Remember, Remember…

evey-v

 

Yesterday, the confluence of Guy Fawkes Day and Election Day in the US falling on the same day, led me to watch and live tweet V for Vendetta. Below is an edited transcript of those tweets.  I explore a lot of what the movie has to say about the nature of protest, both violent and nonviolent, the increasingly disturbing connections between our world and Vs, and some of the more troubling parts of the movie, such as V’s treatment of Evie. 

 

Here are the tweets:
I’ve spent most of the morning thinking about today being both Guy Fawkes Day, and an Election Day here in the US, and this movie and the nature of protest. There’s a lot to dive into, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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A few quick thoughts before starting the movie!

One of the reasons I love it, is the way it balances violent and non violent protest. I’ve always been uncomfortable with the idea of using violence to overthrow violence, but I also think sometimes it is necessary.

My memory is that this movie is about using violence to lead the way so that non-violence can help restore actual democracy, but that violence has to be left behind once democracy is reached- powerful message for election day.

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Self promo moment- Our podcast did an episode on V for Vendetta where we did a deep dive into these issues. Check it out! https://superheroethics.wordpress.com/2016/11/15/v-for-dystopia/ …

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Alright, pressing play now.

 

I’m reminded that the first time I saw this movie, I knew almost nothing about Guy Fawkes day. I love the way they re-tell it and humanize Guy. 

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“You can not hold an idea. They do not feel pain.” 

I’m generally pretty strongly against the Great Man of History idea, but I like Evie’s speech as a reminder that personalities can be as important to movements as ideas, though she means it specific to her.

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Monologue about the downfall of the USA, and the resentment that the rest of the world feels towards them is ringing truer and truer. Make America “Great” indeed. 

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Guy’s language in his first speech to Evie would so easily come off as pompous and ridiculous. The fact that it doesn’t is an incredible credit to Hugo Weaving’s acting. 

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As he blows up the Old Bailey, I really appreciate how crazy he comes off, and how scared Evey is. He’s not presented as a hero, he’s presented as both heroic and severely broken.  

I love that because it raises what I see as the central question of the movie- are V’s actions justified?  It would be so easy for the movie to just show him as a hero but instead, we get real questions about what hes doing and why. 

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The conflict between the actual police and the fingermen, and the way Finch and some of the other police seem deeply troubled by the more corrupt actions of the regime reminds me of what is happening now- government folks, including conservative ones, turning on Trump.  Uneasy about what he is doing.  

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“words always hold their power.”  Even the guy who is using violence to get his message heard acknowledges that words hold more power than truncheons.

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I have no problem with the violence against the fingermen- they pretty clearly are evil and corrupt.  I’m less comfortable with the violence against the cops. They aren’t overtly evil. But they are serving an evil regime, and thus complicit in it. I think they still need to be fought, and killed if necessary, but I have trouble with celebrating their deaths, as the movie seems to, in the same way I could the fingermen.  Hard questions.

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V not allowing Evie to leave – this is his moral failing.  He believes he knows what is right for people, and will force them to do it.  As it happens, for both her and the country, he is right about what is needed. But does he get to decide that?

This is my fear about so many movements for justice. Violence may be needed, but what happens when democracy is lost. When we are doing what is best for people, even if they don’t know it?  That’s a very dangerous road. 

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“People should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people.”  

SUCH a good line, and true. 

But I can’t help but think about GOP Senators who behind closed doors say they support impeachment, but fear their base.

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The way the network changes V’s message into one of hate is so similar to the gaslighting that happens on Fox and other right wing media.  V has to take control of the methods of communication because there is no other way for the truth to get out. Could Anonymous hack into Fox News? Would we want them to?

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My inner grumpy old man loves how old-fashioned V is. The whole movie is him telling fascism to get off his lawn. 

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“Artists use lies to tell the truth.”

So, so, true. 

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I do wish this movie didn’t keep going back to sexual abuse as a way to show someone is evil.  Having Evie face sexual assault, only to be saved by V, not once, but twice is one of the few sour notes about this movie. 

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“You wear a mask for so long, you forget who you were beneath it

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V with the doctor is one of the most touching scenes in the movie. He never doubts that she has to die, but he is still tender with her, and hears and believes her apology.  

This scene always makes me cry, and leaves me with so many questions.

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The doctor’s journal is terrifying.  She so clearly believes she is doing good- so much so that she hates her victims for not believing it.  It is easy to see and hate evil when it knows it is evil. But most evil thinks it is doing good. More on that below.

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The more I watch this again, the more I realize Finch is the real hero for me.  In part because he is so much more relatable. I admire V, I question V, but I could never be him. But Finch–Finch is the whistleblower. 

Finch is every person who believed in something and then started to see the rot within and had to ask hard questions. The question he asks his deputy, “would you want to know?” that resonates. Because he is admitting the comfort that comes in the not knowing. 

That question, I think, is what explains so many Trump supporters. They like his message, they like knowing their way of life will ‘prevail’ and so they don’t WANT to know anything else. They want to be blind to his evil, and the right wing media helps.

