TCS Daily

Try on the Mask

By Douglas Kern - March 23, 2006 12:00 AM

[SPOILER NOTE: This review gives away every major plot point. It's almost as bad as the trailer. But don't worry about it. The Sixth Sense, this isn't.]

They shaved her freaking armpits. Behold Natalie Portman (yes, her character has a name; do you care?) confronting the deranged anti-hero V after he tortured her as a way of improving her will to power - think Anthony Robbins meets Torquemada. She's been beaten; she's been starved; she's been nearly drowned; her body double was given ice-cold showers; and she's been sleep-deprived (you know this because the brown make-up under her eyes resembles dark circles). Upon realizing that her torment was V's doing, she explodes with rage.

"You cut my hair!" she shrieks, and the audience laughs -- inappropriately, and not for the first time during this movie. But Natalie isn't kidding. As she stands out in the cleansing rain to celebrate the death of fear, she raises her arms in triumph after days if not weeks of brutal, inhumane incarceration -- and check out those pits! Baby smooth.

That's V for Vendetta for you. It's darkly gorgeous, it's effortlessly slick, and at all times, it's three beers away from comedy gold.

Don't assume from my snarky tone that I disliked V for Vendetta. To the contrary, I loved every IQ-reducing minute of it. To call the movie stupid or dishonest is like complaining that Batman's mask couldn't conceal his identity, or that Superman's hair could never be cut: it's true but it misses the point.

Superhero action of any kind, logical or otherwise, is an inherent cinematic good, and any movie that features an unstable super-powered vigilante in a costume beating up other deranged weirdoes in costumes is A-OK by me.

V For Vendetta portrays a bleak futuristic Britain in which an Orwellian dictatorship controls a dazed populace with equal parts fear, lies, and bad dental work. Super powered from a biological warfare experiment gone wrong, the masked crime-fighter/revolutionary/art connoisseur known only as V fights against totalitarian thugs even as he hunts down the bureaucrats who tormented him in a concentration camp, years earlier. Along the way, he blows up some buildings, delivers a few banal speeches (in that patented Wachowski-Brothers use-big-words-and-talk-fast-to-sound-smart patter), and finds love with an unwilling sidekick: an American girl feigning a British accent (Natalie Portman, playing Natalie Portman playing a London office worker).

The totalitarian Britain of V for Vendetta is a blow-dried, CGI-enhanced Hollywood affair, long on gory appliances glued to supporting actors but short on real horror. Of course Natalie Portman wasn't Iraqi-industrial-shredder-style tortured; of course she wasn't harmed in a way that would blemish that flawless skin or remove an ounce of poutiness from those bee-stung lips. V for Vendetta is far too polished and elegant to allow for broken jaws or disfiguring burns or, well, hairy armpits.

Everything in V for Vendetta is subordinate to its visual aesthetic; moral distinctions and gory realities are lost to the tyranny of cool. That's why you won't object to this movie, my right-wing droogies; every objectionable idea and image is just grist for V for Vendetta's visual mill. Images reminiscent of Abu Ghraib? The Wachowski Brothers aren't making a political statement; they're just mining the media for jarring, transgressive images. Riffs on The O'Reilly Factor? It's no slam against Bill O'Reilly; it's just an arresting visual gimmick. The V for Vendetta graphic novel captured the essence of totalitarian drabness; its near-infinite palette of grays and browns and blacks reflected a world drained of color and joy. By contrast, the movie adaptation of V for Vendetta can't help but make its nightmare Britain seem electric and deliciously decadent, like a run-down Berlin nightclub during the Cold War. So while torture is cool and self-transformation is cool, underarm hair on a pretty girl is not cool. Thus, realism got shaved.

Make no mistake: in the world of V for Vendetta, cool makes right. V kills non-combatants, even as the government kills non-combatants. V lies; the government lies. V tortures; the government tortures. But V is the hero, you see, because he likes fine art and jazz and classic movies; he cooks well and dresses with panache and venerates a dead lesbian movie star. When V bombs government buildings, he does it with aplomb, a good classical music soundtrack, and a dry witticism on his unmoving masked lips. He's cool. And that makes it okay.

Fascism is always cool. We forget just how cool fascism was; to concede its dark appeal is to risk seduction to its tenebrous charms. We forget the glamour of Nazism: the handsome uniforms, the brisk, cut-the-crap efficiency; the glorious parades and compelling symbols and hypnotic propaganda -- so unlike the sloppy, ineffectual, dithering Weimer Republic and its painfully uncool parliamentarians.

We forget that, not so very long ago, a very different costumed crusader fought his lonely fight against the forces that oppressed him, employing violence as a means of transcending their petty boundaries and cruel injustices. Every tyrant needs a symbol to make the power of the People seem greater than the flawed and petty men from which it springs. Every fuehrer needs his Parsifal. And today's fascist now has V.

Fascism doesn't rise to power by advertising its death camps and invasions of Ethiopia. Fascism portrays itself to be the voice of the oppressed little guy, fighting back against the forces that keep the average jerk pinned down to his life of quiet desperation. Real fascism doesn't promise to protect us from what we fear; real fascism promises what V promises little Natalie after he tortures her: freedom from fear itself. Every dictator dreams of torturing his society into toughness; in this fantasy, society will be as pretty as ever after the torture, and grateful to boot. Natalie is the perfect victim for the fascist: the weakling who grows strong through pain, and learns to love her tormentor. This madness would be offensive if it could be taken seriously; it would be evil, but for those nice smooth armpits.

