Saturday, April 01, 2006
V for Vendetta
Last night Julie and I saw one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. V for Vendetta is on one hand just another Orwellian vision of totalitarian domination in the future. But it's direct connection with current events, and it's setting in the near future (maybe 30 years from now) make it frighteningly realistic and believable. I left the movie thinking "This could really happen." It's a prophetic movie, one that uses fiction to wake us up to the truth about the direction our world is currently headed. Many people won't like this movie because it clearly shows the logical results of their current political beliefs. They won't like it because it holds a mirror up to our society and says, "Look at what we're becoming. Look at what could happen."

In the movie Britain has been taken over by a totalitarian government whose motto is "Strength through Unity, Unity through Faith". (Meanwhile the US has been devastated by biological warfare and civil war and is no longer a major world player.) In the UK people have traded their freedoms for security (while still using the rhetoric of freedom to justify the lack of it... sound familiar?) after a series of biological terror attacks that killed over 80,000 people. The resulting fascist state utilizes fear to keep the people passive and unified under their rule. And like most totalitarian governments, they also begin rounding up anyone too different who might prove to be a threat to unity: in this case political dissidents, homosexual, Muslims and other foreign immigrants, and the like. As in Nazi Germany these prisoners are subjected to inhumane scientific experiments.

From one of these prison camps escapes the hero of the story, a masked vigilante known only as "V". V's goal, in addition to taking vengeance on the doctors and scientists who brutally tortured him, is to foment revolution among the people through symbolic acts of resistance. Though arguably insane, V is also seems to be the only one courageous enough to stand up and declare that our freedom is too high a price to pay for security.

The movie raises all kinds of interesting questions, especially regarding the fine line between terrorism and freedom fighting. (Often it seems, in our world as well as in the movie, the definition depends very much on which side you're fighting for.) Is it possible that we can overuse the word "terrorist" to the point where it becomes synonymous with anyone who opposes our own political agenda? One can imagine the British of the 18th century calling the Boston Tea Party an act of terrorism. Or the Nazi's labeling Dietrich Bonhoeffer a terrorist. When do violent acts of resistance count as terrorism, and when are they justifiable acts of revolution?

And on a deeper level, does a movie like "V" still perpetuate the myth of redemptive violence? As much as I believe we must resist evil, oppressive governments, as a Christian I have to wonder whether violence will ever really achieve the goals we truly desire. Does violence bring freedom, or will it only result in more oppression, just from a different source? I can't think of many violent revolutions that led to a better society in the end. Is the true path to freedom that of nonviolent resistance, like that practiced by Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and Jesus among others?

To the movie's credit, in the end change is brought about not through violence (at least not against people, though the Parliament building doesn't fare so well), but through a peaceful show of solidarity in the face of oppression.

One poignant line comes from a government agent asking a friend what he thinks will happen if the people do rise up as V has asked them to. He responds, "What usually happens when people without guns stand up to those who have guns." But in the end what happens is not in fact what one would expect.

As I said, this movie scared me because I could see it really happening. It's not so far fetched. What would happen if the US or Britian did experience another massive terrorist attack? What if someone releases a deadly virus? Or what if someone nukes London or Chicago? Or what if our economy tanks and we spiral into another Great Depression for the next decade or two? What freedoms would we be willing to give up for the promise of safety and prosperity? And for those religious conservatives... what injustices would you be willing to accept in your leaders so long as they were against abortion and homosexuality? What would you turn a blind eye to as long as they catered to your pet political issues and used the right kind of religious language?

It's not such a stretch to see how this dark vision of the future could develop out of where our world is at today. For those who think it couldn't, just think how easily Nazi fascism rose to power in Germany not so long ago. Are we so different from them? Do we think we're so much more immune to the tactics of fear and propaganda?

But hopefully this movie will serve as part of the solution to our current direction. Perhaps it will be part of the wakeup call that we need to help us see where our society is headed. God willing.

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posted by Mike Clawson at 10:30 AM | Permalink |


At 4/03/2006 05:35:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

Dear Mike,
My name is Nick Price and I am friend of one of the members of your youth group, Melissa Crane. She recommended that I read your site, stating that we had many things in common. I just wanted to let you know that I greatly appreciated your thoughts on "V for Vendetta" as I found it to be a very relevant film as well. I think that freedom is a vital part of human society and that, in order to truly grow as individuals and as a civilization, we need freedom in order to truly discover our purposes in this world. Also, your review of "The Secret Message of Jesus" was very good. I have not read the book myself, but it seems very reminiscent of other books with which I have come in contact. One, in particular, is called "Kingdom Come" by Allen Wakabayashi. He too emphasized the fact that the central message of Christ was the Kingdom of God. He said that we live in an in-between phase in which the Kingdom is simultaneously manifest and still to come. He says that, as Christians, it is our responsibility to work towards establishing God's Kingdom in our daily lives through living out the radical principles of the Gospel while still looking forward with the anticipation of the Kingdom being fully manifest in the world. So, it was a pleasure to read your blog and I really appreciated your thoughts.


