Its historical origins are marked in England by 'Guy Fawkes night' every November the 5th & the attendant rhyme "Remember, remember, the 5th of November/ Gunpowder, treason, & plot," we used to say (in fact, I still have a card with the slogan) that "Guy Fawkes was the only man to enter parliament with honest intentions."
The phrase that is used as the ad slogan for V for Vendetta -- "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people" -- is an expression of the central truth in Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan: politics are fear and power, that's all. And another phrase from "V" -- "Blowing up a building can change the world" -- is a paraphrase of Satan in Paradise Lost, Bk XIII :
126: Nor hope to be my self less miserable
127: By what I seek, but others to make such
128: As I though thereby worse to me redound:
129: For onely in destroying I finde ease
134: In wo then; that destruction wide may range:
V for Vendetta is left-wing agitprop, of course, but, natheless, it is intensely relevant to our studies. As some of you know already, agitprop & didacticism are my bane in art. I detest being beaten over the head with any one political or social position or the other: on the other hand, I absolutely adore heteroglossia - the dialogic play between competing positions; the opportunity to see both sides fairly represented & unresolved is almost an absolute criterion for Art - in my opinion, that is.
To illustrate why I condemn agitprop, here are series of quotations from a *left-wing* exemplar -- Lenin -- which are practically dialogue from the *right-wing* character of the political leader in V for Vendetta.
- "It is necessary secretly -and urgently-to prepare for terror. And on Tuesday we will decide whether it will be through the SNK [Sovet Narodnih Komisarov - Soviet of Peoples' Commissars] or otherwise."
- "It is true that liberty is precious; so precious that it must be carefully rationed."
- "Comrades! The revolt by the five kulak volost's must be suppressed without mercy. The interest of the entire revolution demands this, because we have now before us our final decisive battle "with the kulaks." We need to set an example.
1) You need to hang (hang without fail, so that the public sees) at least 100 notorious kulaks, the rich, and the bloodsuckers.
2) Publish their names.
3) Take away all of their grain.
4) Execute the hostages - in accordance with yesterday's telegram.
This needs to be accomplished in such a way, that people for hundreds of miles around will see, tremble, know and scream out: let's choke and strangle those blood-sucking kulaks.
Telegraph us acknowledging receipt and execution of this. Yours, Lenin
P.S. Use your toughest people for this."
[Quotations taken from "Wikiquote" advisedly (then verfied independently against a reputable source) as a ready means to invoke your accepted authority ....]
How much better for art -- how much better for its effect & longevity-- had the film followed Orwell's example in "1984" & left the transitory orientation of the party in power a matter indifferent.
Update 1: Thanks to all who participated. We'll talk about The Libertine now this coming week.
Update 2: Please read this supreme work of film criticism comparing V for Vendetta unfavourably to Terry Gilliam's Brazil. The author, Matt Feeney -- to whom I tug my forelock as critical nobility -- complements my objection to V for Vendetta's agitprop by showing, with succinct devastation, how Gilliam's film is superior by its subtlety and its recognition that tyranny is a system and a process. Remember: Hobbes states clearly that Leviathan is not the person or the party who happen to be in power, but rather the system of laws and letters which the person or persons in the offices encoded therein merely administer. To give two citations establishing this, first, "Of Commonwealth, Chapter XXII:
In a body politic, if the representative be one man, whatsoever he does in the person of the body which is not warranted in his letters, nor by the laws, is his own act, and not the act of the body, nor of any other member thereof besides himself: because further than his letters or the laws limit, he representeth no man's person, but his own.
Or this, from "Of Commonwealth" Chapter XIX:
Of all these forms of government, the matter being mortal, so that not only monarchs, but also whole assemblies die, it is necessary for the conservation of the peace of men that as there was order taken for an artificial man, so there be order also taken for an artificial eternity of life; without which men that are governed by an assembly should return into the condition of war in every age; and they that are governed by one man, as soon as their governor dieth. This artificial eternity is that which men call the right of succession.
Here is a sample of Mr. Feeney's prosaic and witty brilliance:
Now the Wachowski brothers have taken V for Vendetta, Allan Moore's mad-at-Margaret Thatcher graphic novel, and updated it to express their present political rage. The Wachowskis are very angry at George W. Bush, but still, for some reason, it's Britain's Parliament that gets blown up.