V for Vendetta isn't an apology for Nazism; it isn't smart enough. It is rather a joyous paean to unadorned, un-hyphenated fascism. First, I wear the mask: now I am the solitary defender of decency in a world gone mad, and you are the cackling, over-the-top oppressor whom I can kill without compunction. Now you wear the mask: now my soliloquies and resounding calls for freedom are the rants of the maniacal Chancellor, and your evil plans and acts of violence are the tools by which a free people overthrow tyranny. My fascism. Your fascism. It doesn't really matter which buzzwords and justifications we use, does it? What matters is what's cool and sexy and violent.

Oh, violence -- glorious, precious, luscious violence, you are a supporting character in V for Vendetta all by yourself, and you might be the prettiest actor of them all. V doesn't just kill his soulless opponents; he dissects them, carves them like a sculptor, filets them like a steak chef at Benihana's. You can ignore the generic, non-committal political rhetoric of V for Vendetta, but you can't idly dismiss those crimson arcs of pearls that spray so gorgeously every time V flashes his deadly blades. You sigh at the tiresome boilerplate rhetoric, but you marvel at the Pollock-esque masterpieces of human evisceration, and you wonder: which one captured the director's attention more completely? In what does the director place the force of his artistic vision? In what does he place his faith? The blather? Or the blood?

By the movie's end, the stage is set for a perfect fascist Ragnarok. Having perished in honorable combat, V is immolated in explosions and fires of his own making - a magnificent pagan funeral. The V Youth are assembled in stylish masks and smart uniforms to cheer the chaos; the only government character with a shred of decency has switched sides, and the world is redeemed through a little of the old ultra-violence. (It was cured, all right.) And there's Natalie, fetching in her buzz-cut amidst the mayhem and fireworks, eager to inform us that "V is my father. V is my mother. V is my brother." V is everyone, and anyone. V could be you.

So try on the mask. It will give you super powers, and elegance, and an endless sense of grievance, and countless foes to kill with glee. It won't give you moral direction or any sense of the relevant distinctions between righteous violence and thinly rationalized psychosis, but so what? Try on the mask of V for Vendetta. It will fit so well, and feel so good, and look so very, very cool.

Douglas Kern is a lawyer and TCS contributing writer.



It's only a movie
I read the comic in the 80's and I saw the movie last weekend, yet I've never had the inclination to don a mask and destroy a governmental institution. In fact, I wager that everyone else who saw the movie can make the same claim. But perhaps you are different -- in which case I would advise you to seek professional help.

The Original Graphic Novel Was Way Better
I enjoyed the film but it did take a real "Style over Substance" approach- glossing over all the moral and political complexities that the original book went into in detail. The book gave all the characters moral depth, even the fascists- so you understood why everyone believed what they did. The reader was walked through the different philosophy and steered toward V's brand of Anarchy. Along the way i had to stop at Libertarianism, personally. The Movie doesn't go there- it gives you cartoon villains and cartoon heroes. As Kern says, it looks really cool, but there's so much missing. It's there in the original.

People have been making this "Superheroes = Fascists" argument for a while now- and about anything resembling "redemptive violence" in American cinema: Clint Eastwood films, Death Wish, Rambo, even Star Wars. Check out the book The Myth of The American Superhero.

The movie lost the spirit of the story
V for Vendetta at it's most basic is a story about fighting for freedom, no matter the cost. V for Vendetta the story, the 1988-1989 10 part graphic novel, has a fantastic message of fighting for your beliefs.

V for Vendetta the movie lost a big part of the message through inappropriate politicization. The "look at how evil the US and UK are becoming" message was force fed into the movie and ruined what could have been a great film.

V was not a facist, V was an idealogue of sorts. V fought for what he believed in, personal freedom and the destruction of an oppressive/corrupt government. V believed that violent, bloody revolution was the only way to affect change. If there should be any parellel to current world governments then maybe the writers should have focused on the intolerance prevelant in Islamic theocratic states.

Sadly, like a typical hollywood feature the message of the original story was lost and replaced with misguided attacks on governments trying to do the right thing.

Comic-book intellectual
Interesting; now we gain a sense of where your anti-establishment, hyperventilating, enviroMENTAL, bring-down-the-man attitude may stem from.

Right. Just like the freedom-fighters Lenin, Mao, Minh, Guevera, Castro, Mugabe, bin Laden leading ~100,000,000 people to their early and grisly deaths. Fantastic, you and Hobbes get it. The premise for this movie is as idiotic as a Seagal 'blow it all up in order to save it' movie. I say again, Brilliant!

Another take on V-ascism
The film inherits the critical political flaw of the original graphic novel in that in order to make sure the reader/audience instinctively sympathizes with an anarchist hero committed to violence, it is essential that the enemy be so clearly evil that any action or philosophy is justified in the fight against it.

