Despite receiving mixed reviews, V for Vendetta is an excellent film in terms of modern day political commentary.
Although rather simplified compared to the graphic novel (thanks to time constraints and the desire to create a satisfying story), there’s an eerie similarity between the society portrayed in Britain and many of the goings on we see in America today.
The British government portrayed in the movie, which takes place in the 2020s to 2030s, is in many ways a carbon copy of dictatorships throughout history. But the biggest concern is that at least some of the actions that bring the U.K. to such a totalitarian point can be seen budding in American society.
V for Vendetta points out a glaring modern day social issue. Xenophobia is a problem in any society, but this has particularly flared up in the wake of terrorism and ISIS.
The film’s propaganda guru, Lewis Prothero, draws a connection between security, order and the eradication of certain groups. He explains, “We did what we had to do. Islington. Enfield. I was there, I saw it all. Immigrants, Muslims, homosexuals, terrorists. Disease-ridden degenerates. They had to go.”
Here at home, we see fear of all but one of these groups. Anti-immigration and mass deportation is a strong point of contention. Even the term “deportation force” has come up. Muslims are often targeted for vandalism and violence. Homosexuals are constantly discriminated against by radical groups. And terrorists are self-explanatory. Would we go as far as they did in V for Vendetta? Probably not. But the fuel is there; it all depends on whether someone can light the match.
Not to rock any boats, but anyone can see that religion is a powerful player in American society — more powerful than the Constitution allows. While religious freedom is a staple of our rights, it’s clear who the biggest player is. As such, not only do some extreme groups attempt to pass laws that put others at a disadvantage, but anyone who fails to fall into line with their beliefs is often cast out or demonized.
The extreme fallout of this thought process is seen when Creedy arrests Gordon Deitrich for poking fun at Adam Sutler. Despite the fact that the comedy show host openly mocks Britain’s dictator on TV, “V” reveals to Evey that Deitrich’s hidden Quran is the last straw that leads to his execution.
During the scene in V for Vendetta when “V” (disguised as William Rockwood) speaks with Inspector Finch, he recounts a story of Adam Sutler’s rise to power. In one particular passage, “V” talks about the nationalism spurred on by Sutler’s views and his promise of security. Our hero explains that Sutler is “…completely single-minded and has no regard for the political process. The more power he attains, the more obvious his zealotry and the more aggressive his supporters become.”
It’s no secret that mainstream politics today is filled with extreme views from both sides. Despite this country being a place where free speech is completely protected, voicing a dissenting opinion from the majority is a surefire way to be treated like a leper. A term we hear a lot these days is “un-American.” If you support Bill “X,” then you’re un-American. If you’re against a certain decision, you’re un-American — and it works.
Politicians and other public figures can easily be shamed into silence, not because their positions are impractical, but because they go against what many people consider to be patriotic.
A particularly striking similarity between V for Vendetta and today’s society can be found in certain media personalities. If you take a minute to listen to Lewis Prothero’s impassioned speech in the opening scene, there’s a strong resemblance between his rhetoric and that of certain media figures in America.
Specifically, Prothero’s mannerisms and subject matter are similar to the types of messages spouted by people like Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck.
Fortunately, both in Prothero’s case and those of our real life examples, the opinions expressed aren’t likely to convert someone. If anything, they’re preaching to the choir. But when implemented along with a totalitarian regime, messages that forceful will only strengthen the fervor of supporters and increase the fear of dissenters.
Transmetropolitan is well known as the seminal cyberpunk comic book series by writer Warren Ellis and artist Darick Robertson, published by DC comics (through their Vertigo imprint). Though Transmet concluded its run in 2002 and takes place in the 2300s, the themes of technological alteration of humanity and the rise of totalitarian democracy are extremely relevant to our current political and cultural climate today. The Transmetropolitan comic depicts the cigarette-fueled journalistic rampage of Spider Jerusalem a Hunter S. Thompson inspired curmudgeon [Click here to read more…]
Balance of Power
In the world of V for Vendetta, the government clearly controls everything. In a democratic society, however, the balance should be the exact opposite. As “V” says, “People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.” Although American society still has most of its fundamental freedoms, some aspects are troubling.
The Patriot Act is a classic example of people eroding their rights in favor of safety. The government passed a law that allows for search and seizure without a warrant, denying terror suspects access to legal counsel and holding them indefinitely without charge or trial. Despite this type of law arguably being unconstitutional, the government passed it anyway without any marked resistance from the public. “V” addresses this eerie resemblance during his broadcast speech:
“I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn’t be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you, and in your panic, you turned to the now high chancellor, Adam Sutler. He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent.”
The American people do have greater security, as the government promised under George W. Bush (and later expanded under the Obama administration). And, like in V for Vendetta, the people provided their “silent, obedient consent.”
History is a funny thing. We’ve seen dictatorships rise in the same fashion as they did in V for Vendetta, but they sadly don’t fall as easily. The U.S. is nowhere near the point of such a regime, but some things have a specific formula. Fear, unchecked power, extremism, and discrimination are the basis on which governments seize people’s rights. V for Vendetta isn’t just a movie. It’s a commentary on human nature and how much we value our security over our freedom; however, it’s better to get this message from a movie, rather than learn it the hard way like so many societies before us.
Featured Image: Warner Bros.