I watched V for Vendetta, last night, in honor of November 5th, and it turned out to be a bad idea. I'm moving to L.A., today, and my jitteriness about that wrapped itself like a glove over the tragically-burned hand of the movie. I stayed awake way too late last night thinking about it.
I'd seen V before, but it had been a while. I hadn't seen it since I heard about Anonymous and their apparent affection for it. Liking it in the past, this time I went into the movie, my suspicions pre-raised.
What was it in particular that made gobs of angry anonymous nerds on the internet cling to this movie and its central superhero, V?
Maybe they are drawn to the power, drama, and beauty of destruction: of a building collapsing in flames, of a deftly cut artery. There's a quote I like from Too Loud a Solitude, a book about a man crushing books into waste paper by decree of a corrupt ruler:
"By then I had mustered the strength to look upon misfortune with composure, to still my emotions, by then I had begun to understand the beauty of destruction [...] and as I stood there leaning on a lamppost like Leonardo da Vinci, who stood leaning on a column and looking on while French soldiers used his statue for target practice, shooting away horse and rider bit by bit, I thought how Leonardo, like me, standing and witnessing such horrors with complete composure, had realized even than that neither the heavens are humane nor is any man with a head on his shoulders."
I could see that, that draw.
My problem is that the movie is much too in love with its central character. It insists that V at once has a love of burning, of killing, of revenge, of chaos and is totally good.
He kidnaps his friend, Evey, and while charading as a member of the British secret police, tortures, freezes, and starves her for a month. He does it to free her of her fear, to let her find her inner strength. I'm okay with this development; it's enthralling in a certain way, reflective of how awful experiences in our lives shape us and sometimes make us stronger.
What's not okay is how, once it's over and Evey finds out who her torturer is, several frames later she is dancing with him, kissing him, and delivering his stirring eulogy. It's part of the falseness that a lot of movies have of victims of trauma - especially female victims - recovering way too quickly after their ordeal. This often happens because the trauma inflicted on auxiliary characters is simply a motivation and plot point for the central protagonist. These side characters are not real.
V for Vendetta makes Evey a bit more fleshed out than most "victim" characters. She makes several choices in the movie; we follow her closely; she is our way into that movie. But her love and forgiveness of V - her lack of any negative after affects of her month of torture - tells us that we should have no problems with V either, that his actions are morally right.
Violence against women is justified if it's "for their own good."
You can kill people and blow up buildings and torture your friend for a month and still be unequivocally good. A hero.
So I'm beginning to see why Anonymous likes this guy. No amount of inflicted pain, damage, and destruction has to disrupt his idea - the movie's idea - that he is a good person. Oh, what comfort!
The movie references The Count of Monte Cristo a lot. In her Eulogy for him, Evey says that V is "Edmond Dantes." Edmond Dantes is the happy innocent man at the beginning of TCMC. By the end, once Dantes has taken his revenge on all the people who have grievously harmed him, even Edmond Dantes is not Edmond Dantes. His actions - death, destruction - while being in the name of "justice" have taken their toll on him. The price of those actions is that the innocent happy man is gone, and all that remains is the Count of Monte Cristo, a rich murderer who is tired and feels very little. Edmond Dantes is dead.