Thus (and despite the setting in a future Great Britain), the enemy in both the book and film are not just *****, but 1940s style ***** complete with haranguing leaders, totemic symbols and armbands. Anything less would have subjected the storyline to problematical political scrutiny dealing with subjects like why fascism most often springs from anarchy (hardly making anarchy the solution to totalitarianism), or why the ranks of 20th century fascist movements frequently included those espousing anarchism and other anti-bourgeoisie philosophies.

Given that this problem underlies both the book and movie, the question I had was why I was able to live with this flaw when I read (and re-read and enjoyed) the graphic novel, and yet this flaw was fatal to the film?

To begin with, the film's writers and producers jettisoned much of V, the hero's, anarchist rhetoric. While this was no doubt motivated by the boundaries of the modern action flick, I suspect the Wachowski's found it easy to drop the political dialog because they never really understood it, or at least never understood its and place in 19th and 20th century political history. Shorn of his attachment to this history (and saddled with a romance), the figure of V turns from mysterious and dangerous to faintly ludicrous (let's not talk about the lips to mask kiss that did elicit some laughter in my audience). As an aside, the filmmakers make the same mistake by making it clear that V is a burn-scarred, deformed monster under his disguise, eliminating the mystery in the novel of whether he is horrid, beautiful, or actually Evee's dad behind that mask.

It was only by re-reading the original comic that I was able to ascertain why the film did not work. As noted by another contributor, the murky tone of the illustrations gave the impression of a society made up of those living under the dictator's jackboot or enjoying having their foot in the boot. In the film, the public is depicted in sequences of middle-class comfort, watching fascist television in their family rooms or at the bar and sneering at the propaganda while living in the homes and wearing the same clothes we wear today (as an aside, while I have long since given up on Captain Video space suits hitting shelves by 2020, shouldn't the future hold at least one new shirt or hat design?). When those scenes were juxtaposed with images of the deranged Chancellor haranguing his fascistic followers, I felt like I was watching a rerun of a little-remembered Monty Python sketch entitled "The North Minehead Bi-Election."

In that brilliant bit of Python comedy, the show covered an election in a small British mining town where Adolph Hitler (who had apparently escaped death in World War II and now lived in England under the clever alias of "Mr. Hilter") traveled with his companion Mr. McGoerring trying to win election to parliament by selling a bewildered public on his plan to lock undesirables up in "Boncentration Bamps."

I leave it to others to point out the obvious problems in the film maker's ham handling of the material such as whether in 2006 we should be celebrating people who blow up buildings and subways because their motives are pure.

In more skilled hands, V for Vendetta was ripe for re-interpretation for this point in history. Would Hollywood be ready for V to inflict his quirky brand of anarchist revenge on a totalitarian society whose rhetoric flowed from a different tradition than 20th century fascism? An Islamic totalitarian society, for example? Given the film's sympathy to the plight of homosexuals at the hands of fictitious British fascists, one would think the death sentence gays face in certain parts of the world today at least make them a candidate for the V treatment.

Alas, in V for Vendetta, we have a film that is far less than the sum of its parts. If they only had the courage to stick to the source material's original pretensions.

No glossy appeal for the real freedom fighters
No. I'm saying that this kind of freedom-fighting leads to the kind of government (NoKo, Zimbabwe, USSR, Nazi Germany, PRC, Castro's Cuba, Saddam's Iraq, Khmer Rouge Cambodia, Taliban Afghansitan, Bosnia, Kosovo,...this obituary at the expense of "populist freedom-fighting" is too long)that neither you nor I truly want. How about holding up someone like L. Walesa as a comic book hero character. Yeah, no blood and guts and little parts of people scattered all over the place in his story -- no mass appeal to the comic book crowd, I suppose.

Just Deserts
It doesn't sound like you read the comics -- or if you did, then you didn't understand the story. In any event, it doesn't matter. V, like the Batman, is a vigilante who works outside of the law. Neither of these anti-heroes are role models, but both make for entertaining stories.

Really, it's as if your complaining that people who enjoy ice cream don't realize that it isn't a healthy, well-balanced meal. Of course it isn't, it's ice cream -- or in this case, an action movie.

Part 1: The Alan Moore interview
The Beat, March 15, 2006

Q: Can you in any way encapsulate the political climate that gave rise to V for Vendetta?

At the time when I wrote it, it was of course for an English alternative comic magazine around about 1981. Margaret Thatcher had been in power for two or three years. She was facing the first crisis of her, by then, very unpopular government. There were riots all over Britain in places that hadn't seen riots for hundreds of years. There were fascists groups, the National Front, the British National party, who were flexing their muscles and sort of trying to make political capital out of what were fairly depressed and jobless times. It seemed to me that with the kind of Reagan/Thatcher axis that existed across the Atlantic, it looked like Western society was taking somewhat a turn for the worse ... They were talking less about annihilating whichever minority they happened to find disfavor with and talking more about free market forces and market choice and all of these other kind of glib terms, which tended to have the same results as an awful lot of the kind of Fascist causes back in the 1930s but with a bit more spin put upon them The friendly face of fascism. all evolved from several different sources, but it was playing into the fact that over here in England we've got quite a good TRADITION OF VILLAINS AND SOCIOPATHS AS HEROES. Like Robin Hood, Guy Fawkes and all the rest of them. And in our fiction, in British children's comics, there were as many sociopathic villains who'd got their own comic strips as there were heroes. Possibly more. The British have always had sympathy with a dashing villain.

