’m not here to condone terrorism or assassination, but it does bear pointing our that King James’s refusal to acknowledge religions other than his own was what led to the eventual founding of the US. I don’t know about you, but I find it fascinating that as we are battling for our nation’s very soul, I’m watching a movie about an anarchist inspired by the man who sought to kill the king whose actions pushed our country to be founded (dang, that college degree in symbolism really did it’s job).
How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well, certainly, there are those who are more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable. But again, truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.
Unfortunately, our nation’s future has been forcibly manhandled by our creepy current attempt at a president, who appropriately fits yet another quote featured in V for Vendetta:
“And thus I clothe my naked villainy
With old odd ends, stol’n forth of holy writ;
And seem a saint, when most I play the devil.” -William Shakespeare, Richard III
The thing is that Trump can’t even be bothered to even try to adequately hide any of his wrong-doings, and thus gets his hyper-religious pundits to cover up his ugly deeds for him. We have a house of cards being built before us, and no matter how hard we try, we can’t seem to blow it down.
There is still time to turn our country’s fate around, and it’s our responsibility to do it. We can make it happen, if only we can be brave enough to take it into our hands.
Our integrity sells for so little, but it is all we really have. It is the very last inch of us, but within that inch, we are free… an inch … it is small, and it is fragile, but it is the only thing in the world worth having. We must never lose it or give it away. We must never let them take it from us.
- The quotes in bold are all from the film V for Vendetta, written by Lilly and Lana Wachowski and adapted from the graphic novel by Alan Moore.