V For Manipulation

Tell me what you think of a movie plot that goes like this [note: if you plan to see V For Vendetta, I’m going to give away some things in this post]: Set in “Great Britain” (wink, wink), around the year 2020, only one person has enough guts to fight back against totalitarianism. This person is an idealistic hero who wears a Guy Fawkes mask, and is very successful at avenging the wrong that has been done to him and to his country. The totalitarian government is completely fascist and corrupt (perhaps that’s redundant) and run by “Christians” whose cross-bearing banners are emblazoned with the motto “Strength through Unity, Unity through Faith”; the High Chancellor bears a “striking” resemblance in rhetoric and symbolism to Adolf Hitler. (His chief henchman bears a “striking” resemblance to Karl Rove. One refrain in the movie is that there are no coincidences.) Anyway, the oppressed people are homosexuals, those who have copies of the Koran, and those who “dare” to speak against the government–and everyone else is complicit because they didn’t speak up when the government began to take their rights away. In the nick of time, the hero appears and blows up Parliament–well, actually, Natalie Portman pulls the lever, because Guy Fawkes gave his life in the cause of freedom–by means of a train-full of explosives, while “hundreds of thousands” of people watch in Guy Fawkes masks (including some who had died previously). Isn’t that sweet?

And I thought I would be seeing a Guy (no pun intended) In A Mask fighting Evil. As one reviewer put it, “The only thing I wanted to blow up after seeing it was the marketing department that made it look so cool and exciting. Can I get an R for Refund?”

Actually, this was essentially a cinematic Special K commercial: “Oh, you want cool fight scenes? Well, you’re gonna need 10 bowls of V For Vendetta to equal one serving of The Matrix.” “Anarchy-is-cool revolution? You’re gonna need 25 bowls of V For Vendetta to equal one serving of Fight Club.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being manipulated. If you’re going to propagandize me, at least make me sympathize with the heroes of the movie first, without your agenda being so transparent that anything I might have liked about the movie is ruined halfway through. But hey, if you like being force-fed every left-wing complaint by bulldozer, by all means, see this movie!
(A friend with whom I saw the movie said that his only expectation was gratuitous violence. However much you might disagree with the sentiment, let me tell you, there wasn’t nearly enough cool violence to make up for the ham-fisted delivery. The coolest fight scene was at the end; by then, I was ready to leave.)

The allusions to what the left-wing thinks of the Bush administration are so obvious, no microscope is needed. Did anyone else notice that during one of Natalie Portman’s voice-overs, she says something about “400 years later” after Guy Fawkes? Hmm, “1605” plus “400”… Wait, I thought this was 2020…? Ohhh…

Note the aforementioned resemblance of the “man without a conscience” to Karl Rove. There’s also the fact that the reason the United States is in complete chaos (in the movie-nod, nod) is that it had fought an ill-advised war. Then there’s the religious overtones of the government’s official line, and how “complete compliance” is required. Oh, and the fact that homosexuals and those who read the Koran are outlawed (not to mention the homosexuals who are ALSO sadomasochistic). And don’t forget that our–um, their–rights were being taken away and they didn’t do anything about it; we–they, I mean–just let the government do what it wanted and just look where that has gotten us–er, them! (The government–again, we’re talking about in the movie–got its way by saying it was just pursuing terrorists.) And how could anyone miss the
hero’s line: “Blowing up one building can change the world.” He means, Parliament, right?

[Of course, all of these are reasons why some reviewers loved the movie (you’ll notice good reviews outweigh the bad, generally pooh-poohing anyone who didn’t like it as not enlightened or fun enough, a la the predictable Daniel Fienberg: “Sure to be troubling for those incapable of distinguishing political allegory from social realism, ‘V for Vendetta’ will be the year’s most misunderstood and confoundingly discussed film.”). Not everyone liked it. Newsweek is right on for once, and even the LA Times didn’t like the movie–though, of course, they liked the idea. Best review? Here.]

That’s not even to mention the vile Roman Catholic (or Anglican?) bishop who has a taste for young girls–see, the one time they could have made a point about homosexuality, they chose to change reality.

No doubt the response would be: Whoa, Mr. Paranoid, we were just making a movie about how bad totalitarianism is at any time. It’s not our fault that people see similarities to certain governments. That just goes to show how bad things really are. (Anecdote: as we were coming out of the theater, a guy behind me says, “Awesome movie, awesome. That’s what we need in this country!” Not sure if he meant the oppression of homosexuals or the demolition of Parliament.)

The problem with that is, that’s not how things are, nor, despite the fear-mongering, does George W. Bush have designs on such. Brothers Wachowski: when was the last time jack-booted thugs truncheoned one of your pseudo-politically-informed buddies and hauled him into a windowless cell for calling Bush Hitler? Oh right, never. By the way, who is more fascistic: the person who thinks that certain things should not be said, or the person who thinks certain speech is deserving of jail time? Guess what, it’s generally not the people whose speech opposes homosexual behavior who think jail time is the better option. The worst censors are on the side of the ACLU, not the Religious Right.