So I decided to use this to political effect by coming up with a projected FASCIST STATE in the near future and SETTING AN ANARCHIST AGAINST THAT. As far I'm concerned, the two poles of politics were not Left Wing or Right Wing. In fact they're just two ways of ordering an industrial society and we're fast moving beyond the industrial societies of the 19th and 20th centuries. It seemed to me the two more absolute extremes were anarchy and fascism. This was one of the things I objected to in the recent film, where it seems to be, from the script that I read, sort of recasting it as current American neo-conservatism vs. current American liberalism. There wasn't a mention of anarchy as far as I could see. THE FASCISM HAD BEEN COMPLETELY DEFANGED (in the movie version). I mean, I think that any references to racial purity had been excised, whereas actually, fascists are quite big on racial purity. a

Saw the film.. (spoliers, do not read if you don't want spoilage!)
Well, I went to see it primarily because I have been mostly a fan of the movies the 'Brothers' have made so far. Knew nothing of 'V' other than the previews, and never read the comic.

After it was over, the thing I wondered about most was whether the childish notions in the film were already present in the novel, or if they were added by the filmmakers.

Also, while I do not agree, for the most part, with Kern's assessment, what he DID do is watch the film with a more critical eye than most average moviegoers, and he noticed many of the same things I did.

The biggest example was the supposed 'torture' of Portman's character. The reviews I had read before seeing the film, as well as reviews after the fact, all have tossed off flip references to the fact that 'V' tortured her, even though he had fallen in love with her. To them, it was remarkable merely for that reason only - that he could so easily torture someone with whome he was in love. The fact that the torture itself was no such thing does not even cross most of their minds.

As Kern notes, she was not dismembered, disfigured, broken, or even wounded in any discernable way. She received a rather radical haircut, she had to sleep on a hard floor, had to eat poorly presented food, and had her head dunked in some water. Not comfortable, for sure, but also in no way equivalent at all to real acts of torture committed by genuine bad people. The idea that intelligent people can so easily accept her treatment as 'torture', without ever even once seeming to make the cognitive leap of pointing out the absurdity of the notion, it just goes to show how naively conditioned many people have become, particularly in the media, especially given the 'torture' narrative constantly shoved down our throats by the media regarding Abu Ghraib, when, again, the actual goings-on were closer to college-level hazing than real torture.

And that's just one point.

I am hoping that the story's juvenile mentality can be explained by the graphic novel, and not by the 'artistic license' of the filmmakers. Although, with one of the novel's authors completely distancing himself from the movie, this is not hopeful. But I would like to think that the W.Brothers are capable of better than this.

For what it's worth, here is my take on the movie, from the top:

For the first 20 minutes or so of the movie, I was confused. Not by the story, but by the production value itself. Characters spoke so quickly, particularly 'V', that it would take a 2nd or 3rd viewing to be able to decipher what he was saying, especially when he rescues Portman's character from the police-like thugs. But the real head-scratcher was the odd music that was swirling aimlessly and inappropriately throughout the first part of the movie. It was so odd, and off-putting, the I figured I must have been mising some important ironic point the filmmakers were trying to make. Fortunately, by midway through the film, the goofy music had receded to 'normal' movie levels - that is, it was there to compliment the film, not distract from it.

But that's mostly a technical quibble I guess. Onward.

The film asks us, the audience, to suspend our disbelief in some mightily challenging ways. We are asked to believe that:

* A thriving modern metropolis could function economically in an environment where no one is allowed outside after dark

* that the United States, in approximately 30 years from now, could have become the equivalent of a third-world country, essentially 'erasing' it from any relevance

* happily therefore quite naturally leaving England as the obvious choice to become the dominant world power

* that the general population would be quite content to live their lives normally under what is quite obviously a fascist, dictatorial regime where secret police roam the streets, people are 'disappeared' in the middle of the night, KGB-style, and under the yoke of some kind of quasi-religious 'faith', through which things like homosexuality, or the possessionof a Koran, are essentially death-penalty-worthy

And that's all really just the premise. Clearly the film seems to be taking some heavy-handed stabs at the current Administration in the U.S., but it was SO over the top, I almost find myself believing that this was only the result of the source material, rather than any kind of true conviction on the part of the filmmakers.

In any case, a clearly-deranged man in a mask rescues Portman, on, coincidentally, the particular night in which he has made elaborate plans to blow up a famous English landmark. Ona rooftop, he merrily conducts to recorded music as people poke their heads out their windows at night, only to witness the exploding destruction, fireworks and all. ('V' at first appears to take pains to avoid causing any serious harm to persons, even including the thugs who were about to do vile things to Portman, as this bombing takes place at night, and apprently no one is hurt. This gives it all a rather harmless cartoonish feel. But how thing change!)

It makes big news, but the evil corrupt 'government' works furiously to 'spin' it all as some kind of previously-scheduled late-night demolition project. (Yet another dig at the current American administration).

