Works of fiction are often used to examine more complex societal concerns as scene in the graphic novel and popular film “V for Vendetta”. “V for Vendetta” asks the question what exactly is the expectations of society? This topic is explored by using a fictional dystopian world to expand upon the known and possible aspects that make up society and its ideologies. Humans have an ever burning desire to explore and learn thus always changing what we understand about humanity and how one can better society. Because of this desire,”science fiction works, such as “V for Vendetta” is often a strong indicator of how humanity may progress as well as how it relates to current political, religious, and social ideologies” (Alsford). Even though the film and the graphic novel are set in different time periods with different societal concerns, I propose that overall they both set forth with the same goal of questioning common systems and their impact on the future of humanity through cause and effect.
The Contextual Makeup of “V for Vendetta
“V for Vendetta” was originally a short comic book run written by Alan Moore in 1982. The run was reportedly greatly impacted by the social and political concerns of the early 1980’s. Moore’s world was set in dystopian United Kingdom in roughly the same time period as its publication. Moore drew upon Margret Thatcher’s conservative political tactics and the current issue of disarming nuclear weapons.
The story revolves around a masked figure dubbed Guy Fawkes, also known as V, and his relationship with the young Evey Hammond. Evey, rescued by Fawkes, represents a certain naivety in society. She is fed stories by the government claiming that societal out casts such as homosexuals, extremists, and immigrants were behind the vicious nuclear attacks that devastated their current environment. Evey, herself is a victim of this holocaust like environment, as her own father is taken from her and placed in a concentration camp. The story bares parallels to World War II with government tactics similar to that of Hitler’s regimen. History remains an important tool to understanding both the past and the future. Horkheim and Aldorno write, “refuges of a mindless artistry which represents what is human as opposed to the social mechanism are being relentlessly hunted down by a schematic reason which compels everything to prove its significance and effect. The consequence is that the nonsensical at the bottom” (Horkheim & Aldorno) In other words, citizens who oppose conformity will be condemned just like the outcast social fringes in “V for Vendetta”.
The film, in contrast to the graphic novel, takes place much further along in the future in the year 2038. Filmed in 2006, the story differs quite a bit from the original graphic In order to avoid a civil war, the UK develops a fascist government. A tolitarian atmosphere results. The film is modernized to reflect new social concerns such as chemical and biological warfare. Their methods of gathering intelligence and keeping track of civilians are much more sophisticated than in the original version. The two main characters of V and Evey are the same. Evey, however, does have a larger role in the film and is presented as a bit older and less naïve than her original version.
Form of “V for Vendetta”
The original comic was told through a series of black and white illustrations and released in anthology format. Later the comic was colored and published by DC in one graphic novel. The original black and white illustrations were most likely meant to symbolize the black and white matter of the text. What is right and what is wrong in society. I personally prefer the black and white form as I feel it conveys a sense of mystery and darkness that fits with the character of “v”. I fell this was lost in the colorized version.
The film was shot with all the cinematic effects of a modern action movie. Light, shadow, and color all play important roles in conveying the mood of each scene. The film is shot with many close ups and tightly packed scenes, all which help convey a sense of being trapped. Over the top explosions and fight scenes indicate a sense of violence. V feels that violence is key to inspiring changes. In one part of the film he says, “The people should not fear the government, the government should fear the people.”
Conditions of Production
Fictional concepts challenge what we currently understand about humanity and asks us to explore other explanations or alternatives for how humanity may progress and how society will adapt to deal with these changes. Often this involves either taking something away or adding something to humanity, in this case taking away the rights of civilian. The movie is made in such a way that an observer knows from the very beginning who bad and good is. In the graphic book, the author tried to show that there was no good government, no good actions on the war. Both fascists and anarchists were using violence, and overusing their powers. On the other hand, in the movie, we see that the picture is totally different. Neo Conservatives are violent, whereas V was doing only good things, even though he used violence as a form of justice. V is more amiable to the viewer in the movie than he is in the graphic novel.
“V for Vendetta” is of interest to today’s reader and watchers because it draws upon real societal concerns and examines possible effects of them in the future. “The concept that our society is ideal for equal treatment is often repeated throughout classrooms of public schools to our children and from our government officials” (Oberschall).Health is a big concern to the public. Many can’t afford proper health care and biological weapons remain a constant threat to the world’s health. The system is not set up in a fashion to allow equal healthcare. Once again we see the impact of social standing. Areas with a higher percentage of poverty often have poorer education systems. Government propaganda in “V for Vendetta” targeted the entire population, but especially the young encouraging them to believe in the ways of their government and ignore the suffering around them. V’s main goal was to draw attention to these issues and have citizen’s think for themselves. Gramsci stated, “I hate the indifferent. I believe that living means taking sides. Those who really live cannot help being a citizen and a partisan.”(Gramsci). I have a feeling V would have agreed whole heartedly with these words. V didn’t want others to think like he did merely come to their own conclusions about their lives.
Even though the graphic novel and the film have many differences, one thing remains the same the idea that cultural ideologies are important but must sometimes be challenged for the greater good. Althusser state,“an ideology always exists in an apparatus, and its practice, or practices. This existence is material.” (Althusser). Many citizens come to accept social ideologies as the only way, and give little thought to the future outcomes. V simply wants to provide enlightenment for the public so they can adapt to new, better ideologies that will benefit the whole of society instead of a few select groups. The message of power is very strong in “V for Vendetta”, some strive to hold all the power while others strive to distribute it equally so all citizens can have a better existence.
Alsford, M. "The Primal Question: What are We." What If? Religious Themes in Science Fiction. London: Logmann and Todd, 2000. 26-48. Print.
Althusser L. "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses.". 1970. La Pensee.
Gramsci A. “Prison letters”. 1996. Pluto Press.
Horkheim M., Adorno T. The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception.” Original copywrite 1944
Moore, Alan, David Lloyd, Steve Whitaker, Siobhan Dodds, Jeannie Connor, Steve Craddock, Elitta Fell, and Tony Weare. V for vendetta. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 2005. Print.
Oberschall, Anthony. Social movements: ideologies, interests, and identities. New Brunswick (U.S.A.): Transaction, 1993. Print.