It’s just too bad the Wachowski brothers missed the Oscars; this has Best Picture written all over it! Hollowood loves agenda-driven films. I’m pretty sure BarebBrokeback was a better movie, though.

Timotheos

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11 thoughts on “V For Manipulation

  1. Hmm. Homosexuals with Korans. This makes perfect sense. I can’t understand why this isn’t a more common theme in futurist movies.

  2. Are the Wachowski Brothers getting more delusional with each movie they make? I am asking this question in light of how they have portrayed the “average person” in their movies. In the first Matrix, their best movie (it was relatively subtle), “the people” are all unaware of their victimization by an evil mechanized tyrant. Only a select few can be “turned on” or enlightened to see reality. In V, their most recent movie (and their worst, well maybe Matrix III was their worst, wait, maybe Matrix II was), the average person was either tricked by the evil power (the government) or was silent and complicit. But, at the end of the movie, the average person has bought into the revolutionary,anarchist message and they turn out in droves to stand alongside code-name V to blow up parliment. Now, what kind of action does the Wachowski bros. want the audience of the movie to take? (Given that movie makers have pragmatic intent in their movies – the perlocutionary force of the movie) Do the Wachowski’s think that the masses in America are going to act in any way near what the masses portrayed in the movie did? First, the masses in America would actually have to symphathize with the politics or the world view of the Wachowski’s. It seems like the Wachowski’s have made the ultimate fantasy with V. Their fantasy. That the mass of people in this world actually would think in their way.

    By the way, at the end of the movie, one person in the theatre started to clap quite vigorously, but then stopped immediately because no one else in the theatre started clapping. I guess everyone else was as numbed and stupified as I was by that movie’s artlessly incessant attempt to shove its idea down my throat. But, as the left will also say, education (read: manipulation, propaganda, spin) is the key to changing the world, and as repetition is a key to education, then the fundamentalist Wachowski bros. have successfully made a highly educational movie.

  3. Keith said: “But, at the end of the movie, the average person has bought into the revolutionary,anarchist message and they turn out in droves to stand alongside code-name V to blow up parliment.”

    Interesting, isn’t it, how all the people the viewer is supposed to admire march together in lockstep with the same mask on? Nah, we don’t want totalitarianism; we just want uniformity!

    Tim

  4. However much any of us diliked the theme and message of the movie, I did find one redeeming value of it that made me think. I found an underlying idea of “Is there anything you care info about that you would die for it.” Certainly we know for Wachowski Brothers there certainly is. However, for many people in the world they are blown by the winds of time and don’t have much conviction. I walked away from V thinking, “Yeah, there is something that if they tried to quiet I would die to protect it. My faith in Jesus Christ.” I know, I am probably putting the best construction on this, but I was encouraged in a movie filled with such a strong message there was something that made me think and engage me.

  5. Agreed that the movie had some major probs, but I did think it was worth the (reduced student) admission price. I was going for the fight scenes though. I rarely go to movies to get political or religious views (I can’t really think of any time when I have)–especially from today’s hollywood. The worst part is how heavy-handed it’s been over the last year. V for Vendetta, The Constant Gardner, etc. Of the bunch, I liked Syriana the best, but it still came from the left.

    However, to check out a good story involving an anarchist and a plot, check out “The Man Who Was Thursday” by Chesterton. Great story.

  6. Scott,
    I’ve read it; it’s good. I can deal with some stuff. For example, I knew exactly what The Kingdom of God was attempting to do (make Christians look bloodthirsty and Muslims look peaceful and only fight when they had to); I could overlook it. This one was just too much for me. Another movie with a message is The Island. More action, but a strongly pro-life movie.

    Tim

  7. The thing is, with much of the past year’s movies, it’s been so heavy-handed and over the top that one has to laugh.

    For instance, the rise of the ruler in V. Why not make everything look exactly like the nazis? With military marches and the whole bit? I just have to laugh at that kind of stuff. There’s no way to argue with someone who holds that view. If their view is (and apparently it is) the whole Bush=Hitler thing, then what can you do but laugh (and pray)? It’s such a difference in looking at the world and history that you can’t, with danger to your own sanity, argue with it. Heck, I’d bet some of them would probably pick Hitler over Bush because they’d think at least Hitler was truthful, whereas they see Bush as a liar.

    And, I’m reminded of another terrible scene in the film. During the ‘autobiography’ part. I guess depending on how you took it, it could either bring a tear to your eye, or make you laugh out loud (which I did for quite a while): When the parents yell at their daughter lesbian to leave, and the mom is clutching a photo, the dad rips the photo from her hands and throws it in the trash. Cut to a view from above the trash and we all see the picture is of a cute little baby.

    That’s hilarious. That they think that this kind of editing would bring forth a well of emotions, or moment of realization in their favor is pretty sad. It was so lame. Why didn’t they have the dad rip the head off a puppy next? Pathetic. And so pathetic one has to either groan loudly or just get it out and laugh.

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