It is at this point that my biggest complaint with the film pops up. As much as I think Stephen Rea is a deent actor, and as fabulous as John Hurt has been in his career, I really did not go to this 'futuristic, anti-hero action adventure pseudo-intellectual thriller' so that I could spend 90% of my time either looking as Rea's dour brooding or Hurt's terrible teeth and scuzzy beard enlarged to 30-foot size, set at 'Insane Rant' from beginning to end.

In case you didn't know it, the star of this movie is really Rea, and seconded by Hurt, whose entire contribution to the film's production could concievably been completed in one afternoon of staring into a close up movie camera, and a few brief vignettes of him standing, Hitler-like, in a pedestal while storm-troopers goose-step by in a military parade.

In any case, movies which don't make sense, especially ones which try to preach at you, really annoy me, and this is one of the biggest points of annoyance. We are asked to believe that this totalitarian-type regime, lording over a relatively happy (if subdued) populace, could actually be controlled completely by these half-dozen men in a darkened chamber, dominated and cowed by the huge video mug of Hurt's 'High Chancellor'. Among these men, there is the obligatory 'Nasty Secret Police Guy', the 'Bootlicking PR Guy', the 'Weaselly Data Analyst Guy', and the 'Law Enforcement Guy' (Rea), who seems to hold the position of being in charge of the entire government's law enforcement, but in practice functions as 'Classic Decent Detective With Partner In Tow' - hardly an administrator, and hardly someone who should merit his status as given. Not only that, but considering his apparent 'Inner Cabal' status (I have been a member of *The Party* for 28 years!), he seems to be the only one among them who is not a member of 'The Secret Conspiracy'.

Anyway, Rea is tasked with 'FIND V!!', and, since the grainy surveillance video shows V wearing a Guy Fawkes mask (Fawkes being the 17th-century anarchist who is famour for failing to blow up Parliament), Portman happens to be the only identifiable lead. Rea and his sidekick make their way to the television studio where she works. But once again, coincidentally, 'V' is there again, using his pluck, resourcefulne

Read the interview

This interview with the creator, Alan Moore, will help you better understand the story:

A FOR ALAN, Pt. 1: The Alan Moore interview

hmmm, above post continued
But once again, coincidentally, 'V' is there again, using his pluck, resourcefulness, and the might of Fed-Ex to help break into the studio, commandeer the entire nation's broadcasting, and spends a few chatty moments telling the common man about his plans to blow up parliament himself, one year hence, which will, for some reason, prod the common man into recognizing the villainous corrupt government for what it is. Soon after this, we discover that 'V' is not so against killing as we first thought. In the course of his escape, he rescues/kidnaps Portman, and whisks away to his underground hideout, where we learn that he likes jazz, old movies, and can make a pretty tasty egg sandwich.

Along about this time, we start to learn about the 'terrible things' in the relatively recent past in England. Vast tragedies are mentioned in passing, as foreshadowing. Rea, whose detective work consists of sitting in his office staring at a computer screen, begins to find threads of old mysteries, chief among them Portman's history and 'V's identity.

Portman resents being held captive, even by as charming an egg-sandwich masked man as 'V', so she invokes some feminine chicanery in order to escape. She tells 'V' that she wants to help him in his cause, and he agrees. This leads us to being able to see Portman in a cute little-girl outfit, to be put into the clutches of a lecherous old Bishop (whose presence in the film exists seeming only for the purpose of illustrating that Bishops are child-molesting old lechers who deserve whatever nasty fate they get). 'V' of course does him in, while portman takes the opportunity to escape.

Off she goes, fleeing to the home of the delightful Stephen Fry (after seeing the success of Fox's House, it's nice to see Blackadder's other mainstay also getting some much-deserved screen time), a comedian/talk-show-host fellow, who also happens to be a secret art lover, contraband Koran possessor, and oh by the way, gay in the buttless-leather-chaps extreme. Bad news all, for him, if he is ever caught.

She stays with him for a while, and he essentially commits suicide by altering a television program into lampooning the unappreciative High Chancellor, whereupon he is abducted and killed by the 'Nasty Secret Police Guy' and his squad of goons.

Portman desperately attempts to escape, but is apparently caught by the bad guys, and given her cueball-do.

Meanwhile, 'V' seems to be eliminating people one by one from a list, including the evil 'Bill O'Reilly Obnoxious Talking Head Guy' and the 'Well-Meaning-But-Still-Guilty-As-Hell Scientist Woman'. Rea is asking too many uncomfortable questions, the secret police are on his tail, and he is starting to mistrust his own government. Apparently some terrorists attacked the country year ago with a terrible horrible biological weapon, a virus, and close to 100,000 people met their demise. This led directly to the rise to power of the High Chancellor (nudge nudge), who somehow was the facilitator of the miracle cure which saved England to dominate the world.

'V' leaves all the answers in black and white for Rea to find, in the form of the woman's diary, where she admits that the government had had a program of secretly abducting undesireables and performing medical experiments on them (Mengele). And that 'V' himself had been on of the failed experimental subjects (but instead of dying, had somehow mutated into a sort of erudite super Benihana chef). And, that the virus which was the result of the program was really the weapon which killed all those people, at the hands of the future High Chancellor and his cronies (grin grin wink wink), and that the cure was withheld until enough people had been killed to convince people to give up their liberties and allow the fascist nazi-like dictator to come into power and control all their lives (coughgeorgebushcough).

