B for Vendetta

V for Vendetta was a very entertaining movie. In its hit-you-over-the-head-with-message Hollywood way. It’s like the Wachowski Brothers knew they really screwed the pooch on the Matrix sequels and they were sorry. They wanted to show us they were really sorry. So they made a good movie.

It has the basic same theme as the original Matrix, where our protagonists live in a fascist state and through a number of trials come to consciousness to free themselves from the shackles of oppression. But there’s a little more of a collectivist and revolutionary take on this one. It’s been years since I read the comic book er, graphic novel but it seems to follow the novel closely enough. They resist the Hollywood temptation to unmask the male hero and all that, and he really is a bit of a crazy vengeful terrorist. For a fuller review, see KDD’s post on the matter.

As for me, I would like to say that more profound movies “make me think” like Clooney’s attempt to inspire press heroism in Good Night and Good Luck, which I just showed a bit of to my students to illustrate Lynn Spigel’s discussion of the difference between academic history and popular memory. But it’s V for Vendetta that gets me wondering what it would take for people to rise up against the Bush administration. Fascism is still our primary artistic and political vocabulary for representing evil on a national or global scale. Terrorism only works for some people as a trope, and it lacks the visual style of fascism for comic books and films (consider the clausterphobic world of Munich for instance against the lavish color and giant TV screens of V for Vendetta).

But the really frightening thing is what the Bush administration has turned the United States into — at least in the places where its military goes. All things considered, Americans themselves don’t live under anything approaching fascism, no matter how much we want to denounce the Bush administration’s trampling of civili liberties and human rights. No, their particular brand of evil is particularly acute off of American soil. And it lacks a good historical label like “fascism” or “terrorism.” The ironic inflection of “war on terror” only hints at what it is, what it ought to be named. We don’t have a word for the evil that comes when a sole superpower decides it can do whatever it wants on other coutries’ soil, and we don’t have a visual style for that, but I could imagine someday in the future, in some other country, where the visual vocabulary for evil, for terror, draws on the iconography of Bush’s executive branch.

I feel a Bad Subjects editorial coming on.

4 replies on “B for Vendetta”

  1. “We don’t have a word for the evil that comes when a sole superpower decides it can do whatever it wants on other countries’ soil”


  2. Perhaps, but is it fundamentally the same as what, e.g., Britain was doing in the 19th century?

  3. Good point, although it can be argued that it is not fundamentally different from British colonialism. Maybe Bad Subjects should have an informal naming contest to go along with the planned editorial!

Comments are closed.