Saturday, February 10, 2007

Finally Read V for Vendetta

Here's an article that Alan Moore wrote in 1983 about his groundbeaking series V for Vendetta, entitled "Behind the Painted Smile." Believe it or not, I've never read VfV until now. It's really excellent, and all the more interesting considering all the security cameras installed around London in the years subsequent to VfV's original publication (even though they don't work as well in the real world as in the V-World).

Excerpt: That said, all we really had was a lot of unusable ideas flying back and forth through the aether and nothing very tangible as a result of it, One night, in desperation, I made a long list of concepts that I wanted to reflect in V, moving from one to another with a rapid free-association that would make any good psychiatrist reach for the emergency cord. The list was something as follows; Orwell. Huxley. Thomas Disch. Judge Dredd. Harlan Ellison's "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman." "Catman" and "Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World" by the same author. Vincent Price's Dr. Phibes and Theatre Of Blood. David Bowie. The Shadow. Nightraven. Batman. Fahrenheit 451. The writings of the New Worlds school of science -fiction. Max Ernst's painting "Europe After The Rains," Thomas Pynchon, The atmosphere of British Second World War films. The Prisoner. Robin Hood. Dick Turpin... There was some element in all of these that I could use, but try as I might I couldn't come up with a coherent whole from such disjointed parts. I'm sure that it's a feeling that all artists and writers are familiar with... the sensation of there being something incredibly good just beyond your fingertips. It's frustrating and infuriating and you either fold up in despair or just carry on. Against my usual inclinations, I decided to just carry on.

Lots of analysis all over the Web, especially here. Numerous essays, etc. analyzing the themes, characters, allegory, morality, philosophy, etc. found in the story. Excerpt: How can you reconcile V's terrorism? The only possible reasoning that makes sense is that the ends justify the means. That though V's actions are extreme, they are necessary. V, Finch, and Evey all arrive at their epiphany's [sic] after psychological torture. This indicates that such enlightenment cannot come without pain. This idea is repeated with the entire society: before V's better world can come to fruition, Norsefire must be destroyed, and that can only happen after society descends into violence, loss and hardship. If change is necessary, then so is the pain that comes with it. Of course, this explanation only fits if you believe that the ends really do justify the means. Change may be painful, but V does more than let anarchy loose upon the world; he directs it, channels it, for his specific goal. Fate is literally subverted, which means the change and pain all the characters in Vendetta experience can be traced back to V and the terrorism he uses. Again, this may be justified if you believe V's goals warrant it, but the terrorism V employs is very much a part of our world. The fanaticism V displays is echoed in the fanaticism of terrorist groups around the globe. Does V's beliefs truly justify such terror, or do we believe that only because we agree his beliefs? To put it another way: would you accept V's actions if you removed his mask and found the face of Osama bin Laden underneath?

I've heard the film was not nearly as good, though I'll probably check it out anyway. However, here's an extensive analysis of the print series as compared to the film, in which it is argued that the film does not come out looking bad at all. Excerpt: As a film project, the idea of taking a textually dense graphic novel like V for Vendetta onto the big screen is an interesting idea, given the original version contained a stark but impressive visual style which reflects well the period of its creation (both “Thatcher's Britain”, that clichéd period of neo-liberal ascendency, but also the low water mark of the post-War economic “recovery” of the UK, something marked in the graphic novel through references to shortages and rationing that modern audiences, and particularly non-European viewers, are unlikely to sympathise with or understand) and some of the key literary and “low” culture references (including the use of children’s literature strongly throughout the narrative, via explicit references to the Magic Faraway Tree). Political anarchism is not a popular subject for literature (as opposed to other forms of political organisation commonly found in science fiction literature, such as Heinlein’s individualist liberalism, for example), and so the representation of this highly misunderstood political philosophy on the screen is a worthy project.

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