Meanwhile, poor Natalie is being 'tortured' by having to wear ill-fitting clothing, eating distasteful cuisine, being growled at by shadowy bad guys, and having to read a tragic ******* love story of heartbreak and loss. When the shadowy bad guy finally informs her that it is time for her to either tell them who and where 'V' is, or else it's time to go get shot, she chooses death.

Suddenly, she informed that 'Now you are truly free.' upon which she wanders out of her now-unlocked cell and discovers that her captor had been none other than 'V' himself. When confronted, he responds by saying 'Well, you DID ask for your fear to be taken away. Are you still afraid now?' To which she responds, 'No. Oh.' and then everything is pretty much ok. She's still kind of annoyed, by at least it was all done out of love, so it was pretty much cool.

Anyway, a year is almost past, the evil government is getting more and more rabid because the still haven't caught the guy who said he was going to attack them again (coughosamacough), and governmental violence escalates. 'V' uses his incredible Fed-Ex powers to send all 5,000 people in England a Fawkes mask. People wear them. Innocents die. The date is looming.

When it is almost time to do the deed, Portman returns to 'V' so they can dance a while, and so 'V' can tell her that she has to blow up parliament, because it's not his job anymore. He shows her his train, and the train tunnel (which conveniently leads directly under Parliament) which he himself cleared. (Never mind that, given a whole year to prepare against the attack, the Evil Government never bothered to check the train tunnels under the place. Duh.) She has come to love him, he confesses his love for her, so naturally he promptly leaves to go get himself deliberately killed in his final act of vivisecting vengeance upon the High Chancellor and Secret Police Guy.

Rea finally shows up at the train, which is filled with good old British Fertilizer intended to be the exploding BS, to destroy the Evil Government BS. Crowds of hundreds are marching on Parliament to watch the fireworks, while the military stands readyw ith weapons cocked to shoot them all. Yet they bravely advance, protected by their Fawkes masks. 'V' slices and dices various bad guys, Secret Police Guy kille High Chancellor guy, then gets killed by 'V', who turns out not to be bulletproof after all, just really really aggravated. 'V' then returns to his true love and expires.

Tension mounts. Will the military gun down all the poor defenseless throng of Fawkeses? Will Rea prevent Portman from pulling the handle which will start the train down its journey to meet exploding Parliament destiny?

Umm, no. Decent Cop Rea decides that the government really does need the shake-up that an exploding Parliament would provide. And the military with nasty weapons of death pointed at all the helpless Fawkeses? Well, since the to main bad guys are dead, apparently there is no one left to give the order to fire, so they just.. don't. Message being, all you have to do is remove the bad guys at the top, and nobody will ever do anyone any harm ever again (coughbushcoughosamacough).

And that's pretty much the end.

The presupposition that this movies makes is the same one that many other movies make - that being the assumed fact that the government is evil, and that there are not really any terrorist bad guys out there trying to kill us. Even the terrorist attacks were a sham perpetrated by the government.

Plus, the world of the story is preposterously able to be ruled by just a small handful of men in a shadowy room, without any noticeable infrastructure or ch

Moore's Watchmen
If anybody has interest some of Alan Moore's other work, you should really read Watchmen. I thought it was marvelous.

(too much time on my hands I guess ;)

Plus, the world of the story is preposterously able to be ruled by just a small handful of men in a shadowy room, without any noticeable infrastructure or chain of cmmand, or cohenrent policies other than 'Do whatever the Main Bad Guy says to do at any given time.'

It's childish, immature, ridiculous, and naive. Liberals will and do love it because they feel it gives them some sort of vindication ('V' for Vindication?). Thinking conservatives ought to love it for what it more closesly resembles: a sheer parody of the liberal mind, and its infinite capability to be credulous in the face of ridiculousness.

In any case, this movie definitely does NOT glorify 'fascism', in my opinion. Turn the logo symbol of the red 'V' in a circle, and what do you have? Most of the traditional symbol for Anarchy. Fawkes was an anarchist. Anarchists were a real threat, the terrorists of their day, and bombing was their preferred tool. 'V' is an anarchist, he does not care what happens after the current regime comes tumbling down, he only cares that the world is rid of it.

Take the movie for what it is: a silly comic book featuring junior-high level thought, presented in a slick celluloid package. It's enjoyable enough, but it makes only one good point; that is the already-mentioned one - 'Governments should fear the people.'. Governments inherently strive to exercise as much power as the people will allow. There is a natural adversarial relationship there, in every government, no matter how benign. This point certainly did not need a movie like 'V' in order to express it, but there it is anyway.

I would go see it, if you have an early saturday afternoon available, but know what it is you're getting for your admission dollars.

The Watchmen is the better story, in my opinion, and the artwork by Dave Gibbons towers over David Lloyd. Here's a shorter link:

bless you
for making the very astute observation:

"it just goes to show how naively conditioned many people have become, particularly in the media, especially given the 'torture' narrative constantly shoved down our throats by the media regarding Abu Ghraib, when, again, the actual goings-on were closer to college-level hazing than real torture."

