Wednesday, March 15, 2006


V for Vendetta

Starring Agent Smith as Code Name V!

The Wachowski brothers' latest production comes out this Friday - and it's worth seeing, both for enjoyment and as a semi-educational piece on the state of government in a rapidly-moving world. The movie's tagline is "an uncompromising view of the future," but in truth, I found it to be more a tastefully hyperbole-laden view of the present. I'll explain.

It's based on a graphic novel by the same name, and borrows heavily in story and cinematography from well-known sources - story elements from 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and other "future-imperfect films" are all over the place. Taking place in Great Britain, a radical religious regime has taken over the government, the broadcasting system, and regularly engages in suburban surveillance in conjunction with guerrilla marketing techniques to inspire fear (and thus support) in its populace. Deviation from government-defined norms of social, religious, and sexual behavior is strictly prohibited, and severely punished.

Like I said, hyperbole-laden view of the present.

V for Vendetta is not an action movie, no matter what the previews make it look like. There are bits when it drags slightly, and the symbolism is not subtle. But its message is important, and is summed up well by the line that appears in the trailer: "people should not be afraid of their governments - governments should be afraid of their people."

It's important for those of us who are strongly engaged in the political process - campaigning, staffing, governing, fundraising, lathering, repeating - not to forget the larger picture. Governments should be afraid of their people - but they only need to be afraid of their people when those people educate themselves about their rights and how their government treats those rights. They only need to be afraid of their people when a groundswell beneath the populace makes it realize that religious freedom is not the equivalent of prayer in public schools and ten commandments being displayed in public buildings and inserting the trappings of religion into science lessons. They only need to be afraid of their people when those people realize that a constitutional amendment (and perhaps even the existing law) proscribing gay marriage is nothing more than bigotry codified in legalese mumbo-jumbo, to be used as nothing more and nothing less than a campaign wedge issue.

Luckily for me, however, I'm optimistic that those conditions are on their way. Maybe they're already here, and we don't have to look forward to a future where government is synonymous with fear and a paucity of true freedom. That doesn't mean we don't have to keep working to preserve the freedom we have and make sure that equality is more than just a mathematical term.

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