Nick Price


At 4/03/2006 10:57:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Hey Nick,

Thanks for visiting my blog. I'm glad you've resonated with my posts. I haven't read "Kingdom Come" but I'm definitely familiar with that idea of the kingdom being both "already" and "not yet". Good stuff.

Keep reading!



At 4/05/2006 04:42:00 PM, Blogger AutobodyCAD

V caught my interest, in particular its Gothic look, a la Van Helsing or the Raven. I haven't seen it, but give me your take on this review by a Christian magazine I appreciate, if you find the time:


At 4/05/2006 09:51:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

It's no surprise to me that World magazine didn't like the movie. They make no secret of their extreme conservative Christian bias. What is interesting to me is that they really made no effort interact with the ideas of the movie. Their review essentially described exactly what happened in the movie, as if that in itself was enough to incriminate it in the minds of their readers. And given the average readership of World, I'm sure that it was.

I do find it funny though that World has no qualms about identifying themselves with the totalitarians and the corrupt Christians portrayed in the movie. They saw V's attack on such people as a "thinly veiled attack on American conservatives and Christians." They made no attempt at saying "that's not us" or "that's an unfair portrayal of conservatives and Christians". They simply owned the idenfication and criticized V for opposing such people. If they sympathize so much with the movie's bad guys, with fascists and pedophile priests, then I guess it's no surprise that they wouldn't like movie's message.

And of course they ignored the real question of the movie about whether there actually is a distinction between freedom fighting and terrorism. I think there is, and I think the fact that the filmakers deliberately showed no civilian casualties from V's actions is because that is part of the distinction. Terrorists make innocent people their targets, while freedom fighters attack the agents and symbols of their actual oppressors. By lumping V in with terrorists, even though he does not attack innocents, the reviewers at World disrespect the thousands who have used similar tactics throughout history in revolutionary struggles for freedom - from our own American Revolution, to the struggles against totalitarianism in the 20th Century and those who continue to struggle under oppressive governments even today.

As for what Alan Moore thinks of the movie, I don't see how it's very relevant. To date he hasn't liked any movie adaptation of any of his comics (though granted, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen really did suck). What were the odds that he'd like this one? And if his main complaint that the Wachowskis changed the political message of his original story, fair enough, but it doesn't say anything for or against the legitimacy of the Wachowski's message.

So yeah, that's my take on the World article.


At 8/10/2007 07:27:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

I reviewed this movie myself. Didn't really come to the same conclusion. M is for Marxist


At 9/15/2007 04:59:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Garet, based on your repeated comments here, you seem to have this impression that anything which does not support your conservative opinions must be "Marxist". I hope you can understand that the real world is far less black and white than that, and there is a whole range of possibilities when it comes to political views. Just because one uses some ideas that Marx also used does not make one a full-blown Marxist.


At 10/04/2007 04:57:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

--M is for Marxist--

Yes. And A is for Anarchy, and L is for both Liberal and Liar.

--As I said, this movie scared me because I could see it really happening. It's not so far fetched.--

I agree. Every time I hear of some liberal idea to raise taxes or use things like global warming or health and safety to introduce legislation to ban legal activities like smoking or to tell us to not drive certain vehicles (never minding that those introducing the legislation have their own private jets), then yes I see it happening.

Which is why I am a conservative.

--What would happen if the US or Britian did experience another massive terrorist attack?--

Hopefully it was shut up the defeatists trying to make us lose.

--And for those religious conservatives... what injustices would you be willing to accept in your leaders so long as they were against abortion and homosexuality? What would you turn a blind eye to as long as they catered to your pet political issues and used the right kind of religious language?--

Like it's the religious right you have to worry about. Sorry, but we conservative Christians are not your enemy.

Rather, I would point out again, look at all of the ideas floating around out there that are aimed at restricting your freedoms--and yes I include excessive taxation in that, because taking your funds is taking your freedoms. Almost all of it comes back to 'lib elite (lack of) thinking'.

There is a reason this movie makes Christians the bad guys--it's a work of fiction. As in, not real life. You're barking, but up the wrong tree.


At 1/05/2011 02:35:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

@Mr Clawson - There was one definite - and powerful, and poignant - civilian casualty: glasses girl. Indeed, it was her murder that touched the last smoldering embers - buried deep and protected in those most secret of vaults, fathomed at last by the blatant attack on our most precious treasure: our children, our future - and ignited the near-holocaustic bomb of public fury.

I write, even now - not having watched the movie these last two years - with my eyes welling as I think of the scene where a little girl's bright and living spirit, engaged in naught but youthful rebellion, is crushed out like a cigarette butt. I feel both shame and horror that humanity's fire has guttered so low that only such a piercing loss might reach it.