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Gordon’s show that makes fun of the chancellor and the hunt for V iis a great example of just how powerful, and how needed, satire is, in a world where telling the truth is punished. 

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Valerie’s speech/letter.  Gonna try to keep tweeting, but hard with the tears. Her words are the heart and soul of this movie. 

“For three years I had roses, and apologized to no one.”

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Evie just realized that V was behind her whole ordeal, and I’m hitting pause, cause I have a lot to say. 

TL:DR Learning to overcome fear is incredibly powerful, especially because fear is the only tool oppressors truly have.  BUT- I can never be ok with what V did.

He believes he knows what is best for someone else, and so he does it without consent, but believing he is justified. 

That’s true of the doctor he killed. And while it is nice to think most villains are twirling their mustaches, it is true of most villains. Trump doesn’t care, I don’t think Cheney did either– But I’m convinced Bush II did. So do many of Trumps helpers. They honestly believe they are doing what is best for everyone, and that justifies doing it by force. 

Once you convince yourself that you are doing things for the greater good, you can start to justify the most heinous of acts. It is why people like Kingpin are so compelling. 

My biggest complaint about this movie is that it seems to think V did the right thing. It shows how horrified Evie is and that she has to pull away, and I’m glad for that- but we still get that incredible moment of her with her hands in the air in the rain.

I just can’t ever be ok with what he does, no matter the result.  And I love that the movie shows that- it is one part of how broken he is and why he is just as lost as the people he hates. (more on this later).  

So now, lets talk about what he teaches her. Because, much as I hate his methods, I do think there is an incredible message in learning to not fear death. 

Fear, especially the fear of death is the only real power oppressors hold. Especially when it is a minority oppressing a majority. So many great movements came out of people learning not to fear that, and the power that is based on fear falling apart. 

That doesn’t minimize that fear in any way, and I know how much privilege I have, how much I DON’T have to fear that others do, and for me to call for others to risk death for the liberation of all would be the height of white liberalism  and arrogance.

But so much of the fear isn’t even of death. It’s the unknown, the unspoken, just the generalized fear of, we can’t buck the system, we can’t fight back. 

What V does, for Evie and for the country, is to show them they don’t have to be afraid.

Powerful. But still in no way justifies how he does it.

Detour– that message is, imo, the meaning of the resurrection story in Christianity. The empire uses the most severe punishment it can on this rebel rabbi, they kill him.  But it doesn’t work. 

2000 years later, the teachings of the rabbi are still here, but not Rome.

Xianity hardly has a monopoly on that. Overcoming our fear of death and our fear of the unknown is a theme in so many faiths and so many works of fiction.  

So  much of the evil in our world thrives on fear.

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V- What was done to me was monstrous. 

Evie- And they created a monster. 

YES. This is so much of the truth of this movie.  V is the product of this evil system, and we can sympathize with his pain and cheer on his quest for vengeance, but also understand that it is not justice. 

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Sutler, the dictator tells his henchmen, remind the people we are on the edge of chaos. “I want them to remember why they need us!”

Trump reads right out of this guys playbook.

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V’s description of how England fell into fascism is incredibly chilling. A demagogue who craves power, has no regard for the political process, and has supporters who don’t care either. 

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V needs Finch– this reminds me of what I love most about the Batman-Gordon dynamic.  The man working outside the law knows he needs someone working within it, to help bring things back to a civil society, and not just one kind of violence replacing another. 

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The domino scene is kind of ridiculous, but also just damn cool. 

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V handing over the train to Evie, and the speech he makes, is why I love this movie.  He recognizes she is right- he is a monster. He is what the world of fascism has made him, and he has been using their methods to fight them and, while his goals are good, he can’t be a part of what comes next. He can help burn down this system, but if he helps build the next one, it will still be built on violence and someone else choosing. 

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He tells Evie “you must choose” and he says that about the whole country. He knows he can’t choose anymore. 

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“Ideas are bulletproof.” Such a good line, but that whole scene of V getting shot that many times, but living, but also dying, but also having just enough strength to still kill everyone, was ridiculous. 

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Finch lowers his gun on Evie and then all the soldiers do the same against the protesters. I love that for all the violence, the defining moment of the movie is people without fear standing up to men with guns- and the guns standing down.

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The people taking off their masks, and showing it is everyone, even those who died– 3rd time the movie made me cry. 

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Movie is over. I’ve seen it at least a half dozen times and I’m still shook. 

Despite my problems with a few parts, this is still one of my favorite stories about how to fight injustice, and replace it with justice.

Violence is used to clear the way, to make revolution possible, but the actual revolution is non violent. It is citizens refusing to be afraid, refusing to believe the lies, refusing to surrender, refusing to apologize for their roses. The violent character is motivated by hate and vengeance, but recognizes that those are not things to build a new society out of. 

Rewatch is finished. Now I’m going to honor V in the best way I can- I’m off to vote. If there is an election in your area today please do the same.

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