With the current state of uncertainty surround our democracy and the growing disdain for the incoming administration, art takes a potent look at a narrative already firmly explored in the graphic novel turned big screen blockbuster V For Vendetta.
These are uncertain times. When the penultimate film chapter to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 begins the world of wizardry is thrown into chaos. From behind a veil of secrecy an evil sorcerer had defied death itself threatening to take total control of the planet and commit a genocide by putting mankind "in its place" under his heel and serving only those who wield magic. In a galaxy far, far away a corrupt politician plays a diabolical game and through deceit and machination engineers a galactic war in order to destroy a more than 100-year old republic and replace it with an empire ruling through fear and tyranny.
That is ultimately how the Emperor in the Star Wars series ends up in his seat of power at the center of the space opera. It’s a familiar play that the film series’ author George Lucas reminds us has played out again and again throughout our real life history. When the culture is at a crossroads and anxious over what steps to take next, a silent usurper swoops in and is inclined to make decisions on behalf of what they say is in the best interests of the population.
And in V For Vendetta the film based on Alan Moore's 1988 graphic novel published by Vertigo Comics (an offshoot of DC Comics) the narrative depicts the rise of an authoritarian dictator who through his charismatic meandering cons the UK to fall in line behind his leadership, giving up all sense of freedom and give into fear and intolerance or face the consequences. The film was produced by the same pair that engineered the Matrix Trilogy a film franchise hailed for its unique production and scope, the Wachowskis approached this adaptation with all the vigor audiences had come to expect.
Released in 2005 and based on material released in 1988, hardly could have the original author and the successor screenplay writers imagined that in 2016, the parallel events that detail this dystopian future would play themselves across the state of own fragile democracy as the electoral college met on December 19 to solidify the election of the most inexplicably unlikely candidate ever to win the title of President of the United States.
We now exist in an era where the incoming administration and the presidential-elect, a man who built a business empire on the backs of the disenfranchised by taking advantage of his workers, has planted the seeds of dissent and is motivated by "fans" has moved himself into the most powerful seat on the planet. And unfortunately we all stood by as it happened.
In Alan Moore’s graphic novel, the world is in a state of turmoil after nuclear carnage devastates most of the planet and the incoming political party begins to systematically criminalize and imprison any and all people who speak out against it, or are deemed divergent. The fascist police state that takes over the United Kingdom has a strong influence on the world, especially after the United States falls after a turbulent second civil war, and the population falls in line, at least until a vigilante freedom fighter known as “V” (portrayed by Hugo Weaving in the film) appears on the scene.
The enigmatic “V” becomes a symbol to the people and recruits an ally, a quizzically impressionable young woman named Evey who is played by Natalie Portman in the movie. Evey is first imprisoned and tortured by “V” before being mobilized to join his cause, ultimately inspiring the nation to rally against the false tyranny of a mad dictator, a chancellor and a mad fool who mesmerizes the people, much like the foolish Donald Trump has enraptured his own constituents.
Many are uncertain that we don’t have a serious problem as we lean into the final days of the current Democratic presidency which has made leaps forward in social civil rights and taken even greater steps to ensure that clean energy measures are in place to save our compromised environment, but as the President-Elect continues to cross the country on his current “Victory Tour” let me suggest a disquieting and sobering idea: rent or download V For Vendetta and then let’s not look too far for the message swimming in the undercurrent of this blockbuster.
We can become often distracted by the big explosions and profoundly loud sound design. These too are dark times we’re entering into — we don’t have to enter into them quietly and we don’t have too far to image the consequences our own complacency. Let yourself be inspired. Either rebellion, whether lead by Guy Fawkes or a rogue squadron will do.
V for Vendetta is available now for download and rental on iTunes.