Late last week, cnn.com, Time magazine and other similar news outlets carried a story about the appearance of Guy Fawkes masks at various Occupy Wall Street protests around the world. Having just written on the subject of David Fincher’s Fight Club, I was not terribly surprised to see this, for I had concluded my review with a prediction that the Occupy Wall Street movement, modeled as it was on the Arab Spring, could only move in the direction of violent resistance. So where’s the violence you ask? How does a mask equal violence? Well, in order to understand that, you need to understand another recent film that popularized the mask and explained its origins.
Still feeling a bit confused? Let me break it down for you. V for Vendetta is a film based on the now-famous graphic novel written by Alan Moore in the early 1980s. The film itself is set in the near-future Britain, which is under the control of an extremist, right-wing government called Norsefire. Having survived a nuclear war that has decimated other parts of the globe, “Britain prevails” by submitting itself to the policies of a planned economy, government-controlled media, and concentration camps that segregate racial and sexual minorities. Moreover, the government itself is legitimated – or propped up – by religious images and language that are used to justify the harsh, totalitarian actions of the leader, who can only be charitably described as a Hitler-esque figure.
As for the protagonist of the story, V is a man that has been deeply scarred by the appalling experiments carried out under the authority of this government. Enraged, and permanently disfigured, he adopts the persona and mask of Guy Fawkes, a true-to-life historical figure that attempted to blow-up Parliament in 1605. As an anarchist, V’s violent plan of action is driven forward by two overwhelming desires:
- The desire to expose the lies that undergird the actions of the government.
- The desire to awaken the political consciousness of the dulled masses that have been drugged into a stupor by the idiocy of the television and propaganda.
Sound familiar? At the heart of the Occupy Wall Street movement — at the heart of the Arab Spring and the G20 protests – lies a deep, globalized dissatisfaction with the way that governments have conducted themselves. Moreover, these movements are founded on populist ideals that don’t propose a way forward, so much as they propose a revolution in which society is reordered for the purpose of meeting the needs (or wants) of those that are either legitimately oppressed or those that mistakenly see themselves as such.
So the only questions that truly remains are these:
How long will it be before one of these mask-wearing protestors takes their dissatisfaction to the next level?
How long before “Fight Club” becomes “Project Mayhem?”
How long before the people tire of “peaceful resistance” and go looking for salvation in the form of revolution?