If given the choice between posing naked with some colleagues in odd homoerotic positions, or: being whipped, having boiling oil applied to my body, my shoulders broken and held apart, my teeth removed one by one with pliers, my fingers crushed with a hammer one by one, electricity applied to my genitals until the flesh burnt, skin flayed from the backs of my legs, barbed objects inserted... being hung from the ceiling with hooks though the flesh and flogged, being force fed ice cold or scalding hot liquid until my stomach was engorged - or any of the other endless applications of sheer agony employed by any number of governments today,

where should I hang my clothes and just how homosexual do you want me to appear?

Honestly, it's infuriating that so many (Senators Kenneday and Durbin) have become so vapid that they're not able to make the most basic of distinctions, between as you say college hazing and real torture. It's a fundamental lapse of logic of the sort one would expect only in an Orwellian totalitarian regime.

This is not to excuse or justify Abu Ghraib. Just a plea for some sanity in the discussion. Torture, the real kind, is hideous. Let's not define downward until the word has no meaning at all.

Hitler as an Avenger
So typically Hampton.

Isn't it obvious that this is the government you'd like us to have?
Perhaps you cannot distinguish the difference between someone who opposes evil with one that is evil.

The Citizen Kane of Graphic Novels
That's what I've heard Watchmen called, and I think asutely so. It's still the best thing yet done with the medium - influential, often imitated but unsurpassed. I would put V for Vendetta (the original graphic novel, not the film) in the top five, though.

Give them both a read if you haven't.

Are you suggesting that "V" represents Hitler or that the fascist Norsefire government represents an avenger of justice?

You're a strange one, TJ.

It must be nice to have such a moral compass
If only I could say the same for people whose insights and moral values are shaped by such movies.

Hampton's comprehension on display
My, my Hampton now I understand how the Supreme Court was able to interpret the takings clause as it did. Polish up that moral compass of yours. Clearly we see how the ***** were able to recruit the men who manned the ovens.

I guess in your circles such behavior is considered to be normal. Guess the readers here have reached their own conclusions about your values.

I don't recall any episode where Batman blew up hundreds of innocent civilians.
I don't recall any episode where Batman tries to overthrow the mayor of Gotham.

Joanie's temper tantrums
I don't deliberately step in something sticky and smelly on a warm summer's day to know it is both messy and disagreeable. Apparently you prefer to be pompous in displaying your lack of a moral compass.

It's only a movie
Do you really want to argue over fictional characters?

"V" blew up the Parliment at Midnight, despite the fact that the building was ringed by soliders and tanks. So I doubt very much that anyone was allowed near -- let alone inside -- the building. Furthermore, "V" motivated the PEOPLE to revolt against a fascist dictatorship in a scene reminiscent of Tiananmen Square.

Then again, the Batman killed the Joker in one version of the comic, and no one seems to mind his collateral damage of Gotham City.

It's only a movie.

Joanie please remeber
TJ is as insane as Doug. These two are incapable of entertaining the idea that their POV might not be the only valid one and heaven forbid the thought that they could be wrong about something. Doug is a lawyer ( i.e. full time liar) and TJ is a full time fool who thinks Reagan was a pinko lefty.

Western liberalism, as it has become....
Interesting interview, particularly his comments about "recasting it as current American neo-conservatism vs. current American liberalism." What makes this theme a farce is that current American liberalism is absoulutely gutless, with the exception of a few delusional Christian Peacemakers. Western liberals only gather and demonstrate in countries that protect their rights to do so. And they demonstrate against the very prinicples that they supposedly support. Proof of this is the meme that they want peace in Iraq through withdrawal of Coalition troops. Who guarantees that peace? Western demonstrators waving signs? Inanity capitulates insanity. What Joanie, RHampton, et al do not understand is that in this case, the hero and the villain are both Hitler (or Mao or Fidel or Che), just at different stages of violent power.

Life in Denial
Moore: "....They were talking less about annihilating whichever minority they happened to find disfavor with and talking more about free market forces and market choice and all of these other kind of glib terms, which tended to have the same results as an awful lot of the kind of Fascist causes back in the 1930s but with a bit more spin put upon them The friendly face of fascism."

Oh crikey. Although Moore may be a very adept and entertaining storyteller, like all who display such Socialistic impulses he's nothing short of an economic moron.

What the?
"This is not to excuse or justify Abu Ghraib. Just a plea for some sanity in the discussion. Torture, the real kind, is hideous. Let's not define downward until the word has no meaning at all".

Yes it was just a bit of fun even the ones that died.
Have you bother to find out what was happening in the place. Over 30 detainees have died while being interviewed. At least one was suffocated in a sleeping bag by a interviewer. That is why guards are being investigated by your government.

Geek, your points are well taken. Including the fact that the DOD is investigating, prosecuting and punishing the guilty. And this all began months before Hersh dropped his big stinkbomb on the process. Can you believe that the perpretators actually claimed that they are victims, too? In my stint in the military, the kind of behaviour conducted by the cig chick and her prison guard lover was never, ever, nohow, nowhere, tolerated... period. That it still goes on means that there is a need for even greater vigilance and you can bet that this is exactly what is going on.

shallow vitriol
TJ; Your shallow vitriol stinks. Besides being a cheap ad hominem, calling Joanie pompous is pure nonsense--nothing she has ever written at TCS remotely qualifies as such. She simply rejected your arguments by refusing to engage you any further--and for good reason. If you can remember, this started over her opinion about a movie. Disagree or agree, but personal attacks bear witness to weakness.

