Dangerous Dan Thoughts and musings on the world

3/20/2006

V for Vendetta

Filed under: General,Media,Politics,Society — Dangerous Dan @ 1:53 am

I saw V for Vendetta last Friday. I thought it was a well-executed movie with an engaging story.

Other than that, I thought it was dreck.

The modern political commentary was unmistakable, heavy-handed, and distinctly moonbatty. Possessing a Koran earned the death penalty. So, apparently, did being a homosexual. Many other cultural objects were prohibited for being unwholesome. A right-wing fascist dictator has taken over England and uses fear and Christian faith to control the populace. America's in a civil war after "its war" that started 20 years prior went horribly wrong (although it seems Texas is ok in this war since Dell is still making computer monitors). Government surveillance is omnipresent and the control of media absolute. Oh, and at one point, two central characters are aghast at discovering that the worst terrorist attack in the country's history was inflicted by its own government so as to generate fear and… to control the populace.

If there's something that's always annoyed the hell out of me, it's how movies always depict dystopian futures as being that of some conservative theocratic fascism. Why not make them about atheistic socialist dictators that control their citizenries through fear, killing their own people, constant surveillance, and control of the media? Nah, for liberals, the very concept of such a thing would just be too far fetched and unrealistic.

While the tools of control can belong equally well to a fascist or communist dictator, dystopias of the far left have been far more common over the past century as well as longer lasting and more pervasive. Two hands and at least one foot are required for rattling off the communist totalitarian regimes whereas the fascist ones need just a few fingers.

Moreover, while conservatives long ago learned what an ultra-right-wing government looked like and wholly rejected it as abhorrent, liberals have never thus rejected ultra-left-wing governments. The same people who pat themselves on the back for rebuking conservatives and waling about a slide towards an utterly improbable fascism are the same ones who for years denied that Stalin, Mao, Kim, and other communists were doing any wrong. Then when the atrocities became impossible to deny, they merely claimed that the same countries they had so long touted as paragons of leftist idealism were impure forms of socialism and so a socialist utopia should still be attempted. I imagine that Conservatives in the UK would be surprised to learn they're on the cusp of taking ultimate power since the Labour party has been thoroughly dominating them. All of Europe decidedly belongs to the left and most countries are at least quasi-socialist, if not outright so. Their surveillance methods are also far more liberal (ahem) than our own. The world is not in danger of a fascist dictator. It is in danger of a socialist or communist one. Or at least a new one since I can think at least five current ones just off the top of my head.

It is a further irritant that V for Vendetta intimates intolerance towards Muslims will outlaw them. This is high-handed morality considering that the only countries that outlaw religions are Islamic nations. While V portrays a future in which Korans are illegal, in the present, Bibles and any non-Islamic religious texts are forbidden in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and elsewhere. The movie shows a future Christian theocracy, though the only theocracies that exist now are Islamic. Instead of commentary on what isn't and won't be, why don't filmmakers criticize actual religious injustice? The thought that any modern Western society is a step away from outlawing unfavorable religions, homosexuals, and certain cultural artifacts borders on the absurd. Yet the very societies that already do this, the Islamic societies, are given sympathy as victims. Instead of placing V in an improbable future London, why not put him in actual modern-day Riyadh or Tehran?

Another real shame here is focusing on the terrorist tactics of some supernatural hero who is a latter-day Guy Fawkes, speaks of revolution, says words are powerful, and is more than mere flesh, but is also an idea and "ideas are bulletproof." These men don't exist. Real men who resist totalitarian regimes really are mere flesh and suffer because of it. They live in fear of the consequences of their resistance, they are arrested, imprisoned, tortured, and often executed directly by bullet or indirectly through work. These are the men of Tiananmen Square, of the Hungarian Revolt, of Solidarity, of the gulag in the Soviet Union, of the laogai in China, of the labor camps in North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Nazi Germany. These are Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Andrei Sinyavsky, Oskar Schindler, Raul Wallenberg, Lech Walesa, Wang Dan, Shen Liangqing, and millions more who go unrecorded. Their ideas may have been bulletproof, but they weren't. Where are the films in their honor? Schindler got one, what about Wang Dan? What about Sinyavsky? They didn't/don't have fancy knives, explosives, or kung-fu moves that get them out of trouble like V does. Real heroes are the men who persevere despite the overwhelming chance of failure, not the ones arrogantly guaranteed of success.

V for Vendetta is a morality tale warning of things that could be in the same way that Mars Attacks! implored us against complacency towards alien threats. The events (or anything similar to them) of neither are going to come about. V is another version of the oft-told tale liberals tell each other whenever history fails to steadfastly march to their drumbeat. Conservative power necessarily means fascism while liberal power means utopia. They ignore their own sins, they ignore the threats they present, and they ignore the sorry history of the extremism of their own ideology. And we're all the worse for it.

3 Comments »

  1. I’d tell you to lighten up, but your analysis is just so right.

    Comment by Timo_the_Osprey — 3/20/2006 @ 11:35 am

  2. Thankfully, I went into the theatre fully expecting this degree of stupidity, and just ignored it for the sake of seeing the movie… But, yeah, you are absolutely correct – this kind of storyline is just ludicrous. That said, the movie is definitely good :).

    Comment by Linoge — 3/25/2006 @ 12:11 pm

  3. Your critique was impressive and valid on many points but entirely incomplete. Your assertions dwell on the dichotomy of liberal and conservative stereotyping, perpetuating the very act that you abhor. The limit of your critique consists in in three main issues. You accuse the liberals of ignoring their own sins. The rhetoric you employ itself is flawed in engaging this subject because of the divisiveness which your rhetoric engenders. One of my college roomies Luke T once noted to me not to pigeon hole him. Your commentary reflects the blind spots revealed in comparmentalizing people as liberal and conservative.
    The second issue concerns my assertion that both liberal and conservatives have ignored their sins to this day. Your commentary proves emphatically incomplete because your article focuses on what the “liberal” government, fictional works and actual news media has omitted but you’ve omitted what “conservative” news media and goverment has done to obstruct equal civil rights for marginalized groups, such as homosexuals for example. You paint a genearlly pleasant picture for the group you identify as “conservative” but portray a broad, generalized and deplorable view of “liberals.” Your commentary perpetuates the very same biased approach as V for Vendetta, participating and perpetuating an oppressive discourse in which we view each other as ideological opposites rather than learning from one another.
    My last concern involves your plea for documentaries for such civil rights heroes. While I applaud your notion, academically I must point out that as a student of literature that V is a work of narrative fiction which has different parameters and functions than a documentary. I do value your approach from the stance of a philosophy student but I must also recognize the range and limits of assessing V from the frameworks of philosophical thought and of literary or filmic fiction. You and I had only shared one writing class our first year but not any literature classes during university so I propose that V functions very differently from documentaries and cannot be assessed on those requirements. V must be judged according to the frameworks of thoughts established by other fictional narratives. I have only taken one philosophy class at TU so perhaps you and I may confer together on the limits both perspectives holds over analyzing V for Vendetta. In this way, I beseech you to promote dialogue about our differences as a religious conservative and “liberal” homosexual or perhaps even our similarities in academic studies and ideological systems. I look forward to hearing from an old colleague.

    Comment by Andrew Nguyen — 5/10/2006 @ 11:14 am

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