From Occupy Wall Street to “V for Vendetta”

Late last week,, 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.

The cross depicted in the film is a papal or archiepiscopal cross, marked by two transoms of uneven length.

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:

  1. The desire to expose the lies that undergird the actions of the government.
  2. 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? 

V for Vendetta is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America.  It contains: strong violence, some language and a scene with dead, naked bodies being tossed into mass graves.

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10 Responses to From Occupy Wall Street to “V for Vendetta”

  1. mahoneyrm5150 says:

    Congratulations, you have made the NSA watch list.

  2. If that’s true, it may not have been entirely wise on your part to affiliate yourself with this post. 🙂

  3. Adam says:

    What’s funny is the writer of the Comic book Alan Moore hated the movie rendition and thought they totally missed the entire point of his writing. He also asked his name be removed from the film adaptation, on any future releases.

    But that’s what happens when liberals get a hold of someone’s art, they distort it and propagandize it for their purposes.

  4. Hey Adam, welcome to the site. I did know that about Moore; and even thought about mentioning it in my review. But ultimately, the point of the post was to look forward to the future of the Occupy Wall Street movement; and so that little tidbit didn’t really fit.

    What do you think of my argument? You think OWS is going to get violent?

    Just this morning, I was reading about the riots at Penn State (over Joe Paterno’s dismissal) and I could help but think: if we’ll do this over a football coach being canned, what will we do when its our livelihoods on the line and economy doesn’t get better?

    • Adam says:

      Yeah, I think they will become violent to a certain extent, but it will be the ‘death nail’ of the movement.

      The reason for this being, they are operating outside our system of Government which is a “representative Democracy” they would rather operate through a ‘direct Democracy’ or ‘mob rule’, which won’t happen… so, eventually they’ll get frustrated by this fact and their frustration will likely lead to more outbursts of violence.

  5. Josh The Younger says:

    I definitely think OWS is going to eventually become violent… that is, if it hasn’t already. Scary stuff is coming out of Oakland already…. The interesting thing about this is that you actually hear about a lot of sports related riots in the U.S. while you hear relatively little about political disturbances. Joe Paterno causes riots now, we had riots in vancouver recently after they lost the Stanley Cup to the Bruins, and not too long ago L.A. was being torn apart after their basketball team WON the championship. Over the same period, America is at 9%+ unemployment, and we get vandals in California and some smaller-scale tension elsewhere. Why? Honestly, I think people just didn’t know enough or have a driving force behind them to do this sort of thing. Now that we have OWS, though, anarchistic-leaning people have a banner to rally behind and hundreds of like-minded individuals trying to do the same thing…


    By the way, I like the “OWS” shortening, Mr. Bryant. Very useful. 🙂

  6. So Scott, are you a little more sympathatic to the image of Guy Fawkes (but certainly not the actual act of attempting to blow up Parliament) now that the blatantly unconstitutional NDAA including Section 1031 has been signed into law, allowing American citizens to detained indefinitely without trial?

    • That’s a great question, Josh. And certainly one that we would have debated vigorously in our days as political science majors. Quite honestly, I’m not sure how the 38 year old version of me answers that question. On the one hand, I understand the notion that “People should not fear their governments, governments should fear their people.” At the same time, 200 years of history have seemed to suggest that democracies degenerate into apathy for the masses and a will to power for the elite.

      As a starting point, I guess I would say this. In both the Tea Party movement (here I refer to it in its earliest days, not in its present formulation as de facto branch of the Republican Party) and in the Occupy Wall Street movement, I see a resurgence of interest in politics and I see a resurgence of belief that people need to be engaged. And I think these are great things, particularly for people of our generation (and younger) who have tended to eschew the political process in favor of catching whatever is on TV that night.

      But the mask … I don’t think you can separate the mask from its history. And I don’t believe that violent image should be co-opted for a movement that is seeking non-violent resistance. The lines get too blurry too quickly, and gatherings of people have a way of degenerating into mobs.

      What about you? What do you think? I’m really curious.

  7. stef monter says:

    who’s the writer of this blog?

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