Another lost soul
Yes I guess you'd describe it as vitrol anyone who points out that drawing no distinction between terrorist murders is simply the use of moral equivalence and hence demonstrates 6that individual has no moral compass. Defending the indefensible is the trademark of a troll. Thank you for demonstrating your inability to defend her position and hence your mental lack of flexibility and capacity to differentiate between good and evil.

Are you engaged to Joanie Geek?
The way you two can hurl slime about without any difficulty indicates a match made in heaven. It is most instructive that you can hurl such brash accusatiuons about citing neither evidence nor fact, but do not let that trouble you. Apparently your inability to put two constructive thoughts together never has either. When you have anything to offer in the way of coherent argument try again. Till then why nort try over at the DU. Your comments are in vogue there.

Never confuse a Leftist with principles
Quite a nice summary of Leftist principles and hallmarks of courage. One never saw Mr. Hampton protesting Saddam's torture of tens of thousands nor do I hope to see the Left become emraged at any socialist paradise systematic destruction of the human spirit when they can preen and congratulate themselves on exposing the "evils" of America. Well done.

I've learnt not to bother with facts with you TJ as you ignore any that don't fit your POV that puts even Doug Kern to shame.

Its Eric again
Only one other certin could post a comment so dull.

Freedom Fighting
... or it could bring a Governmet By the People for The People where all men are created equal....

You are missing bit of context there Prospector. Sometimes war is necessary.

...nonsense. Moreover, you really should do some proof reading. Your comment above, as many of your others, lacks clarity or purpose other than spewing out trite neocon attacking points. Alas, TCS does not offer a spell/grammar-checker so we'll have to put up with your 2nd grade efforts.
Why don't you tell us a bit about your moral compass while you are at it...

The Power of babble
Indeed you might try and put together a coherent thought and brush up on your syntax but I'd give you a B for effiort considering your lack of a high school diploma. Can you even put together one coherent arguement or are you dedicated to spewing forth pure bile while demonstrating the ability to parody John Dean?

Continue your efforts Eric.

There you go
Demonstrating your cultural sensitivity again I bet you my English is better then your Barngarla but then again I didn’t think I was being marked on my English.

Pop culture
Well, I can't disagree with you; However, your recitation of the Declaration of Independence bears no resemblance to the suicide "martyrs" that are all the rage right now. Remember that the 13 colonies had been self-governing for over a century before the Revolutionary War. Our forefathers were well experienced in process, protocol, and scholarship. The pop culture comparison of Al Qaida "freedom fighters" to T. Jefferson or G. Washington is sicko teen-age silliness. I think that the French Revolution is a great allegory to what happens when the anarchists take over, launching a killing spree and laying the foundation for Napolean to lay waste to its neighbors.

Is that your second language?
Obviously its not your native language judging by your inability to use it.

"Continue your efforts Eric."

Wrong guy TJ.

As I have said before, learn how to spell and use proper grammar.

You were the one who made comparisons.
I pointed out where your comparisons were faulty.

Do you always get this cranky when people disagree with your opinions?

Joanie, such attacks are routine for TJ (and his other aliases). Best to be calm and reasonable when debating him and to ignore him when he gets out of hand.

You'll be up before the commisar for disgreeing with him
Silly question to ask of Hampton.

Eris's here
Continue your efforts but if it walks like a duck and smells like a duck. Have you considered how satisfying a frontal lobotomy would feel? Truly if you have nothing to say just join your friends Hampton and other non entities at the DU.

you really are dull
I am not Eric. My name is RS Weir, I live in Hawaii...which you can verify in the Kauai phone book. Call 411 it's even a free call. Call me if you wish.
I now see what happens when a little brain that's too crowded gets cross wired with anger.

Eric don't you have other things to do?
Noticed other readers have also identified you as Eric. Must have something to do your style and immense knowledge. Why not pal around with your other idiot friends of like manner and intelligence. You do protest too much.

How clever you are!
"Noticed other readers have also identified you as Eric."

Not only can you not spell or write clearly...but you also suffer visual hallucinations. You are the only one rapid enough to think that I am Eric. Moreover, I have had extensive arguments with him---especially at the old TCS forum. Eric is a leftist type while I am a rather conservative libertarian; this should be obvious to anyone with a modicum of perceptiveness. Ah...yes, but then again your memory is shorter than your member and your neocon sputtering stifles your mind, or what's left of it, so what else can be expected.
The invitation to verify my identity is sometime.

Illiterate one projects
Okay Morlock mind. Having displayed your infantile obession with your fantasies; lack of education; inability to draft a coherent thought; stubornly subjecting the rest of us to your inane and offensive diatribe there is little wonder that you have been identified as Eric.

Lack of maturity; education; intelligence on your part is not a mattern of concern for the rest of us. Unless you get to near our children. Now go on and draft your next minutes of your NAMBLA meeting Morlock.

Let us know when you have something to contribute. Perhaps when you memorize it from MoveOns talking points.

TCS Daily Archives