Published On: Mon, Feb 6th, 2017

Zeitgeist Film Assignment

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by Andrew Robinson

The 2006 film V for Vendetta will be remembered as the zeitgeist of the early 2000’s because of its anti-authoritarian message during the height of the War on Terror, which saw a sharp rise in authoritarianism worldwide. In addition, the influence of the films symbolic iconography (V’s mask) has become adopted as free-floating signifier for the socio-political movements of Occupy Wall St. and Anonymous.

The American film that is representative as the zeitgeist of the early 2000’s is V for Vendetta, directed by James McTeigue. The film is set in Britain, and the narrative is that of a dystopian future in which a corrupt totalitarian government has risen to power. The film stands with the age it represents because of the direct parallels that can be made with America after 9/11 at the height of anti-terrorism legislation. In addition, the influence it has had is far reaching, and its influence can be seen in the Occupy Wall Street and Anonymous socio-political movements. V for Vendetta was released in 2006 and tells a story of human dignity, anti-authoritarianism, and “articulates a full-blown postmodern anarchism.”[1] The film is based off Alan Moore’s 2005 graphic novel, which appropriates the iconography of the English folklore of Guy Fawkes and the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605, and transforms it into an allegory of rebellion against tyranny.

The basic concept that our nation was founded upon is that people should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people. That is the spirit of true liberty that inspired the American Revolution, and not to mention the French Revolution. It is exactly that premise in which great countries are founded upon. It is precisely that type of enlightened consciousness that will always be on the favorable side of history because it is a human right to resist tyranny, by absolutely any means necessary. In addition, political dissent is a vital component that is required for a healthy democracy, freedom, and to experience true liberty. Therefore it is natural to assume that with the rise of authoritarianism, so too, will anarchist rebellion. It’s like Newton’s third law states; for every action, comes an equal and opposite reaction. Earnest H. Crosby, said in 1902, that the only effective way to counter anarchy is to “discourage violence in all of its forms. We must push in the direction of less violence. We must have smaller navies, fewer soldiers, more arbitration”[2] however, the tyranny of the Military Industrial Complex will not allow for a smaller military, and in fact anyone who suggests the government and the M.I.C. should not grow exponentially every year is targeted and politically attacked by the establishment (ex. JFK).

Ever since 9/11 the American government has become significantly more authoritarian, while utilizing fear tactics and the War on Terror as justification to infringe on our civil liberties, take away our freedoms, and expand the police state. It is becoming more and more evident that we are sacrificing liberty in the name of security and now as a direct result of such reactionary policies, the United States of America has become the “the most corrupt, degenerate, and criminal government in American history.”[3] That is why there is more people from all walks of life engaging in political dissent than ever before. A quote from the film that really resonates, is that “there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where when once you had the freedom to object, to think, and speak how you see fit you know have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity.”[4] V for Vendetta presents a powerful critique of anti-authoritarianism and the films iconography of V’s mask has reached the socio-political movements known as Occupy Wall St. and Anonymous, many of whose members all over the world wear the mask during their political demonstrations.

Perhaps the most controversial element of the film V for Vendetta is how the narrative parallels with the historical narrative of the United States post-911. The main antagonist of the film is a tyrant, that is described by the protagonist as:

“a young and upcoming politician. He’s a deeply religious man and a member of the conservative party. He’s completely single-minded and has no regard for the political process. The more power he attains the more obvious his zealotry and more aggressive his supporters become.”

Of course, in the film, V is referring to the main antagonist, High Chancellor Sutler, but all of that can, and has been said about former President George W. Bush. In this same scene, V also describes the secondary antagonist, Norsefire Party member and advisor to the Chancellor, Peter Creedy. What’s intriguing is that at this point it sounds less like a fictional movie and more like social commentary on former Vice President Dick Cheney, the War on Terror, and the international opinion of America in the early 2000’s:

“…he is a man seemingly without a conscious for whom the ends always justify the means and it is he that suggests their target should not be an enemy, but rather the country itself. Three targets are chosen to maximize the effect of the attack. Eventually his party launches a special project in the name of national security. At first, its believed to be a search for biological weapons and it is pursued without regards to its cost. However, the true goal of this project is power, complete and total hegemonic domination.”

