Day by Day

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Remember, Remember....

...that Hollywood is full of people living in, and devoted to crafting, fantasy worlds. They can produce fantastic works of art, and I wish to make clear that I appreciate the film in this review as such. V for Vendetta is a story of revolution against totalitarianism. It is rich in it's use of language and imagery. At points it is capable of functioning as a mirror on the world, as was the intent of it's creators. There are some aspects of the movie, however, that are far removed from any semblance of life as we know it. These representations can serve to remove the viewer from the story and shatter the illusion. Such is the case with the depiction of the films villans. The cartoonish villans represented in V are religious nationalists against freedom of speech, expression, and the press and they are intensely anti-homosexual. They are nationalistic in so far as they advocate the security of England. This is not, itself, a bad thing (unless you're a transnationalist or a clueless peacenik). But these characters take such principles to the extreme. They silence anyone who merely speaks out against them by hauling them off to secret detention facilities where they are tortured and experimented on. Indeed, this is what created V. He survived one such facility. Muslims are scapegoats in this film. The government kills it's own people. The Koran is banned. Those who engage in homosexual behavior are indentified, taken prisoner, tortured, and eventually killed for no other reason that their sexual preference. Of course, I dislike these cartoonish villans because of the horrid things they do just like I can appreciate the heroes devotion to freedom and the democratic process regardless of their various political inclinations. The film's hero, V, is out to kill those who tortured him and he is a revolutionary (though one that does not intend to see the light of day beyond any revolution he'd help bring about). He preaches no political dogma - simply that there is "something wrong with this country" (from his perspective I am sure this is partly because those who wronged him are the ones in power). He intends to set things straight by successfully realizing the goals of a historic English revolutionary (whom he borrows his visage from) - destroying Parliment and bringing down the government of England. The heroine of the film played by Natalie Portman transforms (thanks to V) from a contented citizen into even more simply - a revolutionary. Some of the more cartoonish villany of the film involves the elimination of the closeted homosexual host of a show who dares make fun of the High Chancellor (he would have gotten off easier but he had possession of the "poetic" Koran), the imprisonment of lesbians for being lesbians, the abduction of Portman's parents for being anti-war critics, and goose stepping soldiers parading before the High Chancellor. This stands in stark contrast to reality so in order to appreciate the illusion, we must forget that Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, and thousands of other wealthy mouthy celebs run free to this day and need not ever worry about government retaliation for their outrageous proclamations. Forget that skit-comedy show, sit-com, film, and cartoon alike continue to savage President Bush to this day. Forget that Nazis were socialists and that they murdered Jews as well as Christians. Forget that, even now, Hitler's book "My Head" is popular in the arab world owing in part to the fact that arab leaders were united with Hitler's National Socialist Worker's Regime in hatred of Jews. Forget that the people who are actively murdering homosexuals for being homosexuals are Muslims. Forget that England is far from falling into the iron clad grasp of conservatives (quite the opposite). Forget that no one is proposing to ban the Koran. Forget all this - we are dealing with a fantasy film. What stirred me to write this review was a lable from the film and an attitude from one of the actors expressed in a "making-of" documentary. The lable - In the film, V is referred to by the films cartoonish conservative villans as "a terrorist". He is not a terrorist, he is a revolutionary. His big "terrorist" attack in the opening of the film is nothing more than the destrution of a symbol. Loss of human life was neither the goal of this attack, nor was it highlighted in the film as part of the results. The individuals V kills are those he has sworn vengence against, or those standing in between him and his continued freedom (such as security agents, police, etc). The attitude expressed by the actor in the documentary I mentioned previously ties directly in with this - The actor plays the High Chancellor character and he remarks that he finds it curious that only terrorism is stigmatized among all the "forms of warfare" which he considers equally ghastly. A more ignorant statement one is want to find. Why oh why would this "form of warfare" be stigmatized? Could it be because the terrorism that we are familiar with is the kind that could take the life of this actor as easily as it could take the life of any innocent civilian going about their daily lives? You betcha! Today, terrorism targets the unsuspecting, the civilian, the innocent. Such acts are accompanied by ultimatums - "Do as we say or we will kill more of you." The only other "form of warfare" this actor probably had in mind was the "warfare" that civilized nations engage in. Nations like the USA and the UK do not enter into such "warfare" for selfish reasons or without great trepidation, rather to protect their citizens, protect the innocent and oppressed, or remove tyrants. When they do engage in "warfare", they take great pains to avoid innocent casualties (which is particularly difficult given current conflicts where the enemy regularly uses civilians as shields). It is at once disturbing and surreal that educated people can seriously equate both "forms of warfare". Anyone advancing such a premise in the present day is responsible for excusing slaughter by barbarians and prolonging conflicts with the same. "The American War", as it is referred to in past-tense in the film, is in reality a war where one side fights to give others a chance at self determination and freedom from oppression, and the other side fights for oppressive, brutal rule by religious caliphate and employs tactics like murdering and terrorizing those who choose to cooperate with the agents of liberation by choosing to partake in representative government, and to spread their horrid influence across the entire globe. They are not equal. Their tactics are not equal. Their goals are not equal. I can look past the cartoonish representation of conservatives in V, but I flatly condemn the redefinition of terrorism in this film. It is irresponsibly misleading and tragically ignorant.

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