In addition, the worldwide socio-political movements of Occupy Wall St. and Anonymous are two examples in which the iconic, Guy Fawkes mask from the film V for Vendetta has become associated with. “[V‘s mask] symbolizes what the story calls for—freedom from tyranny, political, social, or cultural,” Lloyd elaborated, “and even though it’s used by many disparate causes all over the world, because the mask is neutral and not tied to one set of beliefs, it’s always used for what its users truly believe is good intent.”[5] However, as ironic as it is to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day on November 5th, and “celebrating the survival of a corrupt government and the death of those who tried to undermine it was not such a good thing, really. Maybe it would have been better if the Houses of Parliament had been blown up … symbolically, that was still a good idea.”[6] Because what humanity really wants is to celebrate the death of a corrupt government and the death of those responsible for the slide towards classical tyranny with a disarmed population.

To conclude, V for Vendetta’s anti-authoritarian narrative can be interpreted as a powerful critique of the U.S. government at the height of the War on Terror. In addition, the film introduced and mainstreamed the iconography of V’s mask to the worldwide culture. It reminds us all that ideas are bulletproof and that sometimes “blowing up a building can change the world.”[7] That is why the American film V for Vendetta stands with the time it represents and is the zeitgeist of the early 2000’s.

[1] J.E. Reich, David Lloyd On ‘V For Vendetta’ And The Guy Fawkes Mask’s Legacy. Techtimes.com. Accessed November 19, 2015. http://www.techtimes.com/articles/103476/20151105/guy-fawkes-day-v-for-vendetta-legacy.htm

[2] Reich, Guy Fawkes Mask Legacy, Techtimes.

[3] Hugo Weaving. V for Vendetta. DVD. Directed by James McTeigue. Warner Bros, 2006.

[4] Ernest H. Crosby. 1902. “Anarchy and Anarchy”. The Advocate of Peace (1894-1920) 64 (1). World Affairs Institute: 10–12. Accessed November 19, 2015. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25751887.

[5] Michael Savage. Savage: This is the Most Corrupt, Degenerate, Criminal Gov’t in American History, Infowars.com, November 3, 2015. Accessed November 19, 2015. http://www.infowars.com/savage-this-is-the-most-corrupt-degenerate-criminal-govt-in-american-history/

[6] Hugo Weaving. V for Vendetta. DVD. Directed by James McTeigue. Warner Bros, 2006.

[7] Lewis Call. A is for Anarchy, V is for Vendetta: Images of Guy Fawkes and the Creation of Postmodern Anarchism. Anarchist Studies 16, no. 2 (2008): 154. Accessed November 19, 2015. http://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/hist_fac/15/.

Bibliography

Call, Lewis. “A is for Anarchy, V is for Vendetta: Images of Guy Fawkes and the Creation of Postmodern Anarchism.” Anarchist Studies 16, no. 2 (2008): 154. Accessed November 19, 2015. http://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/hist_fac/15/

Crosby, Ernest Howard. 1902. “Anarchy and Anarchy”. The Advocate of Peace (1894-1920) 64 (1). World Affairs Institute: 10–12. Accessed November 19, 2015. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25751887.

Reich, J.E. “David Lloyd On ‘V For Vendetta’ And The Guy Fawkes Mask’s Legacy.” Techtimes.com. Accessed November 19, 2015. http://www.techtimes.com/articles/103476/20151105/guy-fawkes-day-v-for-vendetta-legacy.htm

Savage, Michael. “Savage: This is the Most Corrupt, Degenerate, Criminal Gov’t in American History.” Infowars.com. Accessed November 19, 2015. http://www.infowars.com/savage-this-is-the-most-corrupt-degenerate-criminal-govt-in-american-history/

V for Vendetta. Dir. James McTeigue. Perf. Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman and Stephen Fry. Warner Bros